NEW YORK - I miss Hillary.
By Beth Fouhy, Associated Press Writer
While covering the New York senator's White House bid for 18 often-exasperating months, I never imagined writing those words. But now that she's gone, I miss Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Puzzling, infuriating, electrifying Hillary.
I miss her story: the former first lady, freighted with baggage, trying to return to the White House in her own right. I miss watching her morph from entitled, inevitable nominee to scrappy underdog and how much better a candidate she became with her back against the wall.
I miss having a woman in the race and the excitement so many women felt at the prospect of electing the first female president. I miss seeing those women on the rope line at Hillary's campaign events, embracing and whispering to her as though she were their long-lost girlfriend.
I miss watching her shift her views to suit the fast-changing political environment. How her awkward squirm through questions about her vote to authorize the Iraq war gave way to whiskey-swilling populism as the economy went south.
I miss the debates. Hillary amid a group of men, her jewel-toned pantsuits vivid in a sea of gray, navy and cordovan.
I miss wondering which Hillary would show up on a given day.
Would it be angry Hillary, scoffing "Shame on you, Barack Obama"? Would it be self-consciously easygoing Hillary, trying to deflect skeptical questions with a belly laugh? Would it be valedictorian Hillary, primly showing off her knowledge of issues in encyclopedic detail? Or would it be empathic Hillary, hugging voters who shared their stories of medical challenges and lost jobs?
I miss Amy Poehler's wide-eyed, smug impersonation of Hillary on "Saturday Night Live."
I miss the raging arguments over the allegedly sexist treatment Hillary received from the political press corps. Whether true or not, it was a soul-searching debate worth having.
I miss the drama, which comes in such abundance around the Clintons.
Hillary's tall tale of dodging sniper fire in Bosnia. Bill Clinton's purple-faced rages — his political skills, once legendary, finally showing their age. Chelsea Clinton campaigning for her mother, cutting off questions about Monica Lewinsky with an icy glare.
Most of all, I miss the historic nature of the primary: The most serious female candidate ever to seek the presidency competing with Barack Obama, the most viable black contender. Watching two boundary-breaking figures vying for the hearts, minds and votes of the Democratic electorate was both riveting and moving.
Part of the letdown is personal. I logged thousands of miles on her campaign plane from the day after Christmas until she dropped out in early June, so I was privileged to watch the race play out across the country in real time.
And part of my disillusionment comes from watching the two "unconventional" nominees, Obama and Republican John McCain, behave like garden variety politicians.
Both candidates have changed their positions on a host of key issues despite promises of principled stands and straight talk. Their staffs hold dueling media calls and fill reporters' inboxes with e-mail spitballs.
Sure, Hillary and her crew were guilty of the same. But now she's gone and I miss her.
Yes, I know the fall campaign will still prove to be compelling — Obama's message of hope and generational change against McCain's sense of honor and duty.
Right now they're mostly shadow boxing, settling in for the real battle to come. And it's summer, the slow period before both parties hold their conventions. The millions of voters who drove primary participation to record levels are certainly entitled to a little time off.
But no matter what, I still miss Hillary.
Note: I just read somewhere that Obama is considering Chuck Hagel, a Republican, as a potential VP candidate. A Republican. Wtf?