A few weeks back, as part of our cover package on candidates spouses, we asked Bill Clinton, what don’t we know about your spouse? His answer:
She has the world’s best laugh.
In today’s New York Times, it seems that laugh is being dissected everywhere I look. First, there’s Patrick Healy’s story, in which he calls it “the Clinton Cackle” (Am I the only one who wonders whether that’s a word that would be used about a male candidate?) and notes how Jon Stewart played it:
Jon Stewart skewered Mrs. Clinton on “The Daily Show” last week with a compilation of her outbursts from the Sunday morning shows. Mr. Stewart said that some people found her to be “some kind of synthetic being that cries mercury,” and he tweaked some of her laughs as a robotic expression of her strategic goal: to convey to the audience, “I’m joyful!”
“She’ll be our first president that you can’t spill water on,” Mr. Stewart said.
Maureen Dowd sees it this way:
That’s why Hillary is laughing a lot now, big belly laughs, in response to tough questions or comments, to soften her image as she confidently knocks her male opponents out of the way. From nag to wag.
And then there’s Frank Rich:
Then there was that laugh. The Clinton campaign’s method for heeding the perennial complaints that its candidate comes across as too calculating and controlled is to periodically toss in a smidgen of what it deems personality. But these touches of intimacy seem even more calculating: the “Let’s chat” campaign rollout, the ostensibly freewheeling but tightly controlled Web “conversations,” the supposed vox populi referendum to choose a campaign song (which yielded a plain-vanilla Celine Dion clunker).
Now Mrs. Clinton is erupting in a laugh with all the spontaneity of an alarm clock buzzer. Mocking this tic last week, “The Daily Show” imagined a robotic voice inside the candidate’s head saying, “Humorous remark detected — prepare for laughter display.” However sincere, this humanizing touch seems as clumsily stage-managed as the Gores’ dramatic convention kiss.
All of this does seem like a no-win for a candidate who has so often been accused of coming off as a scold. And does it really tell us anything about what kind of President she would be?
UPDATE: Commenter Memekiller asks:
Yes, Karen, you’re most loyal readers (you know who we are — no, not the ones who follow a link, scream and then you never see them again — your most devoted readers who show up every day, including Sunday, to scream at you), we who scrutinize your every sentence and phrase, combing for some evidence of hypocrisy, we want to know how something like this appears on Swampland.
Is it only because you see several columns simultaneously appear on the same subject? … Is it producers and editors who ask for something on this? Is this what your sources talk to you about during lunch, and say, “You should write something about this”?
Believe it or not, the answer to your first question is yes. I read something, thought it was interesting/weird and posted. On Sunday, the High Sheriffs are all sleeping it off, so they pretty much leave me alone. I had been aware that the burning issue of Hillary’s laugh had been percolating, and had planned to ignore it, but was struck to see references to it coming up as I was turning the pages of the NYT. (Yes, I still read the version of the NYT that comes in a blue plastic bag and lands on my flowers.) For all I know, they also dealt with it in the Sports section, the Business section and the Book Review. I didn’t get that far today.
Now, I’m going back to writing my story on the third quarter campaign finance numbers, because I know that P_Luk will be devastated if he doesn’t see it tomorrow.