The Politics Of Tragedy

It’s over now; the horror that began six hours ago when Lee Eisenberg walked into a Hillary Clinton campaign office in Rochester New Hampshire with what appeared to be a bomb taped to his chest ended thankfully with none of the hostages being hurt and Eisenberg in custody.

While details may still be murky, a muddled picture at least is available.

Eisenberg, a middle aged man, reportedly suffered from an as of yet undisclosed mental illness.  While it is not fair at this point to make the claim that his condition contributed to the events of today, there is a possibility that it played a role.  Also playing a role are reports that Eisenberg’s marriage was on shaky ground.

The catalyst, however, appears to have been a note placed in his unlocked vehicle which led to Eisenberg believing there was a government conspiracy against him.  The note, placed by police officers, was intended to serve as a helpful warning to Eisenberg to keep his vehicle locked to prevent theft.

Again, reports are fuzzy, but apparently before the hostage situation Eisenberg is reported to have asked where he could appropriate road flares.  Having attained some, Eisenberg rigged the road flares to look like a bomb and walked into the campaign office at around one o’clock this afternoon.

Coverage at the time of the incident has Eisenberg wanting to speak to Mrs. Clinton regarding the state of mental healthcare in this country, however as police took Eisenberg away from the scene of the crime in custody, he said, “This is nothing more than a gimmick to get around the Constitution and go around in the middle of the night upon unsuspecting citizens in their own yard and search their vehicles.”

As time goes on, more of the details will no doubt become clearer, but it would seem that his unstable mental state, family life, a 72 hour drinking binge, and the note left by the police in his car all contributed in some fashion to the hostage situation.

Thankfully, no one seems to have been hurt beyond being very frightened.

It is times like these, when human tragedy takes center stage that many people try to put aside politics.  At least for a moment, people attempt to be human and put aside their differences.  The problem with this is that politics do not pause for tragedies, but instead are fueled by them.

I am incredibly relieved that no one was hurt or killed in this incident, but it is important to know that this will in all likelihood have a major effect on the Democratic race.  Not a lot of people are going to write about it, I don’t believe, based on the sentiment just expressed above.  But politics is what I do, and it may upset some to link this to politics in some way, but I don’t think I have a choice.

That’s because this event may have just altered the Democratic race forever.

At a time when the Democratic race was just beginning to heat up, with Obama brandishing a narrow lead in Iowa, and Hillary’s lead in New Hampshire being cut in half, we must look at the ripple effects of today to understand that whatever chances existed Hillary had at losing the nomination just shrunk immensely.

A second class politician would receive a bump by this.  It’s called sympathy and support.  Though no one was hurt, the past six hours I do think would classify as at least a miniature tragedy, and in such cases where a politician is affected by tragedy not through their own causing, support tends to increase.

Look at the minor bump John Edwards received with Mrs. Edwards’ cancer.  Look at the enormous surge of support President Bush received just after 9/11.  As decent people, we support those among us who suffer, and in the coming days, the recipient of that support, with no action whatsoever, will be Mrs. Clinton.

But Mrs. Clinton is not a second class politician; she’s in fact a very gifted one.  I think it unlikely for her to continue on as though this never existed, and at a bare minimum she’s likely to offer words of support and condolences and thanks to those involved.  I also don’t put it out of reach that she may bring up Mr. Eisenberg’s mental health, and while it might be a risky overeach, there’s a possibility that she could tie this in with her healthcare plan.

So long as she does this without appearing to capitalize upon the event, her once flagging numbers in New Hampshire will again rise.

But there are other effects this will have on the race.  For one, it’s going to dominate more than a few news cycles, and in fact drowned out a breakfast between Obama and Bloomberg just hours earlier.  Also, I put it at about a week before any of the other Democratic candidates can say anything to or about Hillary Clinton that is not a direct show of support.

With only a month before Democrats go to the polls to choose who they want to nominate, a week is an eternity.

In recent weeks, there was an opening created in Iowa.  Hillary dropped out of the top spot, and it was beginning to look like Obama might just win the Iowa caucus.  Another poll showing Hillary’s lead dropping to within striking distance in New Hampshire meant that a win for Obama in Iowa could lead to another victory in New Hampshire.  This would create significant enough doubt in the “inevitability” argument surrounding the Clinton campaign that other states could likely fall.

But because of today’s events, Hillary will receive a bump, and that bump is going to take a while to diminish, possibly too long for a New Hampshire upset to take place.

From time to time, political pundits will make predictions but leave in the disclaimer that any catastrophic event could change the ball game.  While I may take some flak for discussing politics so soon after a harrowing experience, I feel it necessary to point out that this is exactly that kind of event.

I don’t think this is anything that Hillary staged, and you may find this as one of the rare times where I do not go negative against her.  She had nothing to do with it, and that’s just how things turn out.

I also want you to know that I deliberated long and hard about even posting this; the political repurcussions becoming clear the moment I saw the first headline hit the wires.  In the end, I chose to only put up this article only after learning that everyone got out okay.

But the long and the short of it is this; as terrible a thing as it may be to say, as cynical a concept as it is to express, I think Hillary Clinton just won the Democratic nomination today.

8 Responses to “The Politics Of Tragedy”

  1. John says:

    I think that your analysis is correct. This is just crazy and very sad. I guess all we can do is pray that Mrs. Cliton will be a good nominee at this point. What other background do we know about Mr. Eisenberg? Could a third (equally insane) party be involved?

  2. mick says:

    I’m not so sure about the political impact. Seems to me this has a half-life of a few days at best unless Hillary deliberately exploits it – and I’m not talking about condolences – or the wingnuts manage to make something anti-Clinton of it. It’s what you and John said – crazy and very sad – and I doubt (altho I may regret saying this) that even Michelle Maledict could stretch this out past a week. I suspect it will be – at most – background by next Friday.

  3. Actually, Mick, from what I hear, Malkin has been outright civil of her coverage of the story, and while the more obvious aspects of this my analysis may not come to pass I think there are two things that are almost guaranteed.

    The first is the sympathy bump. This is hardcoded into politics, and Clinton is going to get a bump in New Hampshire. The second thing is that Obama and Edwards, or at least Obama (I think Edwards is aggressive enough to where he may not hold back) are kind of pinned down as far as going after Hillary is concerned. They have to wait a certain amount of time or else they’re going to get hit with kicking her while she’s down. Or, at least, that’s going to be what the campaign will be thinking amongst themselves, which is going to act as a major disruption. Both Obama and Edwards need to keep a full court press between now and Jan. 3 to unseat Hillary, and this is going to take significantly away from this.

    I’m very much hoping I’m wrong, and I’m hoping the last three weeks before the polls will prove to be exponentially more significant than this upcoming week which, but you never know. As I told my friend, while it looked like Obama had a forty percent chance to upset Hillary, I would say right now he’s down to five.

    John, thanks, but, and you folks can expect a post on this within a week, I’m not going to vote for Hillary. I’ve seen to much from her that it’s over. I personally think most Democrats who oppose Hillary now need to sit down during the election if for no other reason than to show the party that it made a grevious mistake in coronating Hillary this time around.

  4. mick says:

    Well, maybe, but I can’t see there’s anything for anybody to gain and I doubt the sympathy bump will amount to much. She wasn’t involved, it wasn’t a right-wing Hillary-hater trying to make a point, and she wasn’t there. It wasn’t personal or even political. It wasn’t illness or an assassination attempt, and the bomb wasn’t real. Sympathy for the campaign workers, of course, but that may not travel to the candidate let alone stick to her. If Mad Michelle’s being reasonable, I don’t think anybody’s going to use it if Hillary doesn’t. I think it’s going to die a fairly quick death.

    Of course, I’ve been wrong before. I thought Terry Schiavo would be a non-issue, too. Still don’t understand why the Pubs seized on it as violently as they did. It was a loser from the git-go.

  5. Bob From Omaha says:

    Anyone who doesn’t see this debacle for the elaborate PR stunt it clearly is should seek mental help themselves. STAT.

    Truly pathetic.

  6. Well, thankfully it is beginning to look like I was wrong,a dn in this instance, I don’t think I could be happier. Here it is, Monday, and the event is already gone from the news cycle: Interestingly, Hillary helped erase it.

  7. xranger says:

    Kyle, I think you were the only person out there who cared about this, let alone thought it would matter one whit about who becomes prez of the US.

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