Some people on our side are getting self-righteous about this, but I don't need to believe that Hillary Clinton and her audience were utterly oblivious to the unintended meaning of that moment of laughter yesterday. Here's the New York Post's interpretation:
... The one-liner came in response to a question shouted at the former first lady from the audience asking whether she had the mettle and experience to deal with evil and rotten men -- like terrorist Osama bin Laden and the tyrants of North Korea and Iran.
Clinton grabbed the mike and told the audience that the questioner wanted to know "what in my background equips me to deal with evil and bad men." She then smiled, raised her eyebrows and nodded knowingly at the questioner.
Her nod and the ensuing eruption of laughter had rally-goers convinced she was talking about her husband, whose Oval Office affair with intern Monica Lewinsky exploded into the Sexgate scandal and led to impeachment proceedings.
"She was talking about Bill being a bad man. There was no doubt whatsoever," said Tyrone Williams, 55, an engineer from nearby Bettendorf, Iowa.
His sentiment was the interpretation echoed by many other attendees interviewed by The Post.
"That was good," Williams added with a chuckle....
(The Moderate Voice has the video.)
You know what? I want to believe that her audience thought she was referring to Bill -- and that she grasped that and got the joke. Why? Because it gives the lie to the right's intrerpretation of our behavior (and Hillary's) in response to Bill's cheating.
The right says that we don't think he did anything wrong, because we essentially have no sense of morals when it comes to sex. Oh, we say it has to be limited to consenting adults, but other than that, anything goes, no matter who gets hurt.
Well, this was a crowd of Iowa Democrats. These are people who are open to the idea of voting for a Democrat --possibly Hillary. And yet they laughed at this.
This makes no sense to a right-wing ideologue. It makes perfect sense to a normal human being. Bill cheated. He did, a bad, bad thing. It's not Hitler bad or bin Laden bad, but it's bad. (It's a shift in the meaning of the word "bad," but that's how jokes work.) We can acknowledge Bill's behavior as bad while remaining open to the idea of voting for his wife, as he urges us to do.
And as for Hillary, what's the right-wing rap on her with regard to Bill as a cheater? That she's a cold-blooded Manchurian Candidate who has calculatingly agreed to tolerate Bill's horndoggery because maintaining her (emotionless) bond with him is necessary to advance her Evil Plan To Take Over The Universe. This is part of a larger critique: that she has no human feelings, therefore she has no sense of humor.
Wrong. And wrong.
They laughed. She laughed. It became an inadvertent joke. She got it. (Despite her later denial.) She can chuckle now, but yeah, she thought he was bad.
By the way, here's Billy Hollis at the righty blog QandO:
As a professional speaker, I'm impressed. It's very easy to let yourself get flustered when something like that happens. A key ability for avoiding that problem is to let people laugh a bit at your expense. I didn't think Hillary had it in her, but it seems she does.
That's the biggest victory in all this for Hillary -- that she let her guard down in a human way. That's no surprise to me, but it blows the right-wing stereotype of her right out of the water.