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Your State-of-the-art Campaign Asshole

Des Moines, Iowa

Just quick cautionary tale about campaign reporting: The first question at the Clinton event in Vinton yesterday came from a teenage girl who asked what Hillary would do about pollution and deforestation. The way she asked the question sounded a little robotic, almost as though she were reading or had committed it to memory. And it set up a slightly saccharine but basically winning response about how "forests our like our lungs... our breathing mechanism." Which is to say, it made me wonder if we had another plant on our hands. Could the Clinton campaign be so brazen?

After the event I approached the girl and asked what had motivated her question. She said she was a die-hard environmentalist and was especially concerned about endangered species. "I'm obsessed with saving tigers," she told me. It was immediately obvious that she was earnest. I also noticed that she spoke to me in basically the same uninflected tone she'd asked her question in.

A few minutes later, as I was getting ready to leave, her mother came up and introduced herself. We chatted amiably for a bit, then she told me her daughter was autistic. She said they were strong Hillary supporters dating back to 1995, when she'd written Hillary a letter about her daughter's condition and the hardships it imposed. (In a nutshell, the family had health insurance, but the insurance didn't cover key aspects of the daughter's treatment, which as a result was completely unaffordable. They eventually won a Medicaid waiver that entitled them to some additional aid.) Hillary had replied with a long and rather personal letter. Ever since, the woman felt Hillary was someone who understood the problems of people in her situation. The woman said all this, to borrow a line from Barack Obama, without a trace of self-pity.

If there's a moment in my career where self-loathing was more appropriate, I'm having a hard time thinking of it. (Though I'm sure our commenters can help me out...)

--Noam Scheiber