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Hillary Clinton, Slapped In The Face

Mike's post below on Patti Solis Doyle made me realize one feature of Hillary's primary run: how often she's described in the press and by her own advisers as being "slapped in the face." It's become a weirdly -- and, to my mind, uncomfortably -- ubiquitous way to characterize her, her campaign's, or her supporters' condition. The "slap in the face" delivered by Solis Doyle's appointment is only the most recent blow. Kathleen Sebelius's veepstakes mentions were one, according to Hillary finance team member Allida Black:

"Jim Webb is not a slap in the face to Hillary," Black says. "Sebelius is." 

Before that, there was Obama's late-May speech in Iowa, according to Howard Wolfson:

Senator Obama's plan to declare himself the Democratic nominee tomorrow night in Iowa is a slap in the face to the millions of voters in the remaining primary states and to Senator Clinton's 17 million supporters.

And before that, there was NARAL's Obama endorsement, according to Kit Seelye:

Clinton supporters in the blogosphere said they perceived it as a badly timed gratuitous slap at Mrs. Clinton as she grapples with the likely end of her quest for the presidency.

And before that, there was the media's ill-treatment of Hillary, according to one of her supporters in Ohio:

"We talk about the coverage of Hillary Clinton a lot around here," [Dietzel] said. "Even women who support Barack Obama have said it feels like a slap in the face. It becomes almost physical, the reaction to it. Makes you sick in the stomach."

... and on and on. There are many more examples. But my search of Lexis-Nexis and Google reveals that neither Obama nor McCain are nearly as frequently slapped in the face. (To give you an example, searching for Obama and "slap in the face" yielded the following questionably-relevant-result high up in my returns: "Britney Spears slaps her mum in the face." I didn't click through.)

I can think of some obvious reasons for the rhetorical marriage between Hillary and "slapped in the face." It could be a gender thing -- very sadly, maybe it's just easier for journalists (and aides!) to metaphorically imagine a woman being slapped in the face than a man. Also, people often get slapped in the face when they're already down, as Clinton is. (John Edwards endured some face-slapping in January, though not nearly as much as Hillary.) Maybe most important, the Clintons themselves encourage people to think of their opponents as not just ill-wishers, but as personal traitors and shocking face-slappers: think Bill Richardson and his transformation into a "Judas." 

Whatever the case, I nominate "slap in the face" for Jonathan Martin's Campaign Rhetoric Dictionary.

--Eve Fairbanks