She might be lacking in delegates, money and avenues to the Democratic nomination, but if nothing else, Hillary Rodham Clinton has clearly solidified her front-running position as the presidential candidate to have cocktails with.
After an event Wednesday night in Rapid City, Senator Clinton added a notch to her belt on the drinking-war front when she strode to the back of her plane nursing a generous tumbler of amber-colored liquid. The substance was the subject of much debate among the press corps, but no one had the nerve to ask the candidate directly.
Bourbon, it turned out. (Makers Mark, specified Jay Carson, a campaign spokesman.)
In the course of her presidential campaign, Mrs. Clinton has bemoaned the triviality of elections, noting that they seem to devolve at times into a contest of whom America would rather have a beer with.
“We tried that once and it didn’t work out so well,” she has said, referring to George W. Bush’s apparent victory in the drinking-buddy primary over Al Gore (never mind that Mr. Bush long ago stopped drinking).
She said nothing, however, about the harder stuff. And, indeed, one of the amusing sidelights of Mrs. Clinton’s uphill struggles of recent months has been her evolving taste in liquid refreshment.
Early in the campaign, it was not uncommon to see the former first lady daintily sipping cranberry juice or tea in the front of her campaign plane, or the occasional taste of wine. But in recent weeks, as she has burnished a connection with bar-stool Democrats, Mrs. Clinton has at times threatened to turn the race for the Democratic nomination into a drinking contest, with Senator Barack Obama stepping up to the plate to down Yuenglings in Pennsylvania.
For Mrs. Clinton, it began in Indiana last month with the now semi-famous photo opportunity of her bellying up for some shots and a beer in a Crown Point tavern. There was a subsequent visit to the Makers Mark distillery in Kentucky this month, and a picture last weekend in Puerto Rico of Mrs. Clinton posing with a bottle of Presidente beer.
And then there was Wednesday night’s airborne bourbon swig in front of reporters on her plane, with Mrs. Clinton holding court for the diminishing press pool accompanying her.
Fernando Suarez, a reporter for CBS News who has been traveling with Mrs. Clinton’s campaign since October, asked her if she had ever been to Mount Rushmore before her visit there earlier in the day. Mrs. Clinton said she in fact had.
“Before you were born,” she added, looking at Mr. Suarez, who is 29, and noting that “I did a lot of things before you were born.”
She swirled the bourbon in her glass and nodded mischievously.
“And thank god you weren’t around,” Mrs. Clinton continued. “Or I wouldn’t have enjoyed any of them.”
The imagination tumbles.
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