From Frank Rich:
Not only did Mrs. Clinton betray some (but not too many) hurt feelings with genuine humor, she upped the ante by flattering Barack Obama as â€œvery likable.â€ Which prompted the Illinois senator to match Mrs. Clintonâ€™s most human moment to date with the most inhuman of his own.
Pul-eeeze. Rich usually writes with great insight, but let’s check the tape.
Obama looks up and contributes mildly to what was, essentially, a poorly framed question by the moderator, presented as a joke and taken as one by Clinton. I’m not exactly sure how “You’re likeable enough, Hillary,” constitutes “sexist male behavior” as stated by Rich.
Was it because she called him “very likeable!” just beforehand and he didn’t use ‘very’ in his response? Is it because he didn’t look at her when he said it? He appeared to be focused on the lectern in front of him – notes? – and only had half an ear on the conversation. In any case, I wouldn’t strip him of his humanity for calling someone likeable.
If Clinton could have taken the question seriously, she might have replied: “Likeability is not, in my view, the best judge of the qualities of a candidate for the President of the United States. Barack Obama may be likeable, as you put it, but that does not, in of itself, qualify him for the presidency. You don’t have to like me to know that I’m the most experienced and qualified candidate in the field and that I deserve your vote in November.”
And THEN, if Obama had said, “You’re likeable enough, Hillary,” such a comment would take on a “Oh, perk up, Mrs. Clinton!” sense, perhaps. But Clinton treated the question as a joke, and we must take Obama’s comment in that jovial sense as well.