Bless me, for I have sinned, and it has been a while since my last confession.
This, apparently, is my sin:
I have failed to support Hillary Clinton in the fashion to which her most vocal supporters feel she is entitled.
This failing exposes hideous truths about me. I am a male chauvinist pig. A sexist. A sorry excuse for a journalist:
"I'm sure you don't think of yourself as a classic MCP, but that is how you come across. . . . It's the same old same old gender prejudice."
"Are you afraid of a well-qualified woman becoming president?"
"Many of you in the media have lost your sense of perspective and grasp on reality."
These were e-mails I've received for the crime of uttering mildly critical words about Clinton while offering Barack Obama words of praise. These snippets typify the counterattacking tone her most fervent supporters have adopted as the electoral math has grown dubious for her.
This has been a long, close, historic and emotional Democratic primary. The fog of war has begun to obscure some basic points. Democrats thus risk losing a presidential election it would be hard to lose.
First point: Clinton and Obama are both superb candidates, far better than the guy Democrats settled for in 2004. This contest is historic because of who each person is, but each candidacy is built on substance that goes far beyond first this or first that.
Good reasons exist to prefer either. So why, when someone makes the choice opposite yours, assume the worst reason, one with "-ism" at the end?
Clinton supporters slinging charges of sexism need to take a deep breath. Would some American males sooner lose a vital organ than vote for Hillary Clinton? No doubt. But not many such males have "D" on their voter cards.
This is a Democratic primary, remember? You know, the women's-rights party that any self-respecting MCP fled long ago.
The sexism charge assumes poison is somehow more deep-seated than racism: Yep, these men fear a woman in the White House so much they're willing to vote for a black guy. Really, you're serious?
Geraldine Ferraro isn't the only intelligent woman to assert this. Being neither black nor female, I concede I'm not qualified to judge. But if I had to choose one burden over the other, bring on the estrogen.
Women rightly deplore the persistence of double standards, on pay and many other things. But Clinton's supporters tend to construct new double standards to defend her.
Any sign that she is not immune from the normal body blows of a presidential campaign is decried as an abuse heaped on her solely because she's a woman. Yet she doesn't need to be protected; Clinton's a tough, adept veteran of the political clinches.
The Clinton camp whines about media "bias." This, of course, is S.O.P. for struggling campaigns.
Let's apply Ockham's Razor - the principle that among competing explanations, the likeliest is the one that requires the fewest assumptions - to this claim.
Hmmm, is there any reason besides sexism that the media would be rough on an erstwhile front-runner who spent months cloaking herself in an aura of inevitability, then proceeded to lose 11 states in a row?
Then mix in this fact: Chief among press biases are a fetish for fresh faces and a preference for a good donnybrook. So, who's going to get a honeymoon in the media - the rising biracial newcomer, or the front-running figure who is one of the most durable and overanalyzed figures on the American stage?
Yet another media habit is to turn on favorites, and to buoy a comeback story by a former target. We're seeing that now, as Obama struggles to cope with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright flap, and reporters eagerly seek evidence that the bravest, most eloquent political speech in decades didn't make the sale with white America.
In this campaign, Hillary Clinton, often as not, has been on the good side of a double standard.
Do you really think a male candidate who wept publicly while lamenting how hard campaigning is, how it makes you fat, would have lasted another day?
Here's a fact you hear surprisingly little about in the media: The delegate and electoral math are so bad for Hillary Clinton that she can't win the nomination. Can't, that is, unless she stokes such a firestorm of controversy and discontent around Obama that a mass of superdelegates swings to her at the last minute.
In other words, the only way she can win is to tarnish her party's likely nominee, foment a conflagration, and hand the advantage in the fall election to the party of George W. Bush.
If, say, John Edwards were pursuing a path that selfish and destructive, do you think he'd be getting off as easy as Hillary Clinton?