TRENTON – The insider sat on his stool, jaw dangling apparently irretrievably, its utility now limited to pointing the chin vaguely in one direction or another down the length of bar to note those other disparate, dissipated examples of the human condition in his midst.
There was a lot that was irretrievable in that place.
“Put your notebook away,” he snapped at a reporter. The comment carried a weary frustration that seemed to fester at the core.
There was a primary election in a week and it portended nothing positive for the Democrat. This was a person who some time ago had expressed irritability when the reporter objected to the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. “Best person for the job,” was the common retort, tinged with Baby Boomer confidence in keeping the game going. MLK. Bobby. The Draft. Nam. Altamont. Kent State. The Bee Gees. Many a weathered crisis could be assessed in the rear view mirror with the grim gravity of lived experience. Bill Clinton was part of the payoff in 1992, and Hillary 2008 but a minor setback.
Now the source sighed.
“Jesus Christ, Bernie,” he muttered, a reference to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders whose campaign wouldn’t let go of Clinton’s pants leg. “I knew those guys back in the 1960s and they never changed.
“How dare he,” the source announced.
But a moment later he had let go of Sanders, knowing Sanders wasn’t the problem. For the first time, this battered hulk of an insider acknowledged that Clinton – saddled with the email server scandal, yes, an unshakable 74-year old Socialist from Vermont,, a flat electorate, and likeability and trust issues, little ability to inspire and a lack of the so-called vision thing – was the problem. He struggled at the outset of his next sentence to form the “D” sound, and PolitickerNJ tried to be helpful.
A waved hand of anger greeted the remark.
“No, no, don’t dump her,” the insider scowled, but then he abruptly took the conversation in another direction, drifting into a riff on the merits and deficits of David Crosby’s 1971 solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name.
“The thing about David…”
But the whole mood was swallowed in horror.
It reminded PolitickerNJ of other encounters through the week, including a discussion with a Newarker, who characterized the coming general election as “a race to the bottom,” and made a case for Cory Booker for vice president on the strength of his conviction that Clinton had already lost the white blue collar workers who backed Reagan and Biden.
“Biden would crush Trump,” two other sources in two separate phone conversations told PolitickerNJ. They both used the same exact phrase.
Sputtered comments about a convention swap-out from insiders who nonetheless dutifully made the trip to Clinton’s events marked the week.
Back at the bar, in a new round of conversation, the insider whose generation had assailed its elders with dope and electric guitars flayed helplessly at Twitter and Facebook.
He anticipated the coming months of the presidential election (Clinton 38%, Trump 34% in New Jersey) with dread.
“Well, anyway,” he said cheerily at the finish, slamming his last drink of the occasion and dragging back, creakily cranking his bones up off his stool, “I wouldn’t want to be on their side.
“Trump’s a disaster,” he added in the parking lot.