The Clinton campaign recently complained about "the boys" ganging up at a debate, and there was speculation that it was an attempt to get people to react to her opponents the way New York voters reacted to Rick Lazio.
This made me want to see the old video of the debate with Lazio, but I couldn't find it through Google and YouTube searching. My commenters were helping me search, and Ruth Anne Adams came up with the clip from the debate as it was used on "The Daily Show." But, finally, Hector Owen found the whole segment of the debate: here. (Ignore the error message. It should play.)
Let's examine the Lazio Space Invader myth. Here's a contemporaneous article in the NYT:
... Mrs. Clinton exploited an opportunity before a friendly audience of women to make a concerted attack on Mr. Lazio's debate tactics. Many supporters of Mrs. Clinton said they found Mr. Lazio to be pushy and disrespectful during the debate in Buffalo -- bullying her in a way that he would not have bullied a male opponent.
Mrs. Clinton's senior advisers have seized on that notion to blunt favorable portrayals of Mr. Lazio as strong-willed and determined, and Mrs. Clinton joined the effort yesterday. Expanding on a comment she made the morning after the debate, Mrs. Clinton received knowing chuckles and applause when she said having two younger brothers was the best preparation for her sometimes bruising encounter with Mr. Lazio.
Then she complained of having to share her lectern with an overly aggressive Mr. Lazio. (He approached her at the end of the debate and urged her to sign a document he said was a promise not to raise or spend any more soft money.)...
''How about that idea that you turned off women voters?'' Gabe Pressman of WNBC-TV asked [Lazio].
Mr. Lazio said women were being sold short by suggestions that they would not vote for him because he gave Mrs. Clinton a tough debate....
Here's Kate Phillips (of the NYT) after the recent debate:
[S]o many political correspondents... have invoked the Rick Lazio moment...
The former Congressman’s charge across the stage in September of that year was equated with bullying, something that’s a far cry from the largely reasoned responses of Mrs. Clinton’s rivals on the stage the other night.
Still, we’re told it’s all gender politics, or as one of our colleagues once called it back then, hormonal politics (on both sides, folks).
Funny how history and language keep replaying, no?
WaPo's Ruth Marcus wrote:
Now this six-on-one stuff. Clinton stumbled in the debate, uncharacteristically but nowhere near fatally. In response, Penn & Co. are playing a good game of rope-a-dope.
After all, they have experience with this move, from the 2000 New York Senate race, when Republican Rick Lazio loomed into Clinton's personal space during a debate and quickly saw his numbers tank. For the Clinton campaign, the best thing would be to have the Philadelphia story played as Lazio II -- more bullies trying to intimidate her....
[U]sing gender this way is a setback. Hillary Clinton is woman enough to take these attacks like a man.
Yeah, that's what Lazio said at the time and voters resisted.
Here's what Rush Limbaugh said:
Now she's out there playing this victim card, and a lot of people in the media are not happy about this -- and I'll tell you what it is. You know, it's not just the cheapest form of pandering. To all of a sudden, say, "I'm a strong woman. I'm strong as a man! I can handle this job." Now all of a sudden to go victim, and to have your campaign tell the press, "Yeah, well, this is part of a long-planned strategy based on what happened when Rick Lazio invaded her space during a Senate debate for the election in New York."
So they're going back to that playbook because they think it worked then, but running for president is a little bit different from running for the Senate, especially if most of your career has been built up on, "You're tough, and you're not going to back down from anybody! You're Hillary Clinton! You've got a testicle lockbox."
(A testicle lockbox?)
But the fact is: It did work then. You can say, as Phillips did, that what Lazio did was different. But look at the video. Don't rely on the myth. Look at the video. It might have been inept theater to ply the piece of paper at her, but it wasn't an effort to bully the woman out of politics.