Hmmm. That "what if, what if" in context doesn't sound like she's talking about a terrorist attack, per se. She's saying that there are all sorts of things that you could "what if" yourself to death over that could come up between now and November 2008 that could affect the election, including something related to terrorism (you know, like a video from Osama bin Laden, or another series of well-timed "terrorist alerts" or even, god forbid, a terrorist event). And Hillary believes that she is the best Democratic candidate to handle these unexpected scenarios because she's been in the rightwing noise machine's cross-hairs for years. She gets how they operate. And she's best equipped to handle them.
From The Trail at the Washington Post:
Addressing voters in Concord, N.H. yesterday, Clinton said her experience would help her "handle things I have no control over" in the general election. "It's a horrible prospect to ask yourself 'What if? What if?,' " she went on. "But if certain things happen between now and the election, particularly with respect to terrorism, that will automatically give the Republicans an advantage again, no matter how badly they have mishandled it, no matter how much more dangerous they have made the world. So I think I'm the best of the Democrats to deal with that as well."
The R's know how to play the fear card. And they spin it to their advantage. I know it. You know it. And Hillary definitely knows it.
As it happens, Clinton herself has warned in the past about Republican attempts to use the terror threat as a cudgel against Democrats. At a labor convention in February 2006, she said that Rove's strategy boiled down to this: "'Here's your game plan, folks. Here's how we're going to win. We're going to win by getting everybody scared again.' Contrary to Franklin Roosevelt, we have nothing to fear but fear itself. This crowd is, 'All we're got is fear, and we're going to keep playing the fear card.'"On Edit: Here is a fuller account of the context of the remarks above. (Concord Monitor)
In now predicting an inherent "advantage" for Republicans in the event of another attack, Clinton may just have been keeping up on the latest academic literature. A group of psychologists has been making waves with extensive research suggesting that the Sept. 11 attacks, and subsequent evocations of the attacks by Bush and other Republican candidates, provoked in many voters a subconscious fear of their own mortality and a "worldview defense" that made them more likely to vote Republican in 2002 and 2004.
...Years of political attacks have hardened Clinton and given her insight into Republican tactics, she said in response to a question about how she plans to beat a Republican in the general election.
Republicans "will go after anybody we nominate. Anyone who thinks that this election will be a runaway because it's so self-evident that we have to have a Democrat I don't think understands the intensity of the campaign that they will run," Clinton said. "It is important that our nominee have no illusions about the difficulty of this race. I have none."
It's "fair to say that the tactic used effectively will be to drive up the negatives of whoever our nominee is, and it will all be fresh information. It will all be, 'Oh, you didn't know. Let us tell you. Let us paint a caricature,' " Clinton said of Republican tactics. "Whereas I have the somewhat mixed but rather fortunate blessing of already starting with those negatives. And for me, that's a plus."
Apart from Republican attacks, Clinton argued that her political experience would equip her "to handle things I have no control over" in the general election.
Her remarks peeled back the curtain, ever so slightly, on the possible scenarios Clinton is considering in her general election strategy.
"It's a horrible prospect to ask yourself 'What if? What if?,' " Clinton said. "But if certain things happen between now and the election, particularly with respect to terrorism, that will automatically give the Republicans an advantage again, no matter how badly they have mishandled it, no matter how much more dangerous they have made the world. So I think I'm the best of the Democrats to deal with that as well."