We currently find ourselves in, to put it mildly, a lull in the 2008 campaign’s primary season. The delegate tallies are in limbo. Parsing them seems to require a postgraduate degree in calculus. The DNC rules committee meets tomorrow to…oh, forget it. Ugh. Snooze. The formerly spirited discourse of the 2008 campaign has, to an extent, devolved into dull and compulsory small talk; we, the public and the press, crowded together at the cocktail party of campaign rhetoric, are starting to run out of Interesting Things to say to each other. Our conversation is starting to feel stilted; our interactions are starting to feel…awkward. How, oh how, do we put the “party” back in the Democratic Party?

The New York Times has a suggestion: Booze!

Yep. The Grey Lady, ever the purveyor of social lubrication, today provides us with some Booze You Can Use—in the form of a 475-word exploration of Hillary Clinton’s relationship with adult beverages. “One of the amusing sidelights of Mrs. Clinton’s uphill struggles of recent months,” the piece notes, justifying itself, “has been her evolving taste in liquid refreshment.”

Her evolving taste in liquid refreshment…ooh, intriguing! Tell us more!

Per the Times, thus went Clinton’s bev-olution:

Early in the campaign, it was not uncommon to see the former first lady daintily sipping cranberry juice or tea in the front of her campaign plane, or the occasional taste of wine. But in recent weeks, as she has burnished a connection with bar-stool Democrats, Mrs. Clinton has at times threatened to turn the race for the Democratic nomination into a drinking contest, with Senator Barack Obama stepping up to the plate to down Yuenglings in Pennsylvania.

For Mrs. Clinton, it began in Indiana last month with the now semi-famous photo opportunity of her bellying up for some shots and a beer in a Crown Point tavern. There was a subsequent visit to the Makers Mark distillery in Kentucky this month, and a picture last weekend in Puerto Rico of Mrs. Clinton posing with a bottle of Presidente beer.

And then there was Wednesday night’s airborne bourbon swig in front of reporters on her plane, with Mrs. Clinton holding court for the diminishing press pool accompanying her.

And here’s the accompanying photo (note the punny headline and the vaguely insulting “big guys” reference in its caption):











The takeaway? Clinton’s beverage choices—connected, of course, to her “who’d you rather have a drink with” street cred—are heightening as her presidential prospects plummet. And so dire have those prospects become, apparently—so likely does it seem now that the Presidente beer in her hand last weekend was ironic rather than fitting—she’s now settled onto the top shelf.

The piece is meant to be lighthearted; coming now, though, when the “high spirits” seem unfounded, it just seems sad. The glass of Makers in Clinton’s hand, the Times suggests, is a mark of bourbon decay.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.