Message for Clinton: Look before you leap

By Nicholas Wapshott
January 28, 2014

There seems to be a rush to get former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to declare her run for the presidency.

Two magazine covers last week heralded the arrival of the fully fledged Clinton campaign-in-waiting, outing the nation’s worst-kept political secret: Clinton is considering a run for the presidency. Both tacitly urged her to jump in soon, before the excitement about the inevitability of her run becomes stale.

It all seems a little hasty. The New York Times piece, picturing Clinton’s beaming face imposed on a planet like the man in the moon in vintage children’s books, appeared to take for granted that before long –  the sooner the better, if you don’t mind — Clinton will launch her presidential campaign, win the Democratic nomination, shaking off anyone who dares stand against her and, assuming that Republican candidates remain in disarray, assume her rightful place in the Oval Office.

Time magazine asked what those who learned Latin know to be a question expecting the answer no: “Can Anyone Stop Hillary?”

Their cover depicted Clinton as the heroine of the 1958 pulp movie “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.” As the giant former secretary of state’s trousered leg and high heel march off the cover right, a tiny man clings for his life to the tip of the heel, in a last desperate attempt to keep up with her hectic routine.

Again the message to Clinton was clear: We are bored (not to say disappointed) with President Barack Obama and getting increasingly impatient waiting for you to make up your mind. If you don’t launch your White House bid soon, we will start campaigning without you.

I suppose these editors calling for time on Clinton’s decision are only aping the universe parallel to the Times’s Planet Hillary — made up of PACs busily raising funds for a Clinton run just the minute she makes an announcement. There is even a PAC devoted entirely to correcting factual errors reported about Clinton. (They are going to be busy.)

We have been here before. Clinton was pronounced the “inevitable” candidate back in 2008 and just look what happened. At this stage of the 2008 race, most of us had never heard of Obama. So much for taking things for granted.

The problem with inevitability is that it often doesn’t happen. A month ago, for example, the person thought most likely to lead the GOP into the 2016 presidential race was Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, assuming – which is quite a leap — the big business Republicans who back him could have bought off the Tea Party people, who suspect him of being in favor of government.

Then came Bridgegate, one part “All the President’s Men” and two parts “The Sopranos.” Guilty or not, Christie is unlikely to come out of that in any shape to mount a strong run for the White House. So much for inevitability.

Kept in reserve, as an outside candidate if Republicans needed a good-looking, successful Republican governor with ample television experience and a well turned out wife, was Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia and his charming designer-clad consort Maureen. Now both are facing jail time for corruption.

That’s the problem with making plans. Stuff happens. And those closest to the disaster do not always see it.

In Greg Whiteley’s fascinating, if chilling, documentary “Mitt,” the former governor of Massachusetts and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is shown living in the bubble of a presidential campaign that was itself trapped within a larger bubble of his and his own family’s charmed existence.

Little wonder that, right up until the last minute, Romney failed to realize he was a loser. Incarcerated in his own complacent privilege, dabbing his dress shirt cuffs with a steaming iron, he didn’t stand a chance.

One problem of many who choose to go into politics, as well as those who comment on it, is that they have a tin ear when it comes to the general mood. In Romney’s case, this failure to catch on was made worse by those closest to him loudly cheering.

Clinton is an enigma. She was tone deaf when it came to Hillarycare, the fore-runner of Obamacare that she failed to bring to fruition. She was deaf, too, to the pounding footsteps of Obama coming up fast behind her during the 2012 primaries. But few can fault her for preparation.

Rarely has a non-incumbent presidential candidate been provided with such an advantage over not only her internal rivals but the Republicans, too. Her prestige is high, polls suggest people like her and could back her bid for the presidency, she is well funded and – as far as we know – in good health. At her side is America’s best retail politician and political strategist.

How could it all go wrong? It is that, perhaps, that stays her hand.

That and the knowledge that the minute she declares, a torrent of personal abuse will be directed at her that will re-litigate her husband’s presidency, her time as first lady, her period in the Senate, and her decision-making while secretary of state.

Clinton is wise to spare not only herself but also the rest of us from having to listen to history retold through a distorting lens for too long. She is in for a long war of attrition that would do justice to Ho Chi Minh.

If you think you are bored of hearing about Benghazi now, just wait. Then there is Monica Lewinsky, and Whitewater. No one can blame Clinton if she threw in the towel right now.

But if she is to run — and rarely has a conditional been less convincing — Clinton needs to take her time. Put off candidates within her own party by monopolizing donors. Plan for a primary season that will be short and undamaging. Above all, avoid giving off the impression that the White House is somehow owed to her or an inheritance.

So don’t be tempted by the flurry of interest this week in a Clinton run. There are going to be a lot of similar pieces putting flesh on the ghost of her campaign. However, Clinton’s decision, whenever she makes it, will have nothing to do with those who are urging her on — and everything to do with whether she thinks she can win.

 

PHOTO (TOP): Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks after receiving the Chatham House prize at the banqueting hall in central London, October 11, 2013. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

PHOTO (INSERT): Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton talk at a dinner in honor of Presidential Medal of Freedom awardees at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, November 20, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

 

10 comments

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I kinda feel she was the real person behind the Bill Clinton presidency – the puppet master, so to speak. Thus I maintain it is against the constitution that she be allowed a 3rd term.

Posted by BidnisMan | Report as abusive

“PLAN…for a primary season that will be short an undamaged.” I shouldn’t say this but I’m an American. Undamaged is not possible in the political wide screen slaughterhouse war that is on the horizon, so don’t touch that clicker. There is far too much money, ego, technology and 3d reality rewriting for Ms. Clinton to get anywhere unmolested once she has pulled the pin. The top wage earners, of our fair land, have had a very good year and the Republicans will be going for broke. They will spend enough money, on and under the table, to pay down a good portion of the national debt they keep complain about, to gain full control of the piggy bank. While Republicans have done their best to alienate women, the poor, the working poor, the sick, first, second, and, third generation citizens, and anyone who thinks free speech gives them the right to disagree with the intellectually and spiritually pure doctrine of the party which represents the wellbeing of all Americans (this is where I get a little teary eyed) they will preserver. Undaunted by the cries of the weak and hungry, they will embrace the golden calf (I could have said “mount” but I’m on the high moral ground) and steal their true place in a history. I wish you well Ms. Clinton, for something wicked this way comes.

Posted by nozone | Report as abusive

BidnisMan: I agree. There is entirely too much nepotism in our government. Bush’s; Clinton’s; Kennedy’s; It has gone on since the first presidents. However, I feel the problem is more severe in recent years in terms of effect. It has created (or perpetuated) an economic caste system. We need new blood. Vote them ALL out. Let’s have Senators and Congressmen from the middle class, not the “tone-deaf” upper class.

Posted by rocque | Report as abusive

In the primaries Hillary labored under the illusion that she had the women’s vote but actually Obama had that. What Clinton had was the racists since she was the only white person on the ticket.

Despite having the racists on their side Republicans could not even win against a black male. How can they hope to win against a white female?

Posted by pbgd | Report as abusive

I would have easily voted for Obama, Bill Clinton or for that matter Kerry, Dukakis or Mondale.

I probably wouldn’t vote for Mrs Clinton. She is, by now, oo much a figure of the political establishment. Too tightly aligned with national security interests and AIPAC.

Posted by Urban_Guerilla | Report as abusive

The reason Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to run for president is because she knows America isn’t ready yet for its first lesbian president and she’s tired of living a lie, especially as old age closes in.

Posted by ToshiroMifune | Report as abusive

You are aware, aren’t you, that Obama cannot (legally) run again?

As to the question you posed regarding what happened last time, Clinton got blind-sided by an extremely clever campaign machine that was run with the sole objective of getting a charismatic, young black man into office, even though he had absolutely no qualifications whatsoever to become president.

We got sold a “bill of goods” (twice).

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive

@EconCassandra – don’t forget the Republicans put their own black candidate forward for President. Remember Herman Cain? The pizza man? His qualifications were stellar, right?

Of course, he didn’t get far which is a good thing. Obama is Ivy League educated (lots of white Presidents are), articulate (not all white Presidents are i.e., GW Bush) and was in the Senate (lots of white Presidents are). I’d say he had a few qualifications.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive

@ JL4 –

My first thought was “Republican black candidate”?

Then I remembered from your description, the “token” black candidate.

What I have a problem is your characterization of Obama as being a superior candidate, equal to or better than many white presidents.

Granted, Obama is indeed articulate. In fact, that is the SOLE quality that got him elected (i.e. as I said, he is charismatic).

The problem is that, as the old saying goes, “the lights are on, but nobody is home”, which means he doesn’t have the intelligence or experience to be president.

Most degrees from an Ivy League school suffer from “grade erosion”, meaning that actually demonstrating that you understand the subject material isn’t a requirement for getting a degree. A degree from an Ivy League school merely means that you are acceptable to the wealthy class for some reason, which may be simply due to a racial quota, for example.

In summary, I’d say he had FEW qualifications compared to Clinton, which is really what we are comparing him with, not the plethora of US presidents who were similarly challenged as Obama.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive

“She was tone deaf when it came to Hillarycare, the fore-runner of Obamacare that she failed to bring to fruition.”

As opposed to jamming the most divisive social program in the last 50 years down peoples’ throats?

Hillary is already ahead personally, professionally and politically – she doesn’t work for Obama anymore.

Posted by ARJTurgot2 | Report as abusive