Will she or won’t she? Not even her hairdresser, who is only called in occasionally, knows for sure. But the lady knows how to keep everyone guessing. Only her roots are showing.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the longest-running soap opera in American politics, and as Bill continues a slow fade into the woodwork, Hillary emerges as the sound and light show illuminating the lives of the Washington political class. She’s the favorite story line of the chattering class, too. Nobody prods and pokes these classes, teasing with hints, intimations and insinuations, better than she does.
Hillary told an ABC News interviewer in January that she had “no plans or intentions” to run for president in 2016, the standard argle-bargle from everyone the Great Mentioner christens as a presidential prospect. “I’m going to be focusing on my philanthropies, my charities, my writing and speaking. So I’m looking forward to having something resembling a kind of a normal life again.”
She didn’t identify her “philanthropies and charities,” but we can be sure that most of them focus on Bill and Hillary. She once donated Bill’s underwear to charity and took deductions measured in pennies on their income-tax returns, and why not? Bubba’s drawers were hardly ever worn, after all, and why should the Clintons not get every break on their income tax that anyone and everyone else gets?
Talk like this terrifies the political and chattering classes in Washington. Politico, which is something like the Old Farmer’s Almanac for the chattering class, rushed into print the other day with reassurances, both for itself and for the others in the press pool. “The notion that Hillary Clinton was embracing anything like a sedate life — or taking more than a momentary pause from increasingly obvious preparations for a presidential run — turned out to be, in the phrase that Bill Clinton once turned on Barack Obama, a fairy tale.”
The Democrats have their own reasons to bang the tub for a Hillary campaign. The only alternative in sight is Joe Biden, which not even Joe can take entirely seriously. Good ol’ Joe has replaced Shakespeare’s Officer Dogberry as the most recognized master of the malaprops. He was in Mexico last week campaigning for amnesty for illegal immigrants to the United States, and was his usual blundering self. Beyond him, there’s no Democratic bench, unless you count Carlos Danger, who is between engagements.
Hillary’s interview with New York magazine set tongues flailing, with the usual skillfully vague answers to the usual imprecise questions. When an interviewer asked whether she “wrestles” with the idea of running for president, Hillary gave him a straightforward revealing answer: “I do,” she said. “But I’m both pragmatic and realistic.”
This was immediately interpreted by the chattering class, particularly the easily excited blog and television magpies, as the next best thing to a formal announcement. But in the context of what else she told New York magazine, it was less an announcement than a hint of reconsideration. “We get to be at home together a lot more now than we used to in the last few years,” she said of life with Bubba. “We have a great time. We laugh at our dogs, we watch stupid movies, we take long walks, we go for a swim. You know, just ordinary, everyday pleasures.”
This is scary stuff for the hangers-on and those who hope one day to hang on, whether to the actual campaign or to “the story.” Most of these unfortunates have no lives of their own. “She’s running, but she doesn’t know it yet,” one of her “friends” told the magazine. “It’s inexorable, it’s gravitational. I think she actually believes she has more say in it than she actually does.” Said another: “In her mind, she’s running for it, and she’s also convinced herself that she hasn’t made up her mind. She’s going to run for president. It’s a foregone conclusion.”
But what do they actually know? Hillary would be 69 on Inauguration Day 2017, not particularly old for a man not out of sight of his prime, but a woman in public life is getting past her sell-by date at 69. John F. Kennedy, who never had to grow old, got it right when he famously remarked that “life is unfair.” A second failed race for president would not be much of a capstone for a distinguished career in politics, and life at the hearth with Bubba and the dogs would be more rewarding than indulging the parasites of another campaign.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.