Everything Hillary Clinton says and does looks and sounds like she’s running for president of the student body, collecting testimonials, Valentines and staying out of everything remotely controversial.
The liberal consensus is that she’s the inevitable president. Who’s to stop her? But she was “inevitable” once before.
This lady’s not for burning, nor even for getting singed by questions about her past and the lack of solid accomplishments of her own. She gives every evidence of wanting only to glide in triumph into Bubba’s old office with neither bumps nor bruises, or even a hair out of place.
She seemed confused and rattled the other day in New York City, appearing in a panel discussion at an oh-so-friendly forum by an organization called “Women in the World.” When she was asked to identify her proudest moment as secretary of state, she couldn’t come up with one, not even a New York minute, but her rambling answer was nevertheless revealing about who she thinks she is, or wants to be.
“Look,” she said, “I really see my role as secretary [of state], and in fact, leadership in general, in a democracy, as a relay race. I mean, you run the best race you can run, you hand off the baton. Some of what hasn’t been finished may go on to be finished.”
She would get the baton first from Barack Obama. She shies from linking herself to President Obama’s achievements, such as they are, in foreign affairs where — like it or not — she would have to talk about Benghazi, Syria, Ukraine and Crimea, just the subjects a secretary of state would be expected to know best. These are failures, though, not successes, and she prefers a link to Mr. Obama’s record at home (but presumably not to Obamacare).
She praises Mr. Obama for “stimulation and growth” abroad, for “getting back to positive growth and working with our friends and partners. … I think we really restored American leadership in the best sense, that, you know, once again, you know, people began to rely on us, to look at us, you know, setting the values, setting the standard.” (The verbal hiccups are revealing, too.)
This is a view of the Obama legacy, which she wants to inherit, that a lot of people here and abroad certainly don’t share. The baton the public might see her taking is not from Mr. Obama, but from her husband. This would come perilously close to taking refuge in the role of “wife of,” a role much derided by liberals and anathema to the feminists she would count on to become the first female president.
Hillary has carefully avoided answering the question that has Washington in a permanent buzz — will she, or won’t she? But she has surrogates eager to answer if she won’t. They’re getting on with the campaign. Groups with names like Ready for Hillary, Correct the Record and even a super PAC called Priorities USA recycled from Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign are skirmishing with Clinton opponents in anticipation of the struggle to come.
One opposing super PAC, called America Rising, is concentrating its early focus on her record as secretary of state. “There won’t be a single tangible [accomplishment] they can cite,” Tim Miller, the director of America Rising, tells The Wall Street Journal.
The tough questions she avoids now will be about Benghazi, and how she responded to the terrorist attacks on an American legation that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador. She has angrily declined to talk about Benghazi, once dismissing the question with a contemptuous retort: “What difference, at this point, does it make?” We can expect to see that video footage again and again.
One of Mrs. Clinton’s oldest friends, dating from her years in Arkansas, thinks in the end she might not run. “I’m not in the political camp,” says Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, a filmmaker who worked in several Clinton campaigns. “I’m in the friends camp, and the friends camp definitely has concerns about her running.” Cheryl Mills, who was Mrs. Clinton’s chief of staff at the State Department, stands in both camps, and she has told her not to run. There are lingering concerns about her health — she suffered a blood clot in her head two years ago — and another losing race would tarnish the record made over four decades.
Hillary and the Democrats would focus on young voters, the millennials, but these are just the voters with little memory of her White House years with Bubba. The young might see her, at 69 on Election Day 2016, as an old lady. No woman wants that on her resume.
Suzanne Fields is a columnist for The Washington Times and is nationally syndicated.