Hillary Clinton is, without question, a smart lady. She has been a senator and secretary of state, after all. So no dummy, she.
But is she smart enough to not run for president in 2016?
She was beaten handily in 2008 by a first-term senator named Barack despite the feared Clinton Rolodex of party high rollers. And while her favorability rating has risen steadily, especially since she left the public eye early this year, millions and millions of Americans who opposed her in 2008 — Republican and Democrat — are still out there.
Things are off to a terrible start. Has there ever been a more disastrous rollout of a presidential candidate than Hillary’s this past month? She couldn’t answer what she’d do in Iraq. She was caught in a lie about her health — outed by her own husband. Then she said they were “dead broke” when they came out of the White House (they had two houses worth at least $5 million). On Saturday, she said she and Bubba are not “truly well off,” despite Bill’s $100 million bankroll.
Worse, her 656-page book has been roundly panned — even by liberal outlets like The Washington Post. Some critics found it boring, staid, cautious, defensive. First-week book sales were dismal: 85,721. (Sarah Palin’s first week book sales: 467,604.)
Still worse, questions about her health continue to swirl. At 69 years old, she’d be the second-oldest president ever inaugurated. And no one knows the details of her repeated fainting spells and falls, the most recent of which left her with a blood clot in the brain and wearing special glasses with a Fresnel prism lens used by people who have suffered traumatic brain injury.
Worst of all, she doesn’t seem to know why she lost in 2008 and certainly hasn’t modified her campaigning tactics heading into 2016.
While President Obama has been one of the most divisive presidents in history, he was elected on a syrupy kumbaya catchphrase of “hope and change.” He delivered none of that, of course, but the American people were optimistic in 2008. They embraced his call for a post-partisan America. And they still believed in him enough in 2012 to re-elect him.
But Hillary is bitter, so the one thing she can’t do is be herself. She’s far more partisan and vindictive than her husband and wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to “triangulate” GOP lawmakers into doing her bidding. Moreover, she doesn’t want to: With Hillary, it has always been her way or the highway.
Her cheerleaders, who are ready to hand her the 2016 Democratic nomination, forget many things, chief among them the fact that she is a terrible campaigner. She doesn’t even succeed in faking it on the trail, where she often appeared standoffish, aloof, unengaged. She lost to Mr. Obama because she failed to connect with voters. What makes her supporters think she will eight years later?
Worst of all, this time around she’s a multimillionaire, jet-setting in private planes from speech to book-tour stop and between her massive mansions. She would literally be this election’s Mitt Romney — a true 1 percenter, an effete elitist. The emergence of the tea party has brought a new mood of populism to politics, and voters are angry, ready to dismiss establishment incumbents too tied to business as usual in Washington (see Cantor, Eric).
But right now, she lost to America’s first black president. Then she was secretary of state. Not bad for a lady from Arkansas. If she runs again, though, and falls short, she’ll be a two-time loser, and no one will care what she has to say about anything. Forget the books and speeches. Into the wilderness she’ll go.
And the bottom line is this: Mr. Obama has failed to fix the problems in America, any of them. In fact, things are worse now than when he took office (remember gas prices at $1.85, the last day George W. Bush was in office?). By 2016, the country will be demanding change — not hope and change, just change. And that means a change from Team Obama.
So if she’s smart, she’ll retire for good, spend her days writing books, giving speeches and working at the Clinton Global Foundation, playing with her new grandchild and enjoying her golden years.