- - Sunday, February 1, 2015



There’s a wonderful scene in “Citizen Kane” in which the intrepid young reporter Jerry Thompson, in search of just what the dying word “Rosebud” meant, tracks down Charles Foster Kane’s best friend. Jedediah Leland is an old man now, living in a rundown retirement home in the Bronx. Frail, maybe a bit senile, Jedediah delivers a dramatic insight into Charlie.

“He married for love — that’s why he did everything. That’s why he went into politics. It seems we weren’t enough. He wanted all the voters to love him, too. Guess all he really wanted out of life was love. That’s Charlie’s story, how he lost it. You see, he just didn’t have any to give. Well, he loved Charlie Kane of course, very dearly,” Jed said.

There’s something odd about the men (and women) who run for president. First, it is the height of hubris to think that you — of the 320 million people in America — are the sole citizen who can lead America. But that’s what each presidential candidate really thinks: I alone am qualified to lead the most powerful nation in the world.

Second, those who run for president all seem to have enormous flaws (think quick: Don’t you know someone in your immediate circle who would be a better president than the last few we’ve had?). For President Obama, it’s his spectacular arrogance. Only his viewpoint is right, damn the other half of America that thinks differently.

And third, they all seem to be lacking something. In Charlie Kane’s case, it was love. But for many who go into politics, the story is the same. Bill Clinton, abandoned by his father, sought the love of everyone (and spent quite a bit of time seeking the love of various women who were not his wife). He was always missing a piece.

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There are some who say George W. Bush, a longtime washout, a family disappointment, entered politics in search of the love of his father — and even followed him into the presidency, where still others say he went to war with Iraq to finish the job his father started.

Mitt Romney is also such a man. A wonderfully nice human being, Mr. Romney is lacking — something. It’s not money: He’s worth a cool quarter-billion dollars (he made nearly $14 million the year he was running for president by doing nothing). And very rich men often grow bored and seek the one thing they can’t buy — power (think people like Ross Perot and Donald Trump).

Of course, picking a president isn’t about love, but rather competence. Americans in 2008 and 2012, when Mr. Romney lost, just thought Mr. Obama was the better man for the job. But it no doubt feels like a massive rebuke to lose the presidential election. It must be hard to think “They just don’t like me.”

Mr. Romney, like most election losers, wandered off into the wilderness (remember how Al Gore got fat, grew a beard and disappeared for months?).

But then, like many a flawed man before him, Mr. Romney re-emerged, declaring his desire to run again. Even though he suffered a self-inflicted drubbing (the “47 percent” comment killed him), the 67-year-old thought he could actually win in 2016.

The party elders (and especially the moneymen) convinced him otherwise. And Mr. Romney himself described what should come next: “I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee.”

So, too, is it for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Like Mr. Romney, she has run — and lost. America rejected her in 2008, picking a first-term senator instead. She likely will run — her hubris knows no bounds — but she should heed the lesson Mr. Romney learned.

She, like Mr. Romney, is 67. And her ideas, like Mr. Romney’s, are simply from the past. More, she is painfully flawed. Rather than retire, bask in grandmothering daughter Chelsea’s new baby, Hillary wants to win the love of all America — so badly she’ll risk everything. The most successful first lady in history — senator, Secretary of State — she needs more, more, more.

But like Mr. Romney, she’s about to learn a hard lesson. If she runs in 2016, she will lose. Then, unlike Mr. Romney, she’ll be a two-time loser. And she’ll be consigned to the dustbin of history — where she’ll belong.

Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @josephcurl.

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