Hillary can’t win, and that’s why she won’t run. She may not know that yet herself, but a lot of Democrats want her because she’s all they’ve got. The Republicans are counting on her to run because they think she’s the candidate they can beat in what looks from here like it could be a Republican year.
Lady Macbeth has the resume that makes her plausible, which a lot of pundits and normal other people confuse with “inevitable.” Everybody recognizes her name. She doesn’t hear the music but she recognizes the words and knows policy, and likes to talk about it. She’s a woman, and that should help with the ladies. (It might hurt, too).
She has had to carry a lot of Bubba’s baggage, and people usually pity the wronged wife. Nobody is comfortable as the object of pity, but political widows have often exploited it. Political wives, not so much. Hillary has successfully used it, probably because she has thrown the occasional lamp. People like people who fight back.
She has even carried some of Barack Obama’s baggage, and she’ll have to work hard to avoid sharing the blame for the president’s bad choices. The map of the world is speckled with them.
Against every positive, there’s two or three negatives. Everyone has a list. Many women like her, some women worship her. Most men despise her. She reminds them of their ex-wives. Life is not fair. Men, a wise man said, are assumed to be competent until they prove otherwise; that was Mr. Obama’s good fortune in 2008, when nobody looked at him closely. Women are thought to be incompetent until they prove otherwise, as many women in politics and business do every day. Getting credit is not easy.
Successful men and women are born with an instinct for politics, or they never have it. Bubba was born with it, along with the ability to change convictions like changing his pants. The politicians who have it have no shame exploiting it. If they have the ability to wink, smile and say the right thing they can get by with anything short of murder, and maybe that, too. What can you do with a good ol’ boy like Bubba? He only rarely hit a false note. Hillary never hits anything but.
PHOTOS: These NFL cheerleaders are ready for some playoff football
She’s stiff and wooden as a public speaker, as if trying to prove Dr. Johnson’s famous aphorism that a woman preaching is like a dog trying to walk on its hind legs. Hillary is tone-deaf besides. She’s always starting on her “back foot,” as the English say, and she’s a mediocre campaigner, too. Bubba would never have said the family, with millions in the bank, was “dead broke. Not because it was a lie but because everybody in America knew it was a lie. A skilled politician would never have asked, after the Benghazi debacle, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” Whatever gift for politics she has, she got from imitating Bubba. Voters won’t be satisfied with a pale imitation, and nobody listens to two-time losers.
Instinct and ambition — the “fire in the belly” — is a lethal combination, and Hillary has a version only of ambition, but it only occasionally flashes as the hard blue flame that drives winners. Mike McCurry, Bubba’s press secretary, asks the pertinent question about Hillary: At 67, does she really want to spend her golden years working 16 hours a day, eating bad food, sleeping in a strange and uncomfortable bed every night, shaking the hands of strangers in a drafty gym in Iowa, and rubbing elbows with indifferent diners in New Hampshire? She could live the luxurious life at her own pace, delivering the same canned speech written for her, enjoying a new granddaughter, making speeches for $200,000 a pop and watching the millions accumulate at the Clinton Global Foundation.
Running in 2016 won’t be the picnic of 2008, when she had no record to defend (nobody expects so much of a senator). The press, which took a dive in 2008, is loaded this time. She will get sharp questions that she won’t be able to blow off in 2016. She will find out quickly “What difference, at this point, does it make.” There will be no coronation.
Hillary is caught in a trap of her own ambition. The prospect of her as president, which keeps the big money coming from foundations and corporations buying access to a new president, will dry up once she announces, leaving her with only the anger of partisan friends with no candidate. But life for the Clintons has always been about Hillary and Bubba, and good luck to everybody else.
• Wesley Pruden is the editor emeritus of The Washington Times.