The big revelation from the latest Clinton scandals is not that the former president and his wife are corrupt, low-rent, grabby, greedy, serial liars.
Everyone already knows that.
No, the revelation is the exposure of the dirtiest little secret of them all:
No one likes her.
This is the hard truth that has popped up like a vicious migraine: No one — not even many of her fellow Democrats and leftists in the mainstream media — likes her very much. Her negative poll numbers (particularly on issues of honesty and trustworthiness) have always been high, except during much of her tenure as secretary of state. But her negatives are now back with a vengeance.
Mrs. Clinton does have a core constituency, mostly unmarried women who consider her some sort of feminist heroine. And she is perennially on Gallup’s list of most admired women, mostly for her steeliness in the face of deep personal humiliation. But admiration does not translate necessarily into affection, and her core support, always narrow, is growing narrower by the day.
Few politicians have engendered as much distrust, exhaustion and flat-out loathing as Bill and Hillary Clinton. Few have been as polarizing. President Obama is in their league, but he’s on his way out. The Clintons could very well be the future, given her stone-cold ambition to be president, which is why her abiding unlikeability may be her ultimate undoing.
Successful politicians work hard to build up reservoirs of goodwill — with their party, other branches of government, the media and the American people — so when the crud hits the fan (and it always does), they can tap into that goodwill to, they hope, carry them through the difficulties.
Mr. Clinton invested real time in creating a charming, rakish public persona to mask his dark and calculating sides. It paid off: When multiple scandals from Whitewater to Monica Lewinsky to impeachment hit, the goodwill he had cultivated buffered the assault. A healthy economy didn’t hurt, either.
Mrs. Clinton never had the patience to dress up the malevolent parts of her personality. It was a function of her narcissism and elitist mindset: She knows best, and the burden is on you to see it. She couldn’t be bothered with putting on a show.
The implosion of former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer should have served as a cautionary tale. When the self-proclaimed “[bleeping] steamroller” rolled into a prostitution scandal, he didn’t have a single defender. Why? No one likes an obnoxious, abusive jerk. Granted, he had won office, demonstrating that likeability is neither necessary nor sufficient to getting elected. But it’s indispensable when it all goes south.
Mrs. Clinton is now in the Spitzer-zone. Very few people have been willing to go to bat for her. Some Democrats have offered tepid support, leaving her with only two surrogates, James Carville and Lanny Davis, both of whom are also covered in the crusty old Clinton mud.
The dynamic changed when Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California appeared on “Meet the Press” and encouraged Mrs. Clinton to “step up” and address the email issue. That was the Goldwater-goes-to-Nixon moment. Mrs. Clinton then held a blink-and-you-missed-it “press conference,” in which she proved that there is no “new Hillary.” There’s just the same old Hillary: imperious, entitled, thin-skinned.
Meanwhile, the media — many of whom have never liked her — have pounced. The New York Times broke the email story, and it, along with other left-leaning news outlets, continues to cover it, as well as the shadowy foreign donations that have flowed into the Clinton Foundation. The Associated Press has now filed suit to force the release of her emails and government documents.
Of course, none of them are pursuing her with the same verve they’d be pursuing a Republican accused of similar things. But they are covering the story because they smell blood. Until now, she has benefited from the lack of a credible alternative. Politics is an unpredictable game, though, and if she’s bloodied and limping, she will no longer look like the strong horse, increasing the odds of a more progressive challenger.
Mrs. Clinton is still the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination. She may even be a better candidate than she was in 2008, although her handling of these scandals doesn’t bode well.
The Clintons have long been regarded as tornadoes blowing through other peoples’ lives, leaving wakes of lies, tortured explanations and destruction in their paths. Do the Democrats want to relive all this? Do the American people? They might suck it up for someone they like and respect. But for her? Meh.
This ominous storm gathers around a candidacy that doesn’t yet formally exist. Imagine the F5 tornado to hit once she formally announces, when so few are willing to stand with her in the center of the storm.
• Monica Crowley is online opinion editor at The Washington Times.
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