- - Sunday, July 31, 2016

Hillary Clinton knows she’s trying to sell a used car with no brakes, a busted transmission and bald tires. “I get it that some people don’t know what to make of me,” she said in accepting the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. She went on for almost an hour trying to tell everyone what to make of her. The television cameras caught Bill dozing off several times, once while standing up.

Her problem is not that people don’t know what to make of her, but that they long ago decided that they know exactly what to make of her. She’s old, tired and stuck with her history, dating from her years in Arkansas a quarter of a century ago, of cutting every ethical corner at hand.

A talking head on CNN observed, with the understatement of the evening, that her acceptance speech lacked “poetic sweep.” Indeed, the Clinton story is a story that can only be told by FBI investigators, forensic accountants, lawyers and prosecutors. There’s nothing there to attract poets. The audience in Philadelphia did its work, applauding on cue and occasionally affecting to be moved to tears. She used their applause more than 20 times to clear her throat, preventing one of the coughing episodes that were a regular part of her speeches during the long primary season. She was woman, but she couldn’t roar for having to swallow her coughs.

Beyond the fact of being the first woman nominated for president by a major political party, there’s not a lot for her to roar about. Despite the emphasis on her sex, she’s stale and familiar in a year when everyone is looking for something fresh and new. “The contradiction,” observes The Wall Street Journal, “shows how hard it is to sell a candidate who has been a national figure for 25 years when the public wants change.” Her husband, was relatively unknown when he offered himself in 1992, and Barack Obama, the man whose presidency she promises to extend, looked and sounded new in 2008 with his promise of “hope and change.” Only later the voters learned what he wanted to change. Hillary by contrast is old goods, covered with dust from spending too long on the shelf.

This time the voters promise to be more skeptical of the nation’s longest-running soap opera. Scandal was a permanent resident in the first Clinton White House, and there can be every expectation that more scandal will return to join the presidential ghosts in that venerable house. Bill’s problem was a zipper that couldn’t stay zipped. Hillary’s is a pocketbook that stays permanently open to attract whatever loose change is lying about everywhere she goes. Nearly 70 percent of the voters tell pollsters they think she’s dishonest and unworthy of their trust. There’s wide consensus that she cheats and lies about it. There’s not a lot there to cheer about.

The Obama legacy that she promises to adopt and extend, to give him the third term that the Constitution denies him, promises only to extend the stagnant economy, the slow growth of the past eight years and the policies that have rendered America as the uncertain giant after Barack Obama cut it down to size. Hillary, like Donald Trump, will eliminate the positive and accentuate the negative (to turn a popular song of yesteryear on its head), and not “mess with Mr. In-Between.” The two nominees share almost identical negative-favorability ratings. Hillary’s most compelling argument is that she’s not Donald Trump, just as the Donald’s most compelling argument is that he’s not Hillary Clinton. There’s not much to cheer about there, either.

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