- - Sunday, December 9, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Every promoter knows the formula for a sell-out. Book a hall or an arena too small for the crowd you expect. Customers fighting for a seat is a great advertisement for whatever you’re selling, and when you call it a sell-out no one can argue.

That bit of showbiz wisdom is lost on Bill and Hillary Clinton, however. They’re finishing up a lecture tour and playing to thin crowds. A few days ago, they appeared at a basketball arena in Toronto, capacity 16,000. A little over 3,000 people showed up. Vast swaths of empty seats were hidden behind curtains, but reality peeked through in some of the newspaper photographs. Tickets that were originally put on sale for $111 were available at show time for $5.50, and they didn’t “move,” either. The $325 tickets for the elites were a drag on the market, too.

Why are Mr. and Mrs. Clinton even “on the road again,” anyway? They’re not even hawking a new book. Doing something for charity is not their thing. Their nest should be well-feathered. By one estimate Bill and Hill have earned — or been paid — $153 million for their speeches since they left the White House. Unless Hillary has been playing the cattle-futures market again, and this time without help, and losing spectacularly, she can’t need the money, particularly since compound interest on $153 million is a living, breathing money machine.

“An Evening with the Clintons” is how this vaudeville is billed, “a one of a kind conversation with two individuals who have helped shape our world and had a front seat to some of the most important moments in modern history.” They booked perfs in 13 cities, only one of them in a red state to avoid places where Hillary’s presidential campaign in 2016 tanked.

We can think of two reasons why the missus and the mister would go “on the road again.” He wants to rehabilitate as much of his reputation as he can, though that reputation is mostly about serial sexual molesting, which is not helpful in the wake of the #metoo scandals. His old paramour, Monica Lewinsky, has re-emerged in the public eye to sympathetic reconsideration, and even considerable acclaim. Questions that should have been asked 20 years ago are finally asked now.



Hillary is said to hunger to run for president again, having persuaded herself that she lost last time only because of the evil Vladimir Putin and James Comey. “I’d like to be president,” she says. “She’ll definitely run again,” says Mark Penn, her former pollster. Philippe Reines, another close aide, has been hinting that she may run again. This tour could be a test to see if there’s any love still out there.

Or maybe the tour isn’t political at all, but commercial. Maybe the Clintons aren’t using the tour to promote another presidential campaign, but using the tease of another run to draw crowds to pay big bucks to listen to them talk. The results on the road can’t be encouraging for either purpose.

Even more humiliating was the presence on the road of another former first lady, and she was drawing boffo crowds. “A Conversation with Michelle Obama” was a hot ticket in arenas from coast to coast. Mrs. Obama’s memoir, “Becoming,” is the hit title of 2018, selling 1.4 million copies in its first week alone. Mrs. Clinton’s book, “What Happened,” sold 300,000 copies in its first week, less than a quarter of Mrs. Obama’s sales. Mrs. Obama says she has no interest in running for office, though she could probably scramble the lackluster Democratic field.

Hillary’s public-opinion polling is no more encouraging than the size of her crowds, and size matters. A survey of Democrats and independents by the Capitol Hill political daily, The Hill, taken just after the midterms, found her trailing Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and “none of the above” in the prospective 2020 election. A mere 12 percent picked her as their first choice, which is somewhere between awful and dreadful.

Hillary is 71 years old, an age when most people want to be playing with their grandchildren, catching up on books they put away to read, or learning to bake the cookies Hillary once said she had no interest in learning how to make. She’s had a long and impressive career — first lady to senator to secretary of state. Hasn’t she had enough of the public eye? The public has clearly had enough of her.

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