The GOP is fretting about Trump, but the Democrats’ likely standard-bearer could do just as much damage to her own party.Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.politico.comSee on Scoop.it –…
Source: What’s Wrong With Hillary
When Hillary Clinton began her second run for the White House, it must have seemed that the road ahead would rise up to meet her. This time, there would be no political phenomenon in her way—no younger, more charismatic figure who would strip Clinton of the mantle of “change.” All that stood between her and the nomination were a 74-year old socialist from Vermont and the obscure former governor of a state whose previous best-known politician was Spiro Agnew. Back then, if you had told Clinton’s campaign that she would be outraised by that Vermont socialist, that she would be losing younger Democrats, including young women, by landslide proportions, and that she would be facing a months-long slog through every primary—you would have been accused of smoking some of that now-legal-in-Colorado product.
So what exactly is going on here? Why won’t Bernie Sanders go away? And why does Hillary Clinton’s Bernie problem pose a danger not only to her but to the Democratic Party—even if she does (as it seems highly likely) secure her party’s nomination? Three big reasons: First, Hillary Clinton commands little trust among an electorate that is driven today by mistrust. Second, her public life—the posts she has held, the positions she has adopted (and jettisoned)—define her as a creature of the “establishment” at a time when voters regard the very idea with deep antipathy. And finally, however she wishes it were not so, however much she argues that she represents the future as America’s first prospective female president, Clinton still embodies the past, just as she did in 2008 when she lost to Barack Obama. The combination of those three factors is already playing out in the Democratic primary, where younger voters are turning away from her and embracing a geriatric, white-haired alternative in droves.
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The far more serious issue is whether all these factors will seriously threaten her prospects and those of the Democratic Party in November—even at the hands of Donald Trump.
True, the road ahead is still more or less rising in her direction. Clinton leads her likely opponent, Trump, by a significant margin. He—or indeed any GOP nominee—will come out of the convention with his party bitterly, perhaps hopelessly, divided. A Washington Post-ABC News poll reports that nearly two-thirds of Americans say she has the kind of experience necessary to be president. No wonder betting markets make her a nearly 2-to-1 favorite in November.
But there are other factors that make Hillary Clinton look more vulnerable than venerable, and that should give her party cause to pause. Consider the much-chewed-over finding that nearly six in 10 Americans do not consider Clinton honest and trustworthy. In last Wednesday’s debate, panelist Karen Tumulty cut through Clinton’s first explanation—it’s all that right-wing Fox News noise—to note that these doubts were held by the broader public, and by many in her own party.
“Is there anything in your own actions and the decisions that you yourself have made that would foster this kind of mistrust?” Tumulty asked. Clinton’s answer was a combination of confession, self-analysis and pivot. (“I do take responsibility. … I am not a natural politician, in case you haven’t noticed, like my husband or President Obama. So I have a view that I just have to do the best I can, get the results I can, make a difference in people’s lives.”)
A look at Clinton’s political career provides a tougher explanation. Those younger voters who doubt her trustworthiness likely have no memory, or even casual acquaintance with, a 25-year history that includes cattle-futures trading, law firm billing records, muddled sniper fire recollections and the countless other charges of widely varying credibility aimed at her. They may even have suspended judgment about whether her e-mail use was a matter of bad judgment or worse.
But when you look at the positions she has taken on some of the most significant public policy questions of her time, you cannot escape noticing one key pattern: She has always embraced the politically popular stand—indeed, she has gone out of her way to reinforce that stand—and she has shifted her ground in a way that perfectly correlates with the shifts in public opinion.
For instance: Many Democrats, including all of the major 2008 presidential candidates save for Barack Obama, stood with President George W. Bush and voted for the authorization to use force against Saddam Hussein. What was different about Clinton, however, was that in her October 2002 speech she said this about Saddam: “He has also given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of Sept. 11, 2001.”
This assertion, in the words of reporters Don Van Natta Jr. and Jeff Gerth, was unsupported by the conclusions of the National Intelligence Estimate “and other secret intelligence reports that were available to senators before the vote.” It made for a more muscular talking point; it just happened not to be true.
Or consider her “evolution” on gay marriage. Back in June 2014, Clinton got very testy with “Fresh Air” host Terry Gross, who kept pushing Clinton to explain why this shift was not a matter of political calculation. She repeatedly asked the former secretary of state whether her opinion on gay marriage had changed, or whether the political dynamics had shifted enough that she could express her opinion.
“I’m just trying to clarify so I can understand …” Gross began.
“No, I don’t think you are trying to clarify,” Clinton snapped back. “I think you’re trying to say I used to be opposed and now I’m in favor and I did it for political reasons, and that’s just flat wrong. So let me just state what I feel like you are implying and repudiate it. I have a strong record, I have a great commitment to this issue.”
Well, here’s what Clinton said on the Senate floor, speaking in opposition to a constitutional amendment that would have forbidden gay marriage, while making very clear where she stood on the issue.
“I believe marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman. … So I take umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage, or to the fundamental bedrock principle that it exists between a man and a woman, going back into the mists of history as one of the founding, foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization.”
Again, plenty of Democrats were on record as opposing gay marriage in 2004—the year that voters in 11 states voted to ban the practice by significant margins. What’s striking about Clinton’s speech is the intensity of the language, the assertion that it is a “bedrock principle.” You might think that a conviction so strongly held would not be subject to “evolution,” much less shifting political winds. Not so, apparently—any more than a trade deal can be the “gold standard” one year and an unacceptable threat to American workers the next; or that a generation of potential “super predators” requires draconian crime laws one decade, while the next demands an end to such laws.
Is this kind of analysis subjecting Clinton to a double-standard? Don’t politicians of all stripes change, “evolve,” calculate? Almost all of them do. (Although in the case of Bernie Sanders, you get the sense that if he were told “the building’s on fire!” he’d explain that was because of inadequate regulation caused by the power of millionaires and billionaires to rig a corrupt system that requires a revolution. Not since Cato the Elder ended every speech on every subject by declaring “Carthage must be destroyed” have we seen such consistency in a politician).
The difference with Clinton, I think, goes back to her acknowledgement that she is “not a natural politician.” If her husband brings to mind Harold Hill, the genial salesman from The Music Man who could make you see those 76 trombones, Hillary Clinton sometimes seems a Matrix of consultants, advisers and speech coaches. It’s almost as if her brain and tongue were on a seven-second delay in which every word is subject to a pre-utterance examination for potential damage. And, just as in other areas of life, from the tennis court to the bedroom, performance anxiety can lead to unhappy results—in Clinton’s case, the sense that she can be too clever by half. (Is it remotely plausible that the Wall Street speaking fees are somehow connected to helping New York in the wake of 9/11?) That is one reason why she seems to pay a much higher price for her policy shifts than other politicians do.
Another aspect of Clinton’s weakness is less an issue of personal liabilities than of a misapprehension on her part of what political space she occupies. One of the most revealing statements of the entire campaign was her response to Sanders’ charge that “Secretary Clinton does represent the establishment. I represent, I hope, ordinary Americans.” “Well, look,” Clinton responded. “I’ve got to just jump in here because, honestly, Sen. Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman president, as exemplifying the establishment. And I’ve got to tell you that it is really quite amusing to me.”
I don’t believe there’s any dissembling here; I think she really believes that a woman cannot possibly “exemplify the establishment.” Apart from the obvious problem with that view—“Queen Elizabeth, please call your office”—it represents a sentiment much more understandable in 1976 than in 2016. It’s the same kind of confusion that led Gloria Steinem to assert that the only reason young women might be flocking to the Sanders campaign was to meet young men. But it’s more. Think back to the Clintons’ entrance onto the national stage almost 25 years ago. Bill was 46 when he was elected president; Hillary was 45. They were quintessential Baby Boomers, for whom “Forever Young” was not just a Bob Dylan song but an aspiration. The theme song of Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign was “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow,” and Bill Clinton was often credited with the observation that “every election is about the past versus the future.” (And, he need not have added, the past rarely wins). For Clinton the idea that she could represent “the establishment” is self-evidently absurd. What about her work with the McGovern campaign, the Children’s Defense Fund?
The answer, of course, is that 25 years in the most rarefied circles of political life, countless speeches—where an hour’s work earns you five years’ worth of a middle-class income—a multimillion dollar wedding for your only child, and friendships with every manner of celebrity does tend to make that “establishment” label fit.
In another era, there wouldn’t be much a problem with that label. FDR and JFK had little problem overcoming the burden of wealth and to-the-manor born privilege, and there was a time when “Experience Counts” was actually a campaign slogan (albeit for Nixon in 1960). The problem for Clinton, however, is that, should she be facing Donald Trump, she would be facing an opponent who may be uniquely capable of turning her experience into a liability … not to mention exploiting her other vulnerabilities.
As the notion of a Trump nomination has morphed from ludicrous to probable, analysts left and right have come to something of a consensus. Whether it’s Charles Murray in the Wall Street Journal, speaking for conservatives, or Thomas Frank in the Guardian, opining for liberals, the analysis focuses on the large cohort of Americans who have been effectively shut out of the economy for two decades or more. Trump’s feral insight has been to play on these grievances with a message that defines the cause—and the villains—in unmistakable terms.
We’ve been played for suckers by foreign countries, by our incompetent leaders, by politicians who serve the elite, and who do the bidding of the insiders. We’re letting our worst enemies gain footholds across the Middle East. I don’t need their money; I can’t be bought. And the very crudeness of my language, the threats, even the bullying, tells you I have the stones to take these people on. And if the “experts” think I don’t know what I’m talking about—how have the “experts” done in Iraq, in Libya, in protecting the jobs and incomes of regular Americans?
It’s not hard to think of potential Democratic candidates who would be well-equipped to respond to that argument: senators like Elizabeth Warren or Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, a younger Governor Jerry Brown, a Vice President Biden not weighed down by the death of his son. Indeed, Bernie Sanders could claim substantial exemption from Trump’s argument. And it’s certainly possible, maybe more than possible, to see Hillary Clinton winning a comfortable victory by simply gathering votes from those who see Trump as utterly unfit for the office.
But … if the discontent with the economy persists in the fall, or even deepens should the woes of China and Europe reach our shores, there is no Democrat more in the cross-hairs of an angry electorate than Clinton. Everything from her Wall Street financial links to her work as secretary of state become targets of opportunity. Those targets, further, are independent of the more obvious vulnerabilities: the possibility (remote as of now) of an FBI criminal referral; the eagerness of Trump to rebut any charge of misogyny by revisiting the most serious charges of “predator” (Bill) and “enabler” (Hillary) that put some of Bill’s past behavior outside the boundaries of “private” matters.
The polls and the gamblers now say such concerns are misplaced; that the broad American electorate will simply not put so manifestly unqualified and unfit a candidate as Donald Trump in charge of our nuclear codes. But as I wrote here seven months ago, every once in a while, voters discover they have the power to do something they have never done before; and that discovery itself becomes a significant political force. Should that happen, Democrats will need a candidate well-positioned to resist that power.
It’s far from clear that Hillary Clinton is that candidate.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/03/hillary-clinton-2016-whats-wrong-with-hillary-213722#ixzz42sv8Cbar
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