Quotes of the day

Hillary Rodham Clinton is not deciding whether to run for president; she’s already running for president. If she doesn’t make it to the starting gate for the 2016 Democratic primaries, she will have quit running. When has a Clinton ever quit anything?…

For years, Clinton loyalists have had to account for the simple truth that Hillary does not possess her husband’s natural political gifts. That’s no disgrace; few politicians do. But she can be thin-skinned, defensive, tin-eared, needlessly confrontational, and susceptible to wild conspiracy theories. Bill has these traits, too, but hides them better…

Then and now, she despised being questioned about either her motives or judgment. This week, she lashed out at liberal interviewer Terry Gross for having the temerity to ask if the Clintons had changed their minds about gay marriage or if they had changed their public position when it became expedient. It’s an interesting question, actually, and one I’ve wondered about since the night during Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign when he signed the Orwellian-named Defense of Marriage Act into law. Hillary also fudged on the date in the Gross interview, citing the year 1993, a reminder that another trait she shares with Bill is a willingness to bend the truth.


If Hillary Clinton is elected president in 2016, most Americans say they think she will do a good job handling crucial domestic and international issues, according to a new national poll…

Clinton served as America’s top diplomat during Obama’s first four years in office, so it may not be surprising that some of her best marks in the poll come on overseas issues: 63% say she would do a good job on foreign policy and 61% say the same on terrorism.

But it is notable that 63% say she’d do a good job handling the economy, and 57% believe she’d handle health care well…

Just 38% questioned in the CNN poll say that they approve of how the President’s handling the economy. That’s 25 percentage points lower than the number who think Clinton would do a good job on the economy. Only 40% approve of Obama’s foreign policy, 23 points lower than Clinton.


Yet when it comes to the kind of domestic policy platform we can expect from a Clinton candidacy, it may be anything but a shift away from Obama. Instead, it will look a lot like a third Obama term, focusing on areas that should still have enormous popular appeal come 2016.

Over his first six years in office, Obama has followed through on significant promises advancing a center-left agenda. A Clinton candidacy will aim to consolidate these gains and build upon them…

There are undoubtedly other areas where Clinton could build on Obama’s groundwork. As president, she’d continue implementing and refining the Affordable Care Act. She’d push for immigration reform if that remains unachieved. Perhaps she would try for the much-needed gun safety measures that have eluded Obama despite the disturbing regularity of mass carnage…

For all the talk of Obama fatigue, the promise of a Clinton candidacy would largely be a continuation of the consensus policy vision of the center-left.


Hillary Clinton refused to say what policies she disagrees with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and insisted such matters should be kept private…

“Well, I practiced law for a long time and there’s such a thing called the marital privilege where you do not testify against your spouse,” she declared to laughs…

“We’re constantly sharing ideas and perceptions. We have, I think, an agreeable, general view about our country and the work that we think needs to happen to keep the American dream alive and give, particularly young people, the chance to have the same opportunities that we had,” she said. “We have a lot of differences and it kind of keeps the conversation going.”


Exhibit A for what Robert Kagan describes as his “mainstream” view of American force is his relationship with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who remains the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes. Mr. Kagan pointed out that he had recently attended a dinner of foreign-policy experts at which Mrs. Clinton was the guest of honor, and that he had served on her bipartisan group of foreign-policy heavy hitters at the State Department, where his wife worked as her spokeswoman.

“I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy,” Mr. Kagan said, adding that the next step after Mr. Obama’s more realist approach “could theoretically be whatever Hillary brings to the table” if elected president. “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue,” he added, “it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”


“This time around, be true to yourself,” Hubbell tells me, using the second-person pronoun to indirectly advise Clinton. “You’re still trying to create —” he stops himself. “You’ve got so many people around you trying to shape your image that you lack …”

“Authenticity?” I suggest.

Hubbell nods. Shifting to the third-person, he says of Clinton, “I think that instead she needs to be herself. She’s a great person.”…

Hubbell isn’t the only person encouraging Clinton to get real. I wrote a column six months ago that channeled her closest associates urging Clinton to run a radically atypical campaign – accessible, authentic, insurgent and populist. One of the sources of that column, a top adviser, told me last week, “My friend is making the same old mistakes.”


Hillary Clinton’s out-of-the-gate stumbles in interviews this week reflect an issue she’s faced repeatedly during her political career – defensiveness with the media, and difficulty acknowledging a mistake

“Be careful what you ask for because you might get it,” said one Clinton insider, pointing to the coverage of the cautious Clinton and saying this is what happens when a politician is candid. “Well, here you go, people. Buckle up.”

Still, this is hardly the first time Clinton has flashed irritation when confronted by unwelcome queries — it has happened frequently throughout her political career. Clinton has also shown some rustiness in the past after coming back from a hiatus from the media glare; her return to the public stage this week came after a year of very little questioning from the press…

“Hillary simply needs to learn to speak to the voters through the interviewer rather than taking the bait,” said one veteran Democratic strategist, who asked not to be identified. “When you get combative, you are simply inviting the rest of the media to take the same approach.”


No one doubts she will be a strong supporter of gay equality if elected president, now that all the political incentives to take that position are aligned. She has advanced gay rights other than marriage at times in her long career. And she has never come across in speeches or interviews as an anti-gay bigot. There is, however, a vocal segment of the left that is invested in likening people who opposed gay marriage to racists who opposed interracial marriage. There is also resentment from gays who feel that the Clintons wronged them in the past…

Clinton’s NPR interview sheds light both on educated Democrats who think they know her and the way she plans to talk to them about her longtime opposition to marriage equality.

Consider how the issue was broached. “So what’s it like when you’re in office and you have to do all these political calculations to not be able to support something like gay marriage that you actually believe in?” Gross said. “You obviously feel very committed to human rights and you obviously put gay rights as part of human rights. But in doing the calculus you decided you couldn’t support it.” The NPR host is seemingly unable to conceive of the fact than an iconic Democrat like Clinton could have really, truly opposed gay equality all those years. In liberal circles, it now seems impossible to have cared deeply about human rights, to have cared about gay rights, and to have objected to gay marriage, even though that was the exact position of almost all liberals very recently…

One wonders if her reputation for wisdom and competence can survive a primary election that focuses attention on how frequently she gets big judgment calls wrong.


Now on Iraq, she finds herself in a familiar and uncomfortable position between a war-weary Democratic Party on one side and hawkish Republicans eager to paint her as weak on the other. She’s tried to thread this needle before and it didn’t work well.

“The current crisis in Iraq is a reminder of the dangers Hillary Clinton faces with the Democratic base,” said Stephen Miles of the progressive group Win without War. “Today, with the threat of military action once again on the table in Iraq, … we’ll be looking to see if her recent denunciation of her 2002 vote for the Iraq War represents a true change of heart or was simply an effort to rewrite history in advance of a 2016 run.”…

Of course, Iraq is an old problem for Clinton. Heading into the 2008 presidential campaign, she tried to atone for her vote in favor by becoming one of the Senate’s more vocal antiwar voices, opposing the surge and voting to block it in a bill that didn’t gain cloture. Later, she said that while the increased troops had helped improve security temporarily, the surge ultimately “failed” in its broader goals.

In a different move that now looks more prescient, she in August of 2007 called on the Iraqi Parliament to replace al-Maliki with “a less divisive and more unifying figure,” prompting an angry response from the leader.


“We’re not going to forgive her, despite her best effort to whitewash her history,” said Brian Becker, the executive director of the antiwar ANSWER Coalition, which formed in the run-up to the Iraq War. “We consider Hillary Clinton to be almost a part of the neoconservative establishment.”…

Eugene Puryear, a far-left activist who is running for an at-large seat on the District of Columbia Council, said there’s “absolutely no chance” he could support Clinton. Her latter-day admission that the vote was a mistake is “highly opportunistic … absurd and really offensive,” added Puryear, whose interest in politics started when he attended an anti-Iraq War march during high school.

Gerry Condon, the vice president of Veterans for Peace, was somewhat more sympathetic, saying he thought Clinton had “learned her lesson,” but said he could still never support her. “We would welcome her becoming a politician who actually supports diplomacy, but I’m not going to hold my breath,” he said…

Carlo Chavarría, a 21-year-old rising senior at American University, said there’s no way he’d vote for Clinton in 2016. “She seems so progressive on other issues,” he said, but when it comes to foreign policy, “she’s a warmonger.”


3) It ain’t gonna be a coronation. HRC must have been taken aback last week when two members of the traveling sisterhood – Diane Sawyer of ABC News and Terry Gross of NPR – actually pressed her with uncomfortable questions about Benghazi and gay marriage, respectively. Hillary didn’t respond well in either situation, and the ensuing coverage was instructive. If she can’t count on favorable press coverage during the choreographed rollout of a self-reverential memoir, what does that tell us about how she’d do in debates against a determined opponent? And does Clinton really want to face the scrutiny, not to mention the slings and arrows, that come with any campaign?

4) Obama is leaving a mess. President Obama’s second term is complicating matters significantly for Hillary. His foreign policy, which Clinton helped direct for four years – is adrift. The situation has unraveled dangerously in Syria and now Iraq. The infamous “reset” with Russia is a joke. Obama’s job approval rating is on the slide, and not only on foreign policy. He’s struggling to stay relevant in Washington or to move any sort of domestic agenda forward, which will be made even more difficult if Republicans take the Senate in November. It’s hard to see how any of these dynamics change for the better in the next two years — and they may get worse. Hillary will not want to be seen as running for Obama’s third term, yet she won’t be able to distance herself too far from his record. That will be a tough needle to thread politically (see point #1).

5) The country wants real change. America was mesmerized by Obama’s call for change in 2008. It was one of the narratives that propelled him over Hillary in the first place. Eight years later, Obama has failed to deliver much of what he promised on uniting the country and changing business as usual in Washington. As a result an even stronger populist, anti-establishment, anti-incumbent fervor is coursing through the electorate. That does not bode well for Hillary Clinton, who embodies the elite establishment — and the past. If the famed Clinton political acumen still exists in that family, Hillary will figure this out and take a pass on 2016.



Via the Corner.