The consensus has formed on Hillary Clinton’s unofficial campaign kickoff, and it’s … not complimentary. The two reporters who wrote Game Change about the 2008 election cycle — the one in which Hillary blew what was supposed to be a coronation to a first-term backbencher with no experience of which to speak — told Charlie Rose last night that the book Hard Choices is a bore, while the candidate herself is strikingly “tone deaf”:
“I don’t think she’s handled things well at all this week,” Heilemann said. “She was very rusty. Mark said earlier he thought the book… was ‘mush and the interview was ‘tone deaf,’ I thought that was probably true. I’m not through the whole book yet, but I think those are both accurate.”
The authors’ chief critique centered on Clinton’s claim that she and her husband were “not just broke, but in debt” when they left the White House in 2001, and had “struggled to… piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea’s education.”
“I don’t what Hillary Clinton would have said if she had been asked detailed questions — ‘Well, how many houses did you have?’ And: ‘If you were so broke, why exactly did you buy one house across the street from the British Embassy and another in Westchester County?’ … Had she been hit with the hardest set of questions you could imagine, with a bulldog-ish set of questions, I don’t know what she would have done.”
In fact, John Heileman says that the book is a tremendous missed opportunity. She had the opening to make an argument for her leadership at this moment in time, but instead wrote a mostly facile memoir that carefully laid out her preferred narratives about the past. Mark Halperin concurred, adding that nothing this week has made Hillary any more likable or compelling as a national figure. That goes beyond “being rusty,” and goes more to Hillary’s calculating nature. That’s not going to win her any converts, especially with her clumsy attempts to make herself sympathetic because of the “struggles” she and Bill Clinton endured as they rolled up more than $100 million in income after leaving the White House.
Just how bad were those “struggles”? The Washington Post did an analysis of the Clinton family finances in 2001, their first year out of the White House, and the “struggle” seems to have been how to handle being multimillionaires. They did have debt from their legal struggles (although they raised money for a defense fund that the Post doesn’t mention, either), but even with the debt in the equation, their net worth ranged from $4.7 million to $24.7 million at the end of the year. Bill Clinton earned $13 million on the speaking circuit that year alone. After a couple of lean years in the seven-digit range, by 2004 their minimum net worth rose to $10 million.
Earlier this week, I reached the same conclusion — that Hillary did more damage than good to her chances in 2016:
Eight years ago, Hillary Clinton was seen as the Democratic Party’s all-but-inevitable presidential nominee. She was well on her way to winning a second term as senator from New York, and fatigue with the perceived incompetence of the George W. Bush administration gripped the nation. Democrats thought a return to the halcyon days of the Bill Clinton administration would appeal to a broad section of the electorate, where both Clintons remained personally popular. No one else in either party looked like they could compete with the Clinton juggernaut.
When it came time to actually run the 2008 race, Hillary Clinton looked less like an inevitability and more like someone unprepared to handle the rigors of a campaign and all the public scrutiny that came with it. And eight years later, that pattern has emerged again. …
The Clinton team chose ABC’s Diane Sawyer as their lead interview for Hillary’s book rollout, a reporter/anchor with enough news credibility to overcome any sense of getting softballs, but without a track record of having a real killer instinct either. One might have expected that a candidate with as much experience in handling the media could have managed an in-depth interview with Sawyer, but the interview blew up in her face.
Democrats had better have a Plan B for 2016.