“She’s setting herself up for the biggest anticlimax announcement ever,” CNN anchor Chris Cuomo observed on Wednesday of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s endless, self-aggrandizing book tour cum presidential campaign roll-out. In the end, Cuomo’s prediction may prove to have been an understatement.
Now in week seven of Clinton’s journey of self-actualization, after a rocky commencement from which she seems to have recovered, the former secretary saved her most fawning interlocutor for what everyone must hope is last.
In a Tuesday evening appearance on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart made sure that his line of questioning of Clinton implied that he was in on the joke. What’s the joke, you ask? That no one is even remotely interested in Clinton’s book. All they want to hear is her finally pulling the trigger on a presidential campaign.
Stewart accurately observed about the book Hard Choices, “no one cares.”
“They just want to know if you’re running for president,” he added with equal candor.
What followed was an excessively coy display of false modesty in Clinton’s responses to questions aimed at eliciting the former secretary’s thoughts on the he next career move. Questions like “Do you have a favorite shape for that home office?” Or, “Would you like that office to have corners or not to have corners?”
The whooping automatons in the audience, who are really just happy to be there, responded to all of Clinton’s toying responses with hysterical enthusiasm, but it’s hard to believe that the viewers at home received this performance in the same way. Clinton’s act has grown old fast.
In committing to this book tour, Clinton made the calculation that her popularity among Democrats, the weakness of the 2016 field of possible Democratic alternative candidates, and her unique stature as a figure in American politics for more than two decades would allow her to forget the lessons of Rudy Giuliani’s campaign.
Giuliani, you’ll recall, began to campaign for the 2008 presidential race in earnest in late 2006. By the time the first primary ballots were cast, enthusiasm for Giuliani was tapped. The concerns of GOP primary voters about the former mayor’s positions on a variety of issues, litigated ad nauseam on cable news and in print for months before the candidates hit the first debate stage, were only confirmed when Giuliani was challenged on them by his fellow cast of 2008 aspirants.
And just 30 days after the first caucus ballots of the 2008 race were cast, after spending nearly 18 months at the top of the field of GOP candidates in the public polling, Giuliani was knocked out of the race.
Clinton has chosen to ignore that lesson. She has decided that it is one which does not apply to her, and she may be correct. Then why the artificial shyness? This is not the 19th Century when appearing outwardly ambitious was seen as a ghastly impropriety, and a prospective presidential candidate had to lobby behind the scenes for the job, only to feign weary and burdened capitulation when “drafted” at the nominating convention. No one would begrudge Clinton an announcement now. In fact, it might be considered an act of authenticity – a trait the Clintons are often seen as lacking.
“Giuliani did not collapse under the weight of a failed strategy,” wrote the former mayor’s pollster Frank Luntz in a postmortem in the Los Angeles Times. “It’s that this incredible communicator had no theme. No focus. No discipline. And no campaign team with the heart and guts to fight to keep the campaign message on track within a chaotic political environment.”
Clinton’s theme thus far for her campaign, to the extent that she has one, is that she is a woman and that the presidency is her due. The most interesting thing about her candidacy is that she has not yet announced it. That is a dangerous place to be for a candidate. What happens after she does?