So Politico wants to know if the Hillary Clinton email scandal is actually making her more human and likable. Michael Hirsch writes the released emails really show how much Clinton just appears to be going about her normal day.
In various emails Clinton wants to know the schedule not of Benghazi cover-up meetings but that of her favorite TV shows; rather than asking aides to stonewall Congress, she wants them to procure skim milk for her tea. (Oh, and “pls remtind [sic] me to bring more tea cups from home,” adds the most powerful diplomat in the United States.) Finally—in what must be an attempt to secretly exert her influence in Washington—Hillary Clinton orders that she and her staff stay home on snow days.
If Clinton’s long-running problem until now is that the public mistrusts her—and the revelations about her private email server have only exacerbated this mistrust—the emails themselves appear to leave the opposite impression. They are, for the most part, utterly mundane, the chatter of daily diplomatic life at a high stratum of society and, all in all, prosaic rather than pernicious. If there’s plotting going on, it isn’t happening here—either that or Hillary Clinton has developed a very clever code. Does “bring some skim milk” really mean “destroy the documents”?
The sarcasm from Hirsch is noted, in the end. What isn’t surprising is that different parts of the political spectrum have different opinions of the released emails. Stephen L. Miller at National Review believes it could actually hurt her more.
Yes, this is the delightful paradox that is Hillary: a woman who claims she will fight for the shrinking middle class but who also happens to employ a personal chef (or Visiting Angel) that she’s not even sure she pays. A candidate who Understands People Like You but apparently isn’t familiar enough with the strange Google machine to look up television listings (I found it in one click after searching “The Good Wife times” and going to the official CBS homepage). A person who was actually in the habit of e-mailing her drink orders to aides at the State Department: “Pls call Sarah and ask her if she can get me some iced tea.”
Ponder that one again for a moment: She e-mailed one person to call yet another person with an order to bring her a beverage. A normal person, incapacitated and laid out in a hospital bed, can usually get beverage service in fewer steps than what Hillary was requesting.
To be fair, if Clinton was in the middle of a high-level meeting, it makes more sense to get someone to bring the tea. But at the same time, Miller raises a really good point: Clinton does seem detached from what everyday people do. This is something Clinton has had issues with for two decades. There’s even a 1995 memo from Clinton’s own press secretary suggesting ways she could come off as likable in. From The Wall Street Journal.
“This might be a nice time peg to have the President and Hillary do a special joint interview with Barbara Walters,” Ms. Caputo wrote. “If we did an interview around the anniversary time peg, it would not appear to be political.”
The memo, dated Aug. 31, 1995, notes that the Internet is becoming a popular mode of communication. “Hillary could speak to young women through Internet,” it says.
Ms. Caputo also suggests that Mrs. Clinton should consider doing a guest appearance on the TV show “Home Improvement.” “I know this may sound like a wild idea, but I think it is an interesting one to discuss,” she wrote, referencing the TV sitcom that starred Tim Allen.
Ms. Caputo added that the show would present the Mrs. Clinton “in a very likeable light.”
“Although I have some concerns that it diminishes the role of First Lady by going on a TV sitcom, it is probably worth weighing it against what we believe we might be able to gain by such an appearance politically and image-wise,” she wrote.
There’s also this famous 2008 debate clip between Clinton and Barack Obama on her likability.
This isn’t going to stop, even if Clinton and her sycophants think the emails are going to make her appear human. Likability and personality really are big issues when it comes to elections, whether it should or not. Wendy Davis came off as wooden during the first 2014 Texas governor’s race, while Greg Abbott looked cool, calm, and collected. Mitt Romney was accused of not having a personality in the 2012 election. Jeb Bush seemed beyond disinterested in the first GOP presidential debate last month. All this stuff matters to voters and is a nature of politics. NPR even noted how personality has become more important.
According to [[ University of California psychology professor Dean ]] Simonton, before FDR there were two presidents characterized by modern researchers as genuinely charismatic people: Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt. But afterward, there’s a relative explosion: Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan and Clinton in a much shorter period of time.
So what are the policy consequences of this shift toward charismatic personalities?
“Charisma is associated with more legislation, more legislative victories, essentially being more successful in general as a legislator,” Simonton says. “It’s also associated with making more special messages to Congress and more executive orders.”
It’s all about connecting with the audience in hopes of getting votes. It’s unfortunate because elections should be about policy, not about charisma. But it’s what they’ve become since the advent of TV and radio. The key thing is being able to find a candidate who can balance charisma with good, freedom-loving policy.