Hillary Clinton No Longer ‘Inevitable’

Hillary Clinton No Longer While I remain firmly in the camp that it’s almost inconceivable that Hillary Clinton won’t win the Democratic nomination, a growing number of people think they see the wheels coming off the bandwagon.

Obama supporter Mark Kleiman believes the planted question kerfuffle has “legs” and that “the moment she stops being inevitable, we have a whole new ballgame.”

Writing in Salon, feminist iconoclast Camille Paglia delivers a particularly harsh assessment of “Queen Hillary.”

Hillary’s stonewalling evasions and mercurial, soulless self-positionings have been going on since her first run for the U.S. Senate from New York, a state she had never lived in and knew virtually nothing about. The liberal Northeastern media were criminally complicit in enabling her queenlike, content-free “listening tour,” where she took no hard questions and where her staff and security people (including her government-supplied Secret Service detail) staged events stocked with vetted sympathizers, and where they ensured that no protesters would ever come within camera range.

That compulsive micromanagement, ultimately emanating from Hillary herself, has come back to haunt her in her dismaying inability to field complex unscripted questions in a public forum. The presidential sweepstakes are too harsh an arena for tenderfoot novices. Hillary’s much-vaunted “experience” has evidently not extended to the dynamic give-and-take of authentic debate. The mild challenges she has faced would be pitiful indeed by British standards, which favor a caustic style of witty put-downs that draw applause and gales of laughter in the House of Commons. Women had better toughen up if they aspire to be commander in chief.

Whether John Edwards or Barack Obama (toward whom I’m currently leaning) has conclusively demonstrated his superiority for the top of the ticket remains to be seen. They may unfortunately split the anti-Hillary vote (a majority of registered Democrats) so that she slips through. If Hillary is the Democratic nominee, I will certainly vote for her. But I continue to find it hard to believe that my party truly craves that long nightmare of déjà vu — with scandal after scandal disgorged and an endless train of abused women returning from Bill Clinton’s sordid, anti-feminist past.

Alex Knapp questioned her inevitability last night on OTB Radio, noting that recent events are highlighting her image as a robotic candidate. He believes, as do I, that in their heart of hearts most Democrats would prefer one of the other candidates to Clinton but are thus far sticking with her because they think she’s not only the inevitable nominee but will be assured of having all the resources she needs to compete in the general election.

The problem, it seems to me, is that for Clinton to lose, someone else needs to win. Obama is smart and charismatic but incredibly inexperienced on the national scene. Are Democrats really ready to turn the keys over to him? And Edwards, not particularly seasoned during his last run, seems to have actually lost gravitas since 2004. None of the second tier candidates seems to be catching fire.

So, if not Hillary, who?

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anderson says:

    JJ, I just don’t begin to see how what Camille Paglia thinks is relevant to Hillary’s prospects anywhere outside the Paglia household.

    (Sexual Personae was a fun book, kind of like Harold Bloom on drugs, but politics is outside her competence.)

  2. It seems to me that the folks who generally argue that Clinton isn’t going to win are either diehard Obama supporters or hardcore GOPers.

    Wake me on this one once someone who is a bit more analytical starts talking about her lack of inevitability…

    (And trust me, it would thrill me if someone else would win the Democratic nomination).

  3. yetanotherjohn says:

    What I find interesting is that James presents a future event as likely

    While I remain firmly in the camp that it’s almost inconceivable that Hillary Clinton won’t win the Democratic nomination

    but not inevitable.

    And then he asks the very relevant question

    So, if not Hillary, who?

    All this boils down to the fact that while the democrats are doing a good job pandering to their base, they aren’t putting forward a candidate to pull in the center.

    I think Hillary is going to win. And I think even I will become sick of seeing commercials of her flip floping on the illegal aliens driver license question.

  4. just me says:

    Well I remember in the fall of 03 Dean was the crowned front runner ahead in the polls and all but assured of the nomination. It was about this time that the media stopped being his cheerleaders though and started to actually look at his record and positions with a more critical eye, and by Jan. 04 his campaign was falling apart.

    Not to say this will happen to Hillary, but I think declaring any candidate a “done deal” or close enough to one before any votes are actually cast in the primaries isn’t the wisest move.

    Hillary certainly comes with some baggage, but I think she also has more media smarts than Dean had, so who knows.

    I figure Obama will rise if Hillary’s start falls, but I am not convinced Obama can survive the primary season as a viable candidate-much less the general-he just comes across as very green. Although maybe the greeness will appeal to voters who are tired of savvy.

  5. DC Loser says:

    Obama is smart and charismatic but incredibly inexperienced on the national scene. Are Democrats really ready to turn the keys over to him?

    Bill Clinton, 1992. Southern governor with no national or foreign policy experience. I say that’s not an impediment to Obama getting the nod. His recent speeches in Iowa certainly shows he’s no foreign policy shrinking violet.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Bill Clinton, 1992. Southern governor with no national or foreign policy experience.

    True enough. Still, twelve years as governor is major executive experience unmatched by almost anyone running on either side this go-round. McCain (long Navy career), maybe Giuliani (mayor, U.S. Attorney, DOJ) and Richardson (governor, UN Amb, Cabinet) are truly experienced in executive leadership roles.

  7. M1EK says:

    Your guy didn’t have any foreign policy experience and had spent a much shorter time as the executive of a state with a weak governor position, and yet you had no problem endorsing him over Gore and Kerry. The hypocrisy is stunning.

    Obama has at least some experience at the national level, and what’s more important, he’s been right on all the important issues (Iraq, for instance). I’m pissed at the stupidity regarding the anti-gay reverend, but other than that he’s demonstrated more intelligence and judgement than the other candidates put together.

  8. just me says:

    Your guy didn’t have any foreign policy experience and had spent a much shorter time as the executive of a state with a weak governor position, and yet you had no problem endorsing him over Gore and Kerry.

    I am not so sold on the idea that a person has to have “foreign policy experience” but I do think executive experience matters. And while Bush hadn’t been a governor for very long, he did come out of the business world and had executive experience there.

    I think Obama comes across as very green, and it is easy to be right, when you don’t have to take any real risks if your position is wrong. Doing the right thing from the white house isn’t always easy, and what seems “right” as a candidate doesn’t always seem so right once you have the reigns of power-things look a little different once you get there.

    Doesn’t mean Obama can’t do it, it just means I am not so confident he is the best candidate. Honestly if I was going to pick a favorite among the democrats I would probably lean most towards Richardson-partly because he seems to have a variety of experience, but he just seems more seasoned and capable.

  9. Dave Schuler says:

    I think that all of the palaver about the campaigns doesn’t really mean anything. Hillary Clinton is leading in virtually every poll, she has the money, and she has the organization. Not just a virtual organization like Howard Dean did back in 2004 but a real, boots on the ground organization. How she’d lose her party’s nomination is a mystery to me.

    But without reports that there was a possibility to that effect the news media would have nothing to report. So they’ll construct a horserace out of whole cloth if necessary.

  10. Tano says:

    I have never been one to buy into the Hillary inevitability meme. I am surprised that so many of my fellow political junkies have.

    Need I repeat the obvious? We junkies are not like actual voters. Actual voters focus on candidates only in the weeks before an election. Some make up their minds as they enter the voting booth (I will never quite understand that approach). Until the election is relatively imminent, polls are relatively meaningless. They are reflections of general underlying sentiments, often defined as much by name-recognition as anything else.

    It is only when the voters actually engage that certain themes emerge from the ocean of potential themes, and the ones that get traction are the ones that determine the outcome.

    Hillary has always been a very mixed bag of potential themes. She has some solid positives, and whole lot of negatives, including for Dems. Very few Dems are trully excited about her candidacy, though most find her acceptable.

    To the extent that the inevitablity theme actually persists in voter’s minds, and she is seen as the solid, if uninspiring choice, then yes, she may march unimpeded to the nomination.

    But if the inevitablity meme shows cracks, and the voters, when they actually sit down to decide, start to frame the question as “who do I really want to be president”, then she may be in trouble.

    I sense that if that is the question asked, then Obama especially, and Edwards to a lesser extent, may well find sufficient traction. These are the candidates that get Dems excited, and at some point the voters may well decide that they have a right to vote for the person that really inspires them – CW notwithstanding.

    Its not like any student of American politics doesnt have a wealth of surpise-outcomes to fall back on, to familiarize themselves with the notion that long-term polling means little.

    Look at the Republicans this year too. Rudy was certainly getting an air of inevitablity about him. As was Mitt in Iowa. And Huckabee was universally seen as a complete fringe candidate. Until a small set of Iowa fair-goers actually started to think about who they wanted, and suddenly Huck gained attention. As of today, he is within a few points of winning Iowa, and seems to have quite a bit of mo.

    Obama is now within a few points of Hillary in Iowa, and beginning to close in NH. What do you think would be the consequence if, after over a year of Hillary-the-inevitable, she would actually lose the first two states?

    No way is this over.

  11. Over It says:

    So, if not Hillary, who?

    Don’t throw food but I’m crossing over and voting for Ron Paul in the primary. (We can do that in my state.) If he wins the GOP nomination, I’m betting the majority of conservatives (give or take the strict pro-war minority) will buck up and rally around him, plus he’ll win the anti-war, fringe, and not-Hillary vote.

    From my perspective, bothering to show up and vote for any of these top-tier candidates from either party is the worst demonstration of adult naivete’…like it makes a difference which of them you vote for, whether it’s Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee… At this point, reinforcing the status-quo is a masochistic impulse to see how much worse things will get before they get better.

    If you’re not stirred by the ethical implications of continuing a policy of preemptive warfare, at least recognize it’s well past time to address the debt or lose the dollar. [ Reference Einstein on the symptoms of insanity… ]

    Forget the Democratic primary…the GOP primary will decide this race if it’s not rigged.