Hillary in 2008? No Way!

Hillary Clinton should stay in the Senate rather than running for president, aruges “True Colors” author Joe Klein.

“Hillary in 2008? No Way! — Why the former First Lady should stay in the Senate” (TIME, May 8)

I was having a fascinating conversation with a Middle East expert about the intricacies of Israel’s disengagement from Gaza when I noticed the fellow growing impatient. “Enough of this,” he said. “What about Hillary?” Welcome to my life. In airports, on checkout lines, at the doctor’s office: “What about Hillary?” (Everywhere except in Washington, where everyone “knows” she’s running.) I shrug, I try to avoid the question, I say it’s too early—and it is. But you want to know too, right? So here it is. I like Senator Clinton. She has a wicked, ironic sense of humor (in private) and a great raucous belly laugh. She is smart and solid; she inspires tremendous loyalty among those who work for her. She is not quite as creative a policy thinker as her husband, but she easily masters difficult issues—her newfound grasp of military matters has impressed colleagues of both parties on the Armed Services Committee—and she is not even vaguely the left-wing harridan portrayed by the Precambrian right. I also think that a Clinton presidential candidacy in 2008 would be a disaster on many levels.

[…]

But Clinton is a judicious hawk on foreign policy and has learned her lessons on domestic-policy overreach. No less an expert than Newt Gingrich says, “Hillary has become one of the very few people who know what to do about health care.” Still, she has some very real political limitations. She has a clenched, wary public presence, which won’t work well in an electorate that prizes aw-shucks informality; she isn’t a particularly warm or eloquent speaker, especially in front of large audiences. Any woman running for President will face a toughness conundrum: she will constantly have to prove her strength and be careful about showing her emotions. She won’t have the luxury of, say, Bill Clinton’s public sogginess. It will take a brilliant politician to create a credible feminine presidential style. So far, Senator Clinton hasn’t shown the ease or creativity necessary to break the ultimate glass ceiling.

And then there is her husband, a one-man supermarket tabloid. A few weeks ago, the New York Post ran a photo of Bill Clinton leaving a local restaurant with an attractive woman, and the political-elite gossip hounds went berserk. Prominent Democrats—friends of the Clintons—were wringing their hands. “Do we really want to go through all that again?” one asked me. I don’t know—should the sins of the husband be visited upon the wife? Absent any evidence, the former President should be considered guilty until proved really guilty. But there is another problem: What role would the big guy play in a Hillary Clinton Administration? Would he reform health care? Does anyone believe that a man with such a huge personality would have a less active role in her Administration than she had in his?

I agree with Klein that these are huge obstacles to a Hillary Clinton presidency. She’s certainly politically savvy enough to recognize them, too. My guess, though, is that the lure of winning the presidency in her own right will be too much for her to resist. The Democratic nomination is, barring some major blunder, hers for the taking. The barriers to her election won’t be any lower in 2012. If she wants it, 2008 is her shot.

It’ll be an uphill fight for her to beat an attractive Republican in the general election but the country may well be tired of the GOP by then.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. GP says:

    Of all the Democrats talked about as “in the running”, Hillary exceeds all in terms of raw political talent and fundraising ability. On top of that, she and her husband are wildly popular with the party base. Short of some big screw up, the nomination is hers for the asking.

    Whether she will win the presidency is way to early to tell because there is no Republican front runner. If at the end of Bush’s presidency, his popularity continues to be split down the middle (the most likely scenario) I think that will be a bad sign for the Republicans that the country is sick of them. So anyone too tied to the President (Frist or Cheney) will be defeated. I think the country is also tiring of the religious right, so anyone who ties themseves to them (Frist) will loose. The most likely scenario for the Republicans to beat Hillary is to do something their base will hate: pick a populist conservative who downplays the social policies (McCain (who would beat Hillary), Gulliani (who is horribly undisciplined and could end up the Dean of the Republicans), Hagel). Or find an unknown who can position himself as needed (George Allen). And then of course there is the political reporter’s dream: Condi Rice (who will have to be on everyone’s short list for VP).

    Say what you want about Hillary though, it is exciting that a woman actually has a reasonable shot at the nomination and winning the presentation. That is a huge step for a America, and that alone could tip things in favor of Hillary. It’s impossible to predict what the impact of it will be.

  2. McGehee says:

    Of all the Democrats talked about as “in the running”, Hillary exceeds all in terms of raw political talent and fundraising ability.

    Even with her chief fundraiser looking at a possible prison sentence? I’ll grant the “raw political talent,” but she lacks the ability to engage an audience that her husband has — and which GWB has.

    On top of that, she and her husband are wildly popular with the party base. Short of some big screw up, the nomination is hers for the asking.

    Unless by “big screw-up” you mean staying out of the race last year, I disagree. Ironically, it was too soon last year, but 2008 will be too late. Her appeal may not be as ephemeral as “flavor of the month,” but it’s already fading. And the recent spate of “Hillary? No!” columns of which this is only one, are a strong sign of that.

    So anyone too tied to the President (Frist or Cheney) will be defeated. I think the country is also tiring of the religious right, so anyone who ties themseves to them (Frist) will loose.

    Since Cheney is about as likely to run for President as Hillary is to run for Miss Teen USA, we’ll take that part under advisement. As for “tiring of the religious right,” I’m still mystified as to what, exactly, is inspiring this alarm. Just last year it was neocons that were the bogeyman of the Bush regime — now it’s theocracy. It’s as though two entirely different and mutually exclusive GWB teams have been in power at the same time. I guess if you can simultaneously believe that Bush is an idiot and the mastermind of a new American imperialist conspiracy, you can also believe in the coming neocon theocracy.

    pick a populist conservative who downplays the social policies (McCain (who would beat Hillary), Gulliani (who is horribly undisciplined and could end up the Dean of the Republicans), Hagel).

    [giggle] Okay, now you’re just being silly.

  3. JakeV says:

    I vote Democrat, and I fervently hope Hillary does not receeive, (and if possible does not run for), the 2008 presidential nomination. I think her chances would be slim at best, for essentially the reasons laid out by Klein.

    And I don’t think the nomination is hers for the taking– not even close. 2008 is a long way away.