Hillary in 2008? No Way!
Hillary Clinton should stay in the Senate rather than running for president, aruges “True Colors” author Joe Klein.
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 earlyÃ¢€”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 issuesÃ¢€”her newfound grasp of military matters has impressed colleagues of both parties on the Armed Services CommitteeÃ¢€”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 DemocratsÃ¢€”friends of the ClintonsÃ¢€”were wringing their hands. “Do we really want to go through all that again?” one asked me. I don’t knowÃ¢€”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.