Wednesday, February 18, 2015

There's Something About Hillary

For a politician who has not even announced whether she is running for President, Hillary Clinton is already suffering the slings and arrows of unfavorable media coverage. There does not seem to be any particular reason for this and much of it is nonsensical, but as Al Gore can remind the former First Lady, when it come to the press corps, perception can quickly solidify into reality. Consider:

·        Hillary Isn’t Liberal Enough: Journalists itching for a big, splashy primary fight use this trope to suggest that Hillary is too closely tied to Wall Street or that the base of the party actually wants Elizabeth Warren as its nominee. But the idea that a woman who cut her teeth politically for George McGovern, spent decades advocating for women and children’s rights (go read her Beijing 1995 speech), greater access to health care, even a two-state solution that formally used the word “Palestine” (which she was predictably criticized for) is in Wall Street’s pocket is laughable. Further, the idea that the base craves a full-throated liberal did not result in Tom Harkin being nominated in 1992 or Bill Bradley getting the nod in 2000 or Howard Dean prevailing in 2004. Indeed, polling shows the “liberal base” is perfectly content with Hillary, even if the Washington Post found 13 Iowa Democrats who are not;

·        If Hillary Doesn’t Have A Competitive Primary, She Won’t Be “Battle Tested”: I guess this would make sense if the person in question had not spent the last 22 years in the national spotlight, most of them on the business end of some of the slimiest, dirtiest, and coordinated political attacks in recent memory. Long before the Tea Party was doing the bone-in-the-nose-Obama-is-not-American routine, the vast right wing conspiracy was claiming the Clintons allowed drug running in Arkansas and murdered Vince Foster.

People forget Hillary Clinton was called before a federal grand jury when she was First Lady and her husband was impeached. The chattering class in DC, from Maureen Dowd (whose perma-hate boner for the Clintons is well-known) to the “dean” of Washington reporters, David Broder, who said the Clintons “broke” Washington, have gone to lunch writing hit pieces about Bill and Hillary Clinton since the new generation of reporters were still drinking out of sippy cups. One thing I do not think we have to worry about is whether Hillary Clinton can handle personal or political attacks against her;

·        The American People Don’t Want A Bush Or Clinton Dynasty: Jeb Bush represents the third generation of Bush family members seeking national office that stretches back to Senator Prescott Bush in 1952. Indeed, a fourth generation Bush family member, George P., was just elected Texas Land Commissioner. That is a dynasty. Bill and Hillary Clinton are self-made people who came from lower and middle class (respectively) backgrounds, earned their way into college and law school, and then made their political bones. There were no Clinton or Rodham pères to grease the wheels for them.  

·        Hillary Doesn’t Stand For Anything: Aside from the fact that she is not, you know, a candidate for President yet, and therefore is not under any obligation, no matter what the media thinks, to stake out positions, there are few politicians with a lengthier public profile than Hillary Clinton. Her core positions on domestic and foreign policy are available to anyone with a computer and link to the Internet.

·        Hillary Needs To Learn From 2008: People forget that Hillary received more votes during the 2008 primaries than Barack Obama, but his campaign’s strategy of focusing on caucuses and the party’s proportional allocation of delegates in larger states accrued to his benefit. In large states like New Jersey, New York, California, Pennsylvania and Ohio, Hillary swamped Obama (though both went for him in the general election) but did not reap the benefit of large delegate hauls because of the party’s primary rules.

So while Jeb Bush is getting a free pass for being his “own man” even as he relies on more than twenty of his brother’s appointees and advisors, most notably failed Iraq War architect Paul Wolfowitz, former CIA Directors Porter Goss and Michael Hayden, former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, and former Secretaries of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, Hillary is saddled with media types like Chuck Todd openly admitting to “Hillary Fatigue” and a general distaste for her, not her policies, but her. Make of that what you will.

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