Saturday, March 14, 2015

Hillary Clinton: No, I'm Not Excited...

In less than two years, the United States will have elected its next President. From the right, the GOP will need to sort through a long list of aspirants, including Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Dr. Ben Carson, among others.... The primary season will begin in earnest next January, when Iowa conducts its traditional "straw poll" followed shortly thereafter by the first official primary in New Hampshire.

It is certain to be a hoot AND a holler.

Conversely, the Democratic Party seems to be preparing for a coronation of sorts. Hillary Clinton, the prohibitive favorite in 2008, hasn't officially declared, but all signs point toward her running. There are several actions and behaviors potential candidates for President often employ and Clinton has ticked them all off.

Write a Book - check

Schedule many speaking engagements - check

Distance one's self from the current president - check

Yes, Hillary Clinton is already running for President.

Who might challenge her from the left?

Jim Webb (former Senator from Virginia) has formed an exploratory committee to consider the question. While Webb has some attributes that can appeal across party lines (ie military service, pro-gun, etc,) but his views and voting record on abortion probably cancels that appeal out for some.

Bernie Sanders is another who has indicated an interest in a possible run. An Independent from Vermont with 26 years experience as a Congressman and Senator, Sanders is one of the stronger voices speaking from the hard left. Championing progressive values and positions, he has announced an intention to run for President, but hasn't officially done anything in terms of declaring, forming an exploratory committee, etc.

Other names such as current Vice President Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Martin O'Malley, Howard Dean and Deval Patrick have all been mentioned but either aren't considered serious possibilities or have already said they weren't running in 2016.

Should both Webb and Sanders actually mount a campaign, we quickly have to talk about campaign finances and fundraising to be specific. The 2008 Presidential campaign cost roughly 1.8 billion dollars only to be outdone by the cost of the 2012 campaign, which exceeded 2 billion. There is no reason whatsoever to think that the coming election of 2016 won't set a new record.

It is highly questionable for either man, especially Webb, to actually raise the kind of money he'd need to set up a national operation, hire a staff, pay for transportation, etc.

Further, it is believed by many in political circles that the Clintons have long memories when it comes to who has been on their team and who hasn't over time. Even if such thoughts are exaggerated, with Clinton positioned as such a favorite to win the nomination, will donors with (agendas) risk crossing the Clinton machine to donate to an opposing campaign that seemingly has no real chance of beating her? Will campaign professionals risk the wrath of the Clintons to work on someone else's campaign that's probably going to fail in the end? One wonders. I think any challenger with the possible exception of Warren will have difficulty raising enough money to survive more than a few months, with the caveat that should Clinton somehow lose in the early primaries, then the possibility grows. But, that's unlikely. Especially with Warren not in the race.


Clinton can't be regarded as a "fresh face" or "the change we need" type candidate. I suspect she will trumpet her experience and leadership as the country faces many challenges going forward. While experience and leadership aren't always substitutes for accomplishments and successes. Once the election moves past the primaries and into the "general", Clinton will likely have a big advantage over anyone the GOP will have nominated when it comes to foreign policy. No Governor or Senator will be able to match her level of experience and time spent with other foreign leaders.

The Clinton time as Secretary of State was productive, make no mistake. I'm not clear on how her work to change the "attitude and tone" of the State Department, how her pivot from the "hard power" of the previous administration to "smart power", how her work to improve women's rights, gay rights, etc. will necessarily translate to an excited electorate come November 2016. Yes, she's the foreign policy heavyweight in the room, but will voters care?

Fair or not, the Benghazi and Arab Spring matters will almost certainly hurt her more than help her. "Four dead Americans" matter far more than improved conditions for women in Africa does to most American voters. The vacillation of the Obama Administration regarding the Arab Spring uprisings, as perceived by most critics on the right, will also be an easy club to hit her with.

In the end, fair or not, I almost think HRC would be wise to not try to use her FP experience as her springboard into office. It might wind up being a net negative, after all, is said and done.

I haven't even mentioned the email nonsense yet. Sigh...

A great number of elected officials including Presidents have had a weak regard for detailed and thorough record keeping when it comes to electronic communications. Hillary Clinton is hardly the first politician to decide which emails we the public needed to have preserved in our name and which ones we didn't. There is a certain "trust me" coming from the former Secretary of State which bugs the crap out of me. During her remarks last week about the email issue she said, "..we went through a thorough process to identify all of my work- related emails and deliver them to the State Department."  Who is this "we" she refers to? Does having government employees decide for themselves which emails are worth keeping and which aren't really satisfy the spirit of the rules of this sort of thing? If you say yes it does, will you have any problems should President Walker or Cruz adopt the same approach?


Perhaps Clinton would be more suited to working with Congress than President Obama has been. That requires faith that a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Senate will seek to find mutual bipartisan projects on which to work with her on. As unpopular as Barack Obama has been to his loyal opposition across the aisle, I actually think the contempt for Hillary Clinton might be higher. And, her husband is no darling of the right either, is he?

I'm not excited in the least right now. Maybe after she declares in April (according to the latest guesses), and I can hear her on the stump and she begins to make her case I'll warm up to her. If I hear a full-throated defense of the Affordable Care Act that would help. If I hear a defense of the Obama Administration's Executive actions on immigration while seeking a bipartisan longer-term solution, I'll feel better.

Is this the best the Democratic Party can do right now? Seriously?


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