In an move best described as the ultimate attempt to re-brand a familiar (and quite tired) commodity, Hillary Clinton yesterday announced her intention to run for president of the United States. The announcement was originally scheduled to occur 12 noon EST, but aides revealed a planned delay that was an effort to “build anticipation.” At 3 PM, campaign advisor John Podesta emailed campaign donors and alumni. “I wanted to make sure you heard it first from me – it’s official: Hillary’s running for president,” it stated.
The email was immediately followed by a campaign video posted on social media that attempts to connect with working class Americans, but adds the familiar class-warfare element to mix. Clinton is expected to follow up her announcement with a series of smaller events designed to help her connect with voters, downplaying her celebrity status in process. She is expected to take her campaign on the road to an early voting state such as Iowa next week
Satirical website The Onion deftly lampooned her reasons for running, insisting her campaign slogan is “I deserve this.” Her low-key campaign strategy is best described by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. “It’s a do-or-die remodeling, like when you put a new stainless steel kitchen in a house that doesn’t sell,” she writes.
The day before her announcement, Clinton’s campaign team put their sincerest foot forward in a memo entitled, “We Are Hillary For America.” “This campaign is not about Hillary Clinton and not about us – it’s about the everyday Americans who are trying to build a better life for themselves and their families,” it states.
The memo also includes several guiding principles about being driven by strategy as opposed to tactics and one-offs, bouncing back from tough days, and fighting for every vote. After that, the boffo ending: “We are guided by Hillary’s bedrock values of hard work, service, fairness, and faith in the American Dream.”
The _New York Post_ enumerated a number of those “bedrock values” leading off with the inherent conflict of interest surrounding the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation and the millions of dollars donated to it by foreign entities. The Foundation ostensibly stopped taking foreign donations during Clinton’s four-year tenure as Secretary of State, but as the _Wall Street Journal_ explained, the ban “wasn’t absolute; some foreign government donations were permitted for ongoing programs approved by State Department ethics officials.” One is left to wonder whether those same ethics officials were equally sanguine about Clinton’s private email server whose content has been entirely expunged, with only Clinton’s inner circle determined which remaining emails were job-related.
As for Clinton’s “hard work,” her eight-year stint as a Senator from New York produced no legislation bearing her name, and her tenure as Secretary of State was best described by Clinton herself at the April 2014 Women of the World Summit in New York City. Asked what she was most proud of during her time at State, Clinton couldn’t name a single specific accomplishment other than to say she was “proud of the stabilization and the really solid leadership that the administration provided,” and that we “really restored American leadership in the best sense.” She got a second chance during an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer three months later. Sawyer asked Clinton to detail a marquee accomplishment or signature doctrine during her tenure.
Clinton ignored the question completely.
And the woman who will ostensibly fight for everyday Americans may talk the talk, but that’s as far as it goes. It was during that same interview with Sawyer that Clinton claimed she and Bill were “not only dead broke, but in debt,“ when they left the White House. Yet a few weeks before they left, the power couple managed to “scrape up” a cash down payment of $855,000 and secure a $1.995 million mortgage for a house in Washington, D.C.
Clinton has also secured an attitude best described as “pop-star diva.” In 2014 she charged a minimum of $300,000 per speech and her list of demands included providing her with a high-end private jet to get to a speech’s location, putting her up in presidential suites, a 90-minute limit on all presentations, and a limit of 50 photos with 100 attendees.
It is precisely that sense of entitlement Clinton brings to the numerous scandals and lies that have dogged her career. From the Whitewater land deal and accumulation of cattle-futures profits, to the Benghazi disinformation campaign and her personal email server scandal, there has been a remarkable insistence that there’s no substance to any of the accusations leveled against her. It doesn’t get any more callous than her dismissal of the critical details surrounding Benghazi and the deaths of four Americans with her statement, “what difference at this point does it make?” in response to a question by Sen. Ron Johnson. Johnson had wondered why the narrative about a spontaneous demonstration getting out of control had never been corrected. Clinton seemingly remains immune from such overt lying, even as Judicial Watch uncovered documents revealing her underlings knew almost immediately that Benghazi was under attack, and that terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility.
That scandal ties into her personal email account and expunged server. And it produced yet another lie regarding the “convenience” of having only one communications device, even as it was subsequently revealed she used a Blackberry and an I-Pad. Clinton even lied about landing in Bosnia “under sniper fire,” a trivial concoction by comparison, but one extremely indicative of a “lie first” reflex that is an integral part of her modus operandi.
A scandal-weary public may be catching on. Clinton’s polling numbers have dipped, with a Quinnipiac survey showing a new level of vulnerability in the critical swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Virginia. Her favorability rating is now in negative territory as well, having fallen 12 points since November 2013. She has moved to stanch the bleeding, hiring Google executive Stephanie Hannon, that company’s director of product management for civic innovation and social impact, to oversee the tech aspects of her campaign. She has also sited her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, no doubt in an effort to appear more “authentic” than a Manhattan address would make her by comparison.
Yet it remains to be seen if she can shake the dynastic, “been there done that” aura that will dog her campaign, much like it will undoubtedly afflict her as-yet-unannounced GOP counterpart Jeb Bush. It also remains to be seen how far her supposed trump card–being the first woman president—will go towards obscuring her liabilities. There is no doubt whatsoever the same Democrats and their media allies who have played the race card to deflect any and all criticism of President Obama will move seamlessly into the “war on women” meme to shield Clinton—when they’re not reminding Americans of the “vast right wing conspiracy” that has always stood between Clinton and her “well-deserved” date with presidential destiny.
Columnist Michael Goodwin remains quite skeptical. “She’s been on the national stage for a quarter-century, though because of all the drama, it feels like we’ve lived through several lifetimes with her,” he contends. “Along the way, she’s reinvented herself more often than Madonna. While the spectacle of an aging hoofer trying to keep up with the kids is riveting, the kicks aren’t what they used to be and the odor of desperation is unavoidable.” He further envisions a campaign where her best hope is to “fire a withering barrage of mud against an incompetent Republican,” during which America would be subjected to “reliving the ’90s, with her spying a vast right-wing conspiracy behind every tree and playing the victim when it doesn’t work.”
Yet even that may not be enough. As National Review’s Ian Tuttle explains, “Hillary Clinton the Person, the actual flesh-and-blood human being, is wildly unappealing. She is at best awkward and boring; she is at worst cold and petulant and endowed with all the public graces of a product of Disney’s animatronics lab.”
Perhaps. But if the election of Barack Obama proved anything, genuine substance is extremely vulnerable to Greek column symbolism. America twice elected a man whose associations with a racist preacher and a domestic terrorist, and his stated intention to fundamentally transform the nation, were subsumed by the “historic” symbolism that attended America’s first non-white president. Hillary will undoubtedly beat a similar drum–loud enough to drown out her numerous liabilities among a large portion of the public that won’t be paying close attention for quite some time—if ever. A portion of the public more attuned to broad political strokes, no matter how vapid, than “nettlesome” details. Hillary Clinton isn’t about to offer the voters anything different than she already has throughout her entire career. What currently remains unknowable is whether those voters have seen enough.
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