Jan 27, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 19 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
This week’s Time magazine splashes the question on its cover: “Can Anyone Stop Hillary?” The Weekly Standard is happy to provide our friends at Time with an answer to their query: Yes. Hillary Clinton can be stopped. How? Let us count the ways.
The easiest way Hillary can be stopped is if she stops herself. She can choose not to run. Indeed, Time reports “on good authority” that “Hillary Clinton has not decided whether to run for president again.” There is a reasonable chance she’ll decide not to. She’s an intelligent woman. She remembers that her last experience of running for president wasn’t fun and didn’t end well. She knows that winning the Democratic nomination won’t be as easy as the media now pretend and that the general election will be, at best, a 50-50 proposition. Time points out that Hillary is now “able to dominate discussion of 2016 even as she sails above it.” Of course, the moment she announces, Hillary will no longer be “sailing above it.” It will be all downhill from the announcement. Why bother?
Because there’s so much she wants to accomplish as president, and only she can accomplish those things? No. Hillary has no agenda different from that of other generic Democratic candidates, or for that matter from Barack Obama, the man she would succeed. Hillary’s first term would in reality be Obama’s third. She’d be tinkering with his successes and trying to cope with his failures. Becoming president in 2009 after eight years of dastardly Republican rule, with a chance to make things anew, was an exciting prospect for a liberal. Succeeding the modern liberal president after two terms? Hillary may well decide it’s not worth the candle.
There’s also the matter of winning the nomination. Hillary is very likely to be out of step with the Democratic primary electorate in 2016—too close to Wall Street, too establishment, a prominent part of an administration that employed drone strikes and used the NSA in all sorts of dastardly ways. For Democrats in 2016, Hillary Clinton might be too much of a . . . Clinton Democrat. She’ll have a tougher nomination fight than everyone now expects.
And then there’s the general election. The only time since 1952 a party has held the White House for a third successive term was in 1988, when George H. W. Bush won, in effect, Ronald Reagan’s third term. Will the country be in as good shape in 2016 as it was in 1988, ready to vote for a continuation of the same party in office? Will Hillary’s opponent be as hapless as Michael Dukakis? It’s possible.
It’s more likely that Hillary goes down in the general election, a representative of the old order losing to a younger, fresher Republican face. Time claims, “One widespread forecast holds that Clinton is poised for a cakewalk of historic proportions.” One would like to see what analysis that forecast is based on, and whether it’s “widespread” among anyone other than Clinton loyalists.
Wait, wait, wait . . . We’ve forgotten something: Hillary would be the FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT! That might be enough to get her to run and conceivably to get her elected. But Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher hadn’t been first lady before taking power. Hillary will be the second Clinton president. That fact overwhelms her claim to first-ness. As a feminist, Hillary surely knows that when your husband’s been president, you’re not really breaking any glass ceilings on behalf of womankind. And lots of other women understand this as well.
Speaking of Bill, one gathers that he does very much want Hillary to run. It will be a liberating moment for Hillary—and perhaps an inspiring one for other women—when she decides that she doesn’t have to do what her husband wants.
Hillary likely won’t run. If she does, she likely won’t win.
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