As Clinton scandals continue to mount and her credibility plummets, gleeful Republicans are quietly discussing what once seemed impossible: Hillary Clinton might not survive primary season, let alone make it all the way to Pennsylvania Avenue.
That may well turn out to be the case. But it’s not because of the allegations about “Clinton cash” or deleted emails. Those are major political scandals, to be sure, but of a kind that a shameless Bill Clinton skated through easily during his own administration.
The deeper problem is personal. As the veteran Democratic strategist Bob Shrum put it to me, rather forlornly, in an interview for my book, Clinton, Inc., Hillary Clinton simply isn’t a very good candidate. “I’ve seen her and him in rooms, and she doesn’t have the whirr,” said Shrum, who worked on the failed Al Gore and John Kerry campaigns. “Your eyes aren’t constantly drawn to her the way they are to him.”
To the contrary, one’s eyes are drawn away. The Hillary campaign is like a movie you decide halfway through that you didn’t really want to see in the first place.
As a candidate, she is the Democrats’ Frankenstein creature—a patched-together amalgam of all the worst traits of recent presidential campaigns and virtually none of their more winning attributes. Examples abound.
John Kerry’s flip-flopping. In the 2004 presidential race, Kerry became a laughingstock for flip-flopping on his support for the Iraq war. Not long after Clinton entered the 2016 presidential race, she quickly began to disavow her previous policy positions. She now believes same-sex marriage is a constitutional right (just last year it was a states’ rights issue). That the economy has “stalled-out” (last year she was praising “America’s comeback”). And she now believes that illegal immigrants should have driver’s licenses. Which is something she was for in the 2008 election, before she was against it.
Barack Obama’s arrogance. There is, however, at least one issue Clinton has steadfastly refused to flip-flop on: She will continue to accept cash from K Street lobbyists. Why? It’s not just that it’s a position near and dear to her heart; it’s that Clinton is arrogant enough to believe the money is worth the cognitive dissonance it creates with her newly minted populism.
Last go around, Obama successfully made an issue of coziness with lobbyists. He even went so far as to forswear money from them. But on this issue Clinton is determined to shove it in the face of the Democratic base—the very people she’s counting on to vote for her in droves and those who found Obama most appealing.
Like Obama, she’s arrogant enough to believe the rules of the past don’t apply to her.
Mitt Romney’s wealth. The good fortune of being an extraordinarily wealthy man dogged Mitt Romney throughout the 2012 presidential race. And he seemed uncomfortable and unable to speak about it. Worse, perhaps, was the out-of-touch caricature painted of him. He was the man who built an elevator for his cars in a vacation home. He was the man who got rich by firing people—and who claimed to enjoy it.
The Clintons left the White House “dead broke,” as Hillary inartfully put it in an interview last year. While it was a rare truthful statement from Clinton—the perfect Washington gaffe—it exposed a different problem: She’s now filthy rich and unable to talk about it in a way the average voter can relate to. Since leaving the White House the Clintons have made at least $136 million. And that’s just the amount they’ve disclosed.
Joe Biden’s gaffes. The vice president has attracted considerable attention with his chronic verbal awkwardness. For instance, when speaking to a mostly black audience in the 2012 election, he delivered this stark warning: “They’re going to put y’all back in chains.” Similar examples abound.
Clinton, too, has a bad way with words. In testimony meant to defend her State Department’s actions on Benghazi, Clinton yelled, “Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, what difference does it make?”
A rare moment of excitement, the outburst garnered a lot of publicity—for all the wrong reasons. Clinton’s words made it look as if she did not care about the four Americans murdered by terrorists in the attack. It surely helps explain her inclination in this presidential race not to talk to the media at all—she still has not agreed to an interview with the press.