Hillary and Inevitability

Hillary Clinton may well be the Democratic nominee in 2016, but I’d counsel my friends on the right to let the world turn on its axis for a while before we get obsessive with running against her.

It’s certainly become locked in stone in the minds of the D.C. apparat and national media that Her Majesty is the inevitable nominee, and the even more inevitable President in 2016. She’ll also win re-election in 2020 against a hapless Republican stooge who will run simply to make her feel one last rush of competitive energy. And obviously, Chelsea will be ready in 2024 … you can see where this kind of parlor-game transmutes into obsession.

In some ways, you can’t blame them. The long, sloppy foot-massage interview by Steve Kroft (which, probably did more damage to the 60 Minutes brand than anything I could imagine, other than a partnership with the Kardashian empire) was Barack Obama’s way of telling Joe Biden “Whoa there, Plugs.” It was a neat, packaged little performance, and a lovely parting gift to Hillary (and, in more ways, Bill) for four years of playing nicely.

She’s received almost nothing but praise for her tenure as Secretary of State, which neatly elides over the massive fecal tornado engulfing the world from Mali to Islamabad, the Arab Spring’s descent into something that looks more ugly by the day, and the coming festivities in Afghanistan when we close up shop there in 2014. Other than that, Mrs. Clinton, how did you enjoy the play?

She’ll have the institutional juice of the alphabet-soup of liberal groups that have grown like kudzu over the last decade, the party’s fund-raising heavy hitters, Hollywood, and the rest of the usual suspects in the press cheerleading her for the next four years.

All of this means … well, probably not much.

In 2007, Hillary was inevitable. I mean, really, really inevitable. Every media organization in the known universe gushed over her competence, her intellect, her stellar turn as a U.S. Senator, her prolific fund-raising ability, Bill’s transformation from intern-nailing atavist to Mr. Popularity and the historical precedent of a woman running for President.

And in the end, Obama.

Her money didn’t matter. Her reputation didn’t matter. Bill didn’t matter. What mattered was the fickle mistress of media attention and the ever-faster cycling of attention and the growing cult of political celebrity. Barack Obama emerged from the brow of Zeus (or Bill Ayers, if you believe my more conspiratorial brethren) and her every fault and failing became the center of the story. After a certain inflection point, her assets became faults and his faults became assets. We’ll likely see the same in 2016.

The media loves consistency and narrative, but they also love the shock of the new. They love the prospect of another Obama, who electrifies their fantasy lives in a way that Hillary never quite did. Oh, she’s entirely preferable to any Republican in their minds, but 2008 should have been a cautionary tale for those who are today declaring her inevitability. No, there probably won’t be another Obama, but there may well be someone and something else that captures attention.

And 2016 is so very far away.

Hillary Clinton, though beloved by the Acela Corridor, in reality has a kind of fuzzy brand image right now. Name ID is necessary, but not sufficient, and unfortunately for her, there isn’t a single, defining philosophical principle by which she can be identified, and part of the predicate of a future Hillary run is that Obama’s brand and her association with it will be a political asset.

Consider for a moment how different the political landscape looked between 2004 and 2008. In 2004, the compassionate-conservatism-national-security mashup brought George W. Bush a second term. After four years of Democratic and media onslaught, by 2008 the GOP brand was toxic. In 2012, Obama’s left-wing populism and technologically superior election machine left the commentariat convinced that a thousand years of Democratic dominance awaited us.

Hillary 2016 is a pleasant little parlor game, but there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip between now and the next inauguration. GOP candidates for 2016 should behave accordingly, and run on their own message and philosophy rather than plotting their race against the Countess of Chappaqua this early in the game.

  1. Trace

    Love your style Rick. What a fun read for a Friday morning.

  2. Colin B Lane

    The “long,sloppy foot-massage interview by Steve Kroft” and “Whoa there, Plugs” provided a couple of moments of hardy laughter in the deep-space darkness that settled over me when I read the title of your post.

  3. Paul A. Rahe
    C

    You left out one thing. Obama beat Hillary in 2008 by outwitting her — by organizing carefully in the non-primary states where the winner could take all.

  4. Leigh

    When I think about her age, and her latest health scare, I can’t but wonder — will she really want to do that, to commit herself to that crazy, hectic pace for the next twelve years?  I guess we’ll find out. 

    Trace: Love your style Rick. What a fun read for a Friday morning. · 8 minutes ago

    Agreed :)

  5. billy

    Maybe I just don’t follow current events closely enough, but can someone please list for me the great, lasting achievements of Hillary Clinton? I know she has been in the national spotlight for only twenty years so it may be too early to expect any, even one, great policy achievement, but maybe she has one and I just missed it.

  6. Rick Wilson
    C

    Quite right. I don’t see her as able to pursue the same kind of non-linear strategy.

    Paul A. Rahe: You left out one thing. Obama beat Hillary in 2008 by outwitting her — by organizing carefully in the non-primary states where the winner could take all. · 18 minutes ago

  7. Rick Wilson
    C

    Thanks!

    Trace: Love your style Rick. What a fun read for a Friday morning. · 32 minutes ago

  8. Peabody Here

    As a perpetual pessimist I see a Hillary candidacy having media-enabled broad enthusiasm for electing the first woman president, similar to the excitement for Obama’s historic first election.

  9. WI Con
    Rick Wilson: Thanks! · 2 hours ago

    Trace: Love your style Rick. What a fun read for a Friday morning. · 32 minutes ago

    Agreed – we have a tendency on the right to act like navel gazing bed-wetters too often.

    She’s not 10ft tall (or wide).

  10. Nick Stuart

    Not to mention that she reminds many men of their first wife, and many women of their husband’s unpleasant ex.

    Besides, there are a great many things that can happen in the world in the next four years. The seeds that were sown in her time as Secretary of State may yield their noxious fruit. She won’t be held accountable by the media but it may affect the process if there are capable primary opponents and a competent GOP (ROTFLMAO, but I had to throw that in).

    Finally “what difference at this point does it make?”

  11. GLDIII
    Rick Wilson: 

    …which neatly elides over the massive fecal tornado engulfing the world from Mali to Islamabad…..

    Must …..rinse …..image ……. from ……brain,  

    and given the scale of the geography, should not the storm be a hurricane?

  12. Colin B Lane
    billy: Maybe I just don’t follow current events closely enough, but can someone please list for me the great, lasting achievements of Hillary Clinton? I know she has been in the national spotlight for only twenty years so it may be too early to expect any, even one, great policy achievement, but maybe she has one and I just missed it. · 2 hours ago

    Turning a $1000 investment in cattle futures into $100,000 in just a few short months is certainly a lasting achievement.

    I also think it’s impressive that she has now joined (if not surpassed) her husband as the politician with the most jaw-droppingly outrageous quotations in recent memory. “What difference does it make” and “vast right wing conspiracy” are at least as disingenuous and despicable as Bill’s “I did not have sex with that woman, Ms Lewinsky” and (my personal favorite) “it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is,’ is.” And that is no small feat.

    To paraphrase the Three Stooges, don’t underestimate Hillary. She’s not a slouch. She’s a tremendous slouch.

  13. George Savage
    C

    Rick, thanks for the wonderful post.  Unbelievably, and thanks entirely to you, I now feel almost optimistic about something political.

    My personal favorite from  your piece?  “Countess of Chappaqua.”  You should trademark that one.

  14. Paul J. Croeber

    “What difference does it make?”  strikes me as an appropriate campaign slogan for an opponent.  

  15. David Williamson
    billy: Maybe I just don’t follow current events closely enough, but can someone please list for me the great, lasting achievements of Hillary Clinton? 

    I believe she once landed under fire in Bosnia, or somewhere?

    I would be more optimistic about Hillary retiring if the American people hadn’t just elected Mr Obama – the bar can’t go any lower.

    In fact, I’m already resigned to eight years of Hillary – it will be a pleasant surprise if it doesn’t happen.

  16. billy
    David Williamson

    billy: Maybe I just don’t follow current events closely enough, but can someone please list for me the great, lasting achievements of Hillary Clinton? 

    I believe she once landed under fire in Bosnia, or somewhere?

    I would be more optimistic about Hillary retiring if the American people hadn’t just elected Mr Obama – the bar can’t go any lower.

    In fact, I’m already resigned to eight years of Hillary – it will be a pleasant surprise if it doesn’t happen. · 45 minutes ago

    I stand corrected. I had forgotten the courage under fire she had so boldly displayed during her mission in Bosnia.

      Surprising that no one has made a movie about it.

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