Hil­lary’s breakup with Barack

A split is cru­cial to the chase for her dream job

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Michael Taube

If Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton is ever elected pres­i­dent, her route to suc­cess will be traced back to one sub­tle yet bril­liant po­lit­i­cal strat­egy: leav­ing Barack Obama and his White House. You don’t have to ad­mire or re­spect Mrs. Clin­ton to give her due credit for, frankly, fool­ing most of us last year. Her de­ci­sion to leave the sec­re­tary of state po­si­tion and head back to pri­vate life ear­lier this year seemed gen­uine at the time. She al­ready had a long ca­reer in pol­i­tics, in­clud­ing two terms as first lady and eight years as a ju­nior se­na­tor from New York. Mrs. Clin­ton had also lost a nail-biter of a Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion to Mr. Obama in 2008. Some ob­servers think that ex­cru­ci­at­ingly dif­fi­cult po­lit­i­cal con­test took the wind out of her sails.

In 2012, Mrs. Clin­ton switched to a less-thanpro­fes­sional ap­pear­ance dur­ing a tour of Bangladesh and In­dia. This led Fox News’ web­site to write she looked “tired and with­drawn.” She even told CNN’s Jill Dougherty that her ap­pear­ance was “just not some­thing that de­serves a lot of time and at­ten­tion.” The so-called Hil­lary Au Nat­u­rale brouhaha made more than a few peo­ple won­der if she had had enough.

Not a chance. While Mrs. Clin­ton cer­tainly could have had a brief pe­riod of per­sonal re­flec­tion, I think all of th­ese things were done to de­flect at­ten­tion away from her pri­mary goal. That is, to be­come pres­i­dent — and more specif­i­cally, Amer­ica’s first fe­male pres­i­dent.

It ap­pears that this goal could have been put in jeop­ardy at an ear­lier point, how­ever.

Ac­cord­ing to Mark Halperin and John Heile­mann’s new book, “Dou­ble Down: Game Change 2012,” there were re­port­edly some se­cret fo­cus group meet­ings and polling with re­spect to a pro­posed switch for the Demo­cratic ticket dur­ing the 2012 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. The sug­ges­tion was that Mrs. Clin­ton would have re­placed Joe Bi­den as the vice-pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

Ul­ti­mately, Mr. Obama’s cam­paign team de­ter­mined that their odds of win­ning wouldn’t have sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved with Mrs. Clin­ton. They left the ticket as it was and ended up vic­to­ri­ous against GOP pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mitt Rom­ney and his run­ning mate, Rep. Paul Ryan.

Ob­vi­ously, I can’t speak for the va­lid­ity of Mr. Halperin and Mr. Heile­mann’s anal­y­sis. It wouldn’t sur­prise me, though, if it were true: Po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tives al­ways ex­plore dif­fer­ent strate­gies and tac­tics dur­ing an elec­tion cam­paign. From Mrs. Clin­ton’s po­si­tion, it was cer­tainly for­tu­itous that it never oc­curred. Why? It gave her a golden op­por­tu­nity to put some dis­tance be­tween her­self and the Obama White House.

If Mrs. Clin­ton had re­mained in her high-pro­file po­si­tion as sec­re­tary of state, her own po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions would have been dragged down by Mr. Obama’s weak poli­cies. No as­pir­ing pres­i­den­tial can­di­date would rel­ish the task of run­ning on the foun­da­tion of the pres­i­dent’s hor­rid eco­nomic agenda, which in­cludes multi­bil­lion-dol­lar gov­ern­ment bailouts, Oba­macare and near-his­tor­i­cal highs for un­em­ploy­ment lev­els. Her for­eign-pol­icy cre­den­tials, which have his­tor­i­cally been hawk­ish for a Demo­crat, didn’t mesh with Mr. Obama’s “hug a dic­ta­tor” strat­egy. While Mrs. Clin­ton has lib­eral Demo­cratic ten­den­cies, she also ap­pears will­ing to take more cen­trist and bal­anced po­lit­i­cal po­si­tions than the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Mean­while, Mr. Obama has just fallen to his low­est point in pop­u­lar­ity since be­com­ing pres­i­dent in Jan­uary 2009. A re­cent NBC-Wall Street Jour­nal sur­vey re­vealed he had a 51 per­cent job­dis­ap­proval rat­ing ver­sus 42 per­cent ap­proval. Con­versely, 45 per­cent of re­spon­dents view him neg­a­tively ver­sus 41 per­cent view­ing him in a pos­i­tive light.

If you think Mrs. Clin­ton doesn’t take some pri­vate plea­sure in know­ing she won’t be dragged down by Mr. Obama’s un­pop­u­lar­ity, think again.

She knows the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of the Obama White House mustn’t lurk in the back­ground should she hit the cam­paign trail in 2016. Mrs. Clin­ton de­parted at the start of Mr. Obama’s sec­ond pres­i­den­tial term, giv­ing her nearly four years to brush aside any and all links to the pres­i­dent. She will be able to present her­self as an in­de­pen­dent po­lit­i­cal thinker with new and fresh eco­nomic ideas for Amer­i­can vot­ers.

To put it another way, Mrs. Clin­ton faith­fully served Mr. Obama for four years and has put her­self in a po­si­tion to faith­fully serve the coun­try for up to eight more as pres­i­dent.

Love her or hate her, Mrs. Clin­ton’s po­lit­i­cal strat­egy is ab­so­lutely su­perb. It wasn’t go­ing to be easy for the Repub­li­cans to beat her to be­gin with. Alas, the task at hand has be­come a great deal harder. Michael Taube is a con­trib­u­tor to The Wash­ing­ton Times.

ILLUSTRATION BY LINAS GARSYS FOR THE WASH­ING­TON TIMESPrinted

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