Hillary to the rescue
The Democrats get a front-runner but there’s no standing ovation
Hillary Rodham Clinton is not the inevitable president, but she was clearly the inevitable candidate. For the party, she’s what’s available, and she’s a meal ticket for the clutch of retreads, has-beens and hangers-on from a checkered past, and now she wants to be the 67-year-old leader of a youth movement in a Democratic Party reeling and disillusioned in the wake of suffering blowouts in consecutive congressional elections. Her appeal, such as it is, is an unusual one: “I ain’t much, but I’m all you’ve got.”
Nevertheless, the Clinton machine, armed with Wall Street cash and oiled with Muslim money, will be formidable. Her new ideas are the old hash on which her feminist allies feed, mandated family leave, universal kindergarten and better child care. These are legitimate enough for debate, but hardly an inspiring agenda in a world on fire. The Onion, whose satire can’t keep up with the headlines in a conventional daily, offers her a snappy slogan: “I deserve this.”
Her husband Bill offered a 2-for-1 deal in his first campaign, “buy one, get one free,” but any of those consultants buzzing about like flies on a banana peel could tell her that promising to put Bubba back in the White House as second banana is not a good idea. There won’t be room for her at center stage.
As a candidate she will have to emerge from the bubble she preserved during her turns as a senator and as secretary of State. She may think that campaigning on social media saves her from having to answer questions, but candidates for president can’t campaign in a bubble. She will learn what difference, from this point, it does make. She will have to account for what really happened at Benghazi, to say where she was when the telephone actually rang at 3 o’clock in the morning, why she stored State Department email messages on her private server and destroyed them at her leisure.
Mrs. Clinton can’t dismiss questions as quibbles posed by a vast right-wing conspiracy, and many liberals see her as a creature of corporate interests, a handmaiden of the three “bigs” — big government, big business and what’s left of big labor. Government wants to get bigger, Wall Street wants the economy to get bigger and labor dreams of a return to the days when it was big enough to terrify candidates. Democrats succeeded in campaigns past as the candidate of Main Street, not Wall Street.
The challenge she faces, one more difficult than dodging questions about scandals in a White House past, is to separate herself from President Obama, who is nobody’s dreamboat now. To win next November she must chart a middle course between what she will call the conservative excesses of the Republican Congress and the muddle of what she can’t celebrate as the Obama years. She must avoid being a reminder of the scandals of the Clinton White House and the incompetence of the Obama administration. That’s a task politicians of superior skill — someone like her husband, for example — would find daunting.
Marco Rubio, the first-term senator from Florida who announced his own candidacy for president Monday, called Hillary “a leader from yesterday.” The nation is learning now the price of a novelty president, but Mrs. Clinton is counting on short memories, and avoiding at all costs the cry of “Four more years!” She wants to be the first woman president, and America may well be ready for the right woman. That’s not necessarily being “ready for Hillary.” One novelty is enough.