The Clin­tons don’t know when to quit

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - PERSPECTIVE - Toronto ▶ Dowd writes for The New York Times. ▶

The snow is fall­ing lightly.

My thoughts are rac­ing darkly.

I’m feel­ing some­thing for­eign, some­thing I’ve never felt be­fore. It takes me a mo­ment to iden­tify it.

I’m feel­ing sorry for the Clin­tons.

In the 27 years I’ve cov­ered Bill and Hil­lary, I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced a range of emo­tions. They’ve daz­zled me and they’ve dis­gusted me.

But now they’re mys­ti­fy­ing me.

I’m look­ing around Sco­tia­bank Arena, the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it’s a de­press­ing sight. It’s two-for-thep­rice-of-one in half the arena. The hockey rink is half cur­tained off, but even with that, or­ga­niz­ers are scram­bling at the last minute to cor­don off more sec­tions be­hind thick black cur­tains, they say due to a lack of sales. I paid $177 weeks in ad­vance. (I passed on the pricey meet-and­greet op­tion.) On the day of the event, some un­sold tick­ets are slashed to sin­gle dig­its.

I get re­as­signed to an­other sec­tion as the Clin­tons’ au­di­ence space shrinks. But even with all the herd­ing, I’m still look­ing at large swaths of empty seats — and I cringe at the thought that the Clin­tons will look out and see that, too. It was only four years ago, af­ter all, that Cana­di­ans were clam­or­ing to buy tick­ets to see the woman who seemed headed for his­tory.

It’s a sad con­trast with the sold-out boffo book tour of Michelle Obama, who’s get­ting a lot more per­sonal for the pre­mium prices.

But in­tro­spec­tion has never been within the Clin­tons’ range.

I can’t fathom why the Clin­tons would make like ag­ing rock stars and go on a tour of Canada and the U.S. at a mo­ment when Democrats are hop­ing to break the stran­gle­hold of their clois­tered, su­per­an­nu­ated lead­er­ship and ex­ult in a mo­saic of ex­cit­ing new faces.

What is the point? It’s not in­spi­ra­tional. It’s not for char­ity. They’re not rais­ing aware­ness about a cause, like Al Gore with global warm­ing. They’re only rais­ing aware­ness about the Clin­tons.

It can’t be the money at this point. Have they even spent all the Gold­man gold yet? Do they want to swim in their cash like Scrooge Mcduck?

The Clin­tons’ tin cup is wor­thy of the Smith­so­nian. They hoovered more than $2 bil­lion in con­tri­bu­tions to their cam­paigns, foun­da­tion and phi­lan­thropies.

“What scares me the most is Hil­lary’s smug cer­tainty of her own virtue as she has be­come greedy and how typ­i­cal that is of so many chic lib­er­als who seem un­aware of their own greed,” Char­lie Peters, the leg­endary lib­eral for­mer ed­i­tor of The Wash­ing­ton Monthly, told me. “They don’t re­ally face the com­plic­ity of what’s hap­pened to the world, how self­ish we’ve be­come and the hor­ri­ble dam­age of screw­ing the work­ers and caus­ing this re­sent­ment that the Repub­li­cans found a way of tap­ping into.” He rue­fully wor­ries about the Oba­mas in this re­gard, too.

In­deed, in the era of Trump, greed is not only good. It’s grand. The stock market is our high­est value. Mam­monism rules.

But watch­ing the Clin­tons hash over their well-worn tale of fall­ing in love at Yale Law School, I re­al­ize that it’s not only about the money.

Some in Clin­ton­world say Hil­lary fully in­tends to be the nom­i­nee. Once more, in Toronto, she didn’t rule it out, dodg­ing the ques­tion with a lame joke. She car­ries her­self with the air of a pres­i­dent in ex­ile. Her con­sigliere, Philippe Reines, has prod­ded re­porters on in­clud­ing her name when they write about 2020 can­di­dates.

And Bill has given mono­logues to old friends about how Hil­lary knows how she’d have to run in 2020, that she couldn’t have a big staff and would just speak her mind and not fo­cus-group ev­ery­thing. (That al­ready sounds fo­cus-grouped.)

Af­ter los­ing to an or­ange puffer clown fish who will go down as one of the most de­struc­tive forces in Amer­i­can his­tory and flush­ing the Obama legacy down the drain, that’s delu­sional. Some Obama as­so­ciates say the for­mer pres­i­dent has some re­grets about throw­ing his sup­port solely be­hind Hil­lary and knows he mis­read the anger and frus­tra­tion of vot­ers.

Bill was ra­dioac­tive in the midterms and Hil­lary was the Ghost of Christ­mas Past. Her ap­proval rat­ing is at a record low of 36 per­cent. The only Amer­i­can who seems truly in­ter­ested in her th­ese days is Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who can’t stop tweet­ing about her. She’s still money in his book.

The Clin­tons refuse to be dis­carded. Their patho­log­i­cal need to be rel­e­vant in Amer­ica is be­lied by a Cana­dian arena, where stretches of empty seats bear wit­ness to the pass­ing of their rel­e­vance.

It’s a pity.

Jim Slattery, D-kansas, served in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from 1983 to 1995. Chris Gibson served in the House (R-kinder­hook) from 2011 to 2017. They are mem­bers of the Cam­paign to Fix the Debt, a non­par­ti­san or­ga­ni­za­tion fo­cused on ed­u­cat­ing the coun­try about the need for fis­cal re­forms and sup­port­ing a grand bar­gain to put the na­tion on a sus­tain­able fis­cal path.

Photo il­lus­tra­tion by Jeff Boyer / Times Union

Mau­reen dowd

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