Hillary, a Fond(ish) Look Back

vintage_ClintonEven though after her New Hampshire humiliation, Hillary Clinton still has the deck stacked in her favor to win the Democratic nomination, nothing spoke to the sad trajectory of her second bid for the White House than the tone-deaf rants from 70’s feminist icon Gloria Steinem and hedge fund manager Madeline Albright. Both came off like female versions of John McCain in his bathrobe as they wagged their fingers at the next generation of women for being ingrates who care more about chasing boys than respecting their elders. It was a sad display of generational detachment that is emblematic of why Clinton’s presumptuous campaign has foundered. The world has moved on, as it always does, leaving old people to grouse about being the recipients of the very same disrespect they themselves heaped on to the old people of their youth. America has always been a youth and vitality oriented culture, so this should be no surprise- but it is, for every ensuing generation who are shocked that no one cares about “back in the day” stories. Young girls do chase boys, and boys do chase girls- and now boys are free to chase boys, and girls to chase girls and few of them take time to appreciate those who came before them. Welcome to 21st Century America- same as it ever was.

Once America’s press and media corps stop gaping and fawning over the giant orange turd named Trump who has blotted out the Sun with his truck stop political solutions and live decapitation ratings, they may finally get around to the really astonishing story of the 2016 election race- the collapse of the two major, ossified political parties. What was supposed to be a pedestrian stroll by the two establishment figures in either party, with the powerful legacy names and even more powerful bankrolls, simply blew up as two of the least likely outsiders- neither even a member of the party- have taken over the leadership and momentum of the race for not just the White House, but the hearts and minds of the American people. Where the demise of Jeb! Bush was swift- he barely made it out of the corner of the ring before he face planted, the struggles of Hillary Clinton are, like all things Clintonian, fraught with outsize drama and an acid rainstorm of bitterness. As was recommended in this column more than two years ago, Secretary Clinton should never have run for the presidency again. When she left the Obama Administration she was one of the most admired people in the world and a pioneer for American women. She could have retired as a cherished American icon. Instead, if the Sanders contagion spreads, she could very likely emerge from a grinding and agonizing slog as a two-time frontrunner who snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory. A loser. But even if she does go on to win, with great help from establishment “super delegates,” it will be ugly.

dropquote_160209Some of this will, of course, be her own fault. She should have won in 2008, and it took a remarkable series of blunders to lose to an upstart, first-term senator, however charming. Hiring a dimwitted toad and political hack like Mark Penn to run her campaign was at the top of the list, but that was her moment and she fumbled it- and fumbled it very, very badly, displaying terrible judgement at every turn. But now there is an even bigger problem for her. While she was doing all the things she thought presidential candidates needed to do- raise money and maneuver the establishment of her party, lock up “super delegates,” etc- the political ground shifted under her feet and she didn’t see it happen. Like Louis XVI, she one day looked out her her carriage and was shocked to find the people holding torches and pitchforks. While thankfully she will not meet Louis’ gruesome end, her time nevertheless has passed. While she remains a brilliant and formidable political mind, and would probably be a very effective president, she is now a relic of the past fading in our national rear view mirror.

But wait, I can hear you say, how can her problem be that she is a relic when the person who has taken over the Democratic race is even older than she is? The answer is simply that Ms. Clinton’s problem is not simply calendar age but being- no matter now disingenuously she tries to deny it- at the very front of “The Establishment” She is to the Democratic Party what Pablo Escobar was to the cocaine smuggling business and it has lost all credibility and has run itself in the ground.

“The Game,” in her husband’s day was about raising money, triangulating issues, watching polling data and raising more money. The recipe for Bill Clinton’s success was a simple one- posture to the left with ample servings of bromides, while disarming and cuddling with establishment wealth to navigate a middling and amoral path to electoral success. Barack Obama followed this outline too, but turned out to actually mean more of what he said- championing Speaker Pelosi’s health care plan and shutting down George W. Bush’s Hellscape, winless, inferno wars. His tenure will rightly be remembered as the “clean up on isle White House” presidency, but he set the table for more change, not less. This, pandering rhetoric aside, is what Hillary never really understood. She is still living in Bill and Rahm’s world of shameless, money grubbing, 90’s politics.

The politics of the past no longer work in America, however, and no one is more representative of that than the Clintons and the machine they built- with a voracious appetite for money that endlessly vacillates on directions and qualifies outcomes without the benefit of a moral compass. Out of the ashes of the cynicism of Clintonism have come two very different phoenixes- a model of integrity who has never wavered from his moral center and never taken a dime of corporate money and…well, Donald Trump, a person with a “let me just tell ya” political philosophy barked from a bar stool who hates anyone colored like a paper bag or darker and is so obtuse and stupid that it’s literally hard to know where to start without putting on rubber gloves and turning your face away.

But in the final analysis, for all her failings- her disgraceful judgement over the Iraq War at the top of the list- Hillary Clinton should never be remembered as a loser. She has faced, and battled, an unyielding and unprecedented attack on her person for twenty five years- and the vast, vast majority has been unwarranted, unfair and untrue. Brett Arends lists the absurdities beautifully. She is a brilliant legal and policy mind, if like her husband, not a foreign policy expert (the list of clueless blunders she shares with her husband on the foreign policy front, which paved the way for most of today’s global miseries, await a future column). But one can say with confidence that she didn’t shoot Vince Foster in the park and does not feast nightly on the flesh of late-term abortions. She did, however, put herself into too many morally dubious ethical and financial arrangements to ever enjoy- even should she win the presidency- the full confidence of the American people. She will always be perceived as being of suspect moral character.

The best we can all hope for is that the next generation- the ones that rightly roll their eyes at Steinem and Albright- builds upon her legacy and will learn the value of values and integrity in the political process. Money in the system turns out not the be as important as everyone assumed and actual values and conviction are actually kinda important. And that is a good and hopeful thing.

 

 

 

 

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