In October of 1980, Muhammad Ali came out of retirement to face the reigning Heavyweight Champion of the World, Larry Holmes. Ali was 38 years old and the relationship between his body and his brain was already seriously deteriorating. Holmes was just 30 and not only in his prime, but was already clearly one of the best heavyweight fighters of all time. He had a left jab that kept opponents at bay, battering their faces until his right hand finished them off. But for Ali, a victory would have been history making, an unprecedented forth win of the heavyweight title. He had already beaten a heavily favored, big punching opponent in George Forman by simply laying on the ropes and letting the bigger and stronger man punch himself out- on Ali’s own head and body. He thought he could do it again and took the terrible risk not only to his image as a winner and titan of the ring, but of further damage to his already troubled brain. Most of those around him, and in the press, knew how it would turn out, including his long time doctor Freddy Pacheco who walked away in protest. But as is usually the case with celebrities and ego ventures, sycophants fed the bonfire of vanity and we all watched one of the most pitiful and sad episodes in sports history. Holmes not only physically battered the legend, to the point where he was not only overtly avoiding knocking him out, but was literally begging Ali to throw in the towel to spare them both further embarrassment. From that day forward, Ali became a figure not just of triumph, but more of terrible sadness and even pity.
Today, Hillary Rodham Clinton finds herself today in what could be the very same place- considering lacing up the boxing shoes one more time to chase history. And if she does it, like Ali, she will very likely lose not only the contest, but could seriously damage her stature as a respected icon and public figure. Here are the four reasons why.
1. The Hate
Like Ali in 1980, Hillary is an extremely controversial figure. But unlike Ali, she is hated in more than equal measure than she is loved. While she would have more than enough money and a famous name, the hate within her opponents burns much deeper than her support does. The very utterance of that name still sends blood pressures soaring in great swaths of this country, and does so on both important levels- politically and personally. Sure, you might say, she has “Hillary’s Army” of women and misty eyed old school liberals and her candidacy would begin very strongly with thousands of eager supporters knocking on doors and registering voters. But she had most of those same people in 2008 when she crashed in burned in breathtaking fashion.
Yes, you would be right in pointing out that much of the Hillary hate is about old white men who remain uncomfortable with a woman in charge, and but it’s more than just that. Fairly or not, Hillary remains the last representative of the old Fleetwood Mac School of liberalism that held “if it feels good, do it.” It is the notion that so many Americans now feel is responsible for the lack of decency and accountability that plagues our society and culture. She remains the embodiment of 1970’s feminism who denigrated housewives across the land when she alerted the country that she didn’t “sit around baking cookies.” She remained with a husband who, like him or not, clearly and openly had affairs with other women throughout her marriage. On most wives, and especially political wives, sticking with philandering husbands looks like strength, and endurance and commitment. On Hillary it just looked like a calculation and worse, even suggesting that her marital vows were more about political partnership than about love or family. Her cool demeanor throughout the Monica episode, as with the Gennifer Flowers or Paula Jones before that, did nothing to dispel this image. If she hurt, as she surely did, America didn’t see or feel it. As a result, for many Americans, she and her pussy hound husband represent- are literally the faces of- the dissolution of “family values,” and the disruption of the social order upon which so many Americans perceive the nation was built- abortion on demand, and the premeditated trade-off of handouts to illegals and welfare kings and queens who don’t want to work for votes. Naturally, these “family values,” are mythic and the Clintons are hardly to blame for the 1960s and 1970s but the point is that they are the face of those times and those values- a point that would be hammered home endlessly by opposition advertising. Far from being the victory lap some foresee, the great reservoir of bitter vitriol awaits a Hillary presidential run lay just below the surface and it will be very, very easy to tap. It would be a nuclear and divisive culture war that a fresh face from the Democrats would not ignite in anything approaching the same scale.
2. Whitewater, Vince Foster…and Benghazi.
Those who love to blame the opposition that President Obama constantly faces on the color of his skin need to take a serious look at the archives from the Clinton years. While his skin is obviously at the root of much of the hatred he faces, the truth is that Mr. Obama has never faced anywhere near the unprecedented onslaught of lies and negative media garbage that the Clintons were subjected to. No sooner had Bill Clinton become the Democratic nominee than the right wing pet “Arkansas Project” was formed by conservative stalwart and resident sleazebag Ted Olsen and his cohorts. Their job was simply to dig for and throw as much dirt at the Clintons as they possibly could possibly could. And they took the novel step of gleefully bypassing anything even remotely resembling verifiable truth opting instead for the Richard Gere and the Gerbil Principle, that a lie told often enough becomes public truth, thus establishing the playbook. The two great examples were Vince Foster’s suicide and the mess that came to be known as “Whitewater.”
Ludicrous political absurdities are commonplace today, just ask our African born, illegal immigrant communist president, but they all have their origin with Vince Foster. The films and stories surrounding Foster’s death created on nascent technology were breathtakingly bizarre-and what was so amazing was that so much of it actually got traction in the public mind. Millions of Americans were fully able to accept the idea that Hillary and Foster had a long term affair for which Foster had to die. Or that Foster was a lynch pin in a vast conspiracy at the Rose Law Firm, and had to die. Or that Foster was part of the greatest drug smuggling and distribution cabal in the history of the world, one headed by Bill and Hillary Clinton along side their child prostitution ring, and before he could talk, he had to die. It was all there, all unfathomable, but to this day various strains of this virus persist- but more importantly, the puss infused boil burst over all of us, spawning the vast cesspit of wingnut websites that prey on the stupid and sell teeth whitening scams and opportunities to view arrest records and mug shot photos of celebrities.
Less bizarre was the Whitewater fiasco, where the Clintons had hooked up with some fairly unsavory, yet pedestrian by Arkansan standards, characters to develop real estate. Prior to finding any improprieties, the Arkansas Project declared it “a scandal” assured it would only be a matter of time until it actually became one. It never was, at least until Bill sat down for a deposition and was ambushed by Lewinsky’s soiled dress. But that is a very different story. Nothing else ever came all the years and investigations into the Whitewater investments and dealings- far worse a witch hunt than anything Mr. Obama has ever endured.
The point here being simply that should Hillary lace up the boxing shoes for one more bout, ALL of this stuff will reappear like a backed up toilet and it will flood our airwaves and Internet space all over again. And, needless to say, add a meteor turd shower from the Benghazi Universe to the sewage flood. The same amoral, bloodthirsty woman who lured Vince Foster to Fort Marcy Park dressed as a homeless to surprise him with a gunshot into his brain also sat gleefully planning the death of Ambassador Stevens and as many other Americans as she could possibly kill in Libya. Instead of a respected former Secretary of State, the very second she declares her presidential candidacy, a biblical flood portraying her as the most vile, reptilian figure in American political history. It will dwarf anything we’ve ever seen before.
3. A Bad Candidate
Unlike her exceptional husband, who got away with the previously unthinkable with hardly a dent in his popularity, Hillary proved beyond a reasonable doubt in 2008 that she does not possess his skills or charm. From her ill-advised online announcement video forward, she amazingly fumbled the ball every time she touched it. “Let’s have a conversation?” Cue eye-rolling…pah-leeeze. Her second gargantuan mistake was the hiring of the toady hack Mark Penn, whose ideas and strategy was as obviously wrong as could be. She, and he, showed terrible judgement when facing a charismatic upstart, in deciding not to even contest Iowa. At every stage afterwards, they inexplicably neglected to count delegates or contest caucuses and had effectively lost the race before it really got started. Obama’s win in the Hawkeye state lit the fuse that would leave her vaunted “can’t lose” campaign in rubble.
Strategy blunders aside, Hillary is also simply not a good candidate in public. She is not good at giving a prepared speech- she sounds wooden, coached and inauthentic. But more importantly she is just not good with people. She can’t walk into a room and shake hands comfortably, you can almost feel her gritting her teeth until she can get a squirt of Purell. She cannot appear relaxed and genuine in any setting. Take, for example, her ridiculous attempt to hang with folk at an Indiana bar and take a shot of whiskey as though she were one of the them. It was a terrible media moment which only reinforced her image as pandering and inauthentic. At every turn in campaign mode, at the podium or in the crowd, Hillary comes across with forced smiles that for too many voters feel borne of calculation. Where she a more lovable figure, able to pull of one-liners and be authentic and charming, she might be able to counter the sewage explosion her candidacy would face. One of candidate Barack Obama’s lowest moments came during a debate when he so ungentlemanly noted that she was “likable enough.” It stung because it was not true. Sadly, she just isn’t.
4. The Opposition
One of the things that makes the pro-Hillary forces giddy is the prospect of an easy campaign against an opponent from the mouth foaming, wingnut faction of the Republican party. Conventional wisdom currently holds that, having lost twice in a row with pseudo-moderate candidates McCain and Romney, this time the Republicans will offer up a “true conservative,” along the likes of Rand Paul or Rick Santorum. Such a candidate, the Hillary camp believes, would be easily vanquished and even dealt a Goldwateresque massacre at the polls that would assure her leverage in her first hundred days in office. But the problem is that this is not who she is really likely to face. There is a reason McCain and Romney dispensed with their dimwitted, wingnut party opposition to gain the nomination, and that reason is money- and not just cash, but the power behind those who give it. After the Obama presidency, and the spectre of Elizabeth Warren and the scrutiny of Dodd Frank financial reforms, the power and money in Wall Street, from hedgefunds and anywhere else a CEO makes more than a few million a year, will get behind the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie. But wait, you might well say, Christie can’t win the Republican nomination. Do the math. Yes, Christie will probably not win in Iowa, but he won’t avoid it and he won’t be facing anyone with charisma, let alone the first viable black candidate. He will be facing the same turd assortment that Romney did. He will rebound with at least a strong showing in New Hampshire, and will pile up several folksy media moments and quips along the way. And then the money will flood the airwaves and when Super Tuesday rolls around the tin-foil-hat brigade will be scattered like cockroaches when the light comes on. Rand Paul will hang in there to the end to make his family point, that stupid is modeled, but it will be a slimmed down Christie who will be accepting the Republican nomination. And his Vice Presidential pick? How about New Mexico governor Susana Martinez? Two Republican governors of blue states, both with clean hands from outside the Washington establishment?
Chris Christie is Hillary’s Larry Holmes. He will be in his prime and as a very successful Republican governor of a blue state, will embody the future. He’s pragmatic and he’s bold. As a candidate, he’s the very opposite of Hillary, he could take a shot and slam the glass upside down on any bar in this nation with no problem. He can wear a suit and talk policy or he can wear a flannel coat and hunt deer. But most of all, he can walk through a room with relaxed genuineness and connect with folk. He can talk to a single person, or a television camera with equivalent ease. And most importantly of all, he can quip and deliver one-liners the way Reagan could. The contrast between the two could not be more stark. Being the very embodiment of the tired veteran of the Washington that the country now rightly finds so detestable, lumbered with decades of putrid personal and political baggage, she would have little chance against Christie. Seriously, imagine the dismal likes of Al Sharpton, Nancy Pelosi, Jesse Jackson, the stooge gallery of union leaders and other hacks from the grimy Washington establishment waving from the Hillary parade float. Christie could ride up along side with fresh vigor as a genuine outsider, alone in a pickup truck, and point at them all with one clear message- “it’s time to get rid of these assholes.” Hard to argue that point, isn’t it?
And so this is very likely the choice before Hillary. Will she listen to those around her tell her “she’s the champ?” Will she slide her tired legs into the boxing shoes one last time to face a potential pummeling that will be the public’s lasting memory of her- not just as a loser who should have stayed home, but as the Butcher of Behghazi? Or will she be content to be who she is now, a much respected, if not necessarily loved, figure in American culture. Rather than get into the ring herself, she could add weight to a representative of the next generation of Democrats and remain a champion and venerated elder statesman of all times, and as a woman who blazed the trail for American women for evermore. But will she resist the temptation? No, of course she won’t. No one, it seems, ever does.