Rich Lowry: Hillary’s never-ending reintroductions
If only we could get to know the real Hillary Clinton.
Unveiling the Hillary we supposedly don’t know has been the perpetual, elusive goal of Clinton’s handlers for decades, with the Democratic convention in Philadelphia the latest stab at it.
On “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook hopefully maintained that a lot of Americans simply “don’t understand” Hillary’s devotion to others, and the convention aims to give them this “fuller picture.” Or as a CNN headline put it, “Hillary Clinton prepares to reintroduce herself to America.”
Again. Hillary has made more reintroductions than should be allowed for a person who has never gone away.
Political writer Jonathan Rauch has a 14-year rule that posits no one is elected president more than 14 years after winning election as a governor or senator (the traditional jumping-off points for the presidency). Elected to the Senate from New York in 2000, Hillary is technically only a couple of years past this benchmark for staleness – except this doesn’t do justice to how long she has been around, and especially how long it feels she’s been around.
Bill Clinton announced his campaign for president in October 1991. Hillary has been with us ever since. During that campaign, Bill famously told us we’d get two for one. It’s been more than 14 years since she vouched for Bill Clinton on “60 Minutes” after the allegations of an affair with Gennifer Flowers surfaced (1992), tried to remake American health care (1993), wrote the book “It Takes a Village” to soften her image (1996) and vouched for Bill in yet another sex scandal (1998).
It has been more than 14 years just from one Hillary scandal with a wholly implausible explanation (her amazingly lucrative cattle trades that were first reported in 1994) to another (her private server as secretary of state that was first reported in 2015).
This is not to make a fetish of Jonathan Rauch’s 14-year rule – such rules of thumb are made to be broken – but it speaks to how utterly, drearily, inescapably familiar Hillary Clinton is. A Washington Post article last year was titled “The making of Hillary 5.0: Marketing wizards help re-imagine Clinton brand,” and it may have under-counted Hillary’s attempted reboots.
Her handlers are like leftists insisting that socialism has never failed, it’s just never been tried.
They want to believe that people don’t dislike Hillary; they just don’t know her. Even if this is true, not being able to project in public qualities that make you appealing in private makes you by definition a poor politician. No one ever had to say about Franklin Roosevelt, “You wouldn’t believe how buoyant he is – behind closed doors,” or about Ronald Reagan, “He’s very funny – when the cameras are off.”
Over 25 years, the public surely has attained an accurate-enough picture of Hillary Clinton. They may not know all the details of her advocacy work as a young woman, but they have seen her smash-mouth partisanship, her grating insincerity, her gross money-grubbing, her serial dishonesties, her cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof caution and her grind-out ambition that has lacked a light touch or any poetry.
Hillary always points out how she is a target for attack, but the two controversies that have dogged her in the past year were entirely of her own doing. No enemy of hers forced her to circumvent the rules to try to keep her official emails off the grid, or to take $675,000 from Goldman Sachs for three speeches. She did this to herself – because she thought she could get away with it.
In a “60 Minutes” interview, she complained that a different standard applies to her, a strange plaint after the FBI director gave her a pass on her emails. This suggests the problem isn’t that people don’t know her so much as that she lacks all self-awareness.