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Tags: Hillary Clinton

A Choice, Not a Metaphorical Brother-in-Law



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NBC News:

Jeb Bush is moving closer and closer to a presidential bid in 2016 — after announcing he would release 250,000 emails from his days as Florida governor, as well as release a new book.

Presuming Hillary Clinton is the Democrats’ 2016 nominee, grassroots conservatives will want to beat her with the blazing passion of a thousand suns going supernova.

Earlier this month:

George W. Bush might have developed a brotherly relationship with Bill Clinton — but he’s still picking his actual brother, Jeb, over Clinton’s wife, Hillary, in a potential 2016 presidential match-up.

The two former presidents have developed a close friendship, with Bush sometimes calling Clinton his “brother from another mother.” In an interview, CNN’s Candy Crowley asked Bush what that makes Hillary Clinton.

“My sister-in-law,” he said.

It’s great that George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and the Bush and Clinton families get along so well these days, but the Republican party’s base is not going to entrust the task of beating Hillary Clinton to her metaphorical brother-in-law.

Jeb Bush, speaking at National Constitution Center Liberty Medal ceremony honoring Hillary Clinton in September 2013.

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Jeb Bush

Recalling Hillary’s Call to ‘Empathize With Our Enemies’ Perspective’



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Hillary Clinton, earlier this month:

This is what we call smart power: using every possible tool and partner to advance peace and security, and leaving no one on the sidelines, showing respect, even for one’s enemies, trying to understand and insofar as psychologically possible empathize with their perspective and point of view — helping to define the problems, determine the solutions, that is what we believe in the 21st century will change. Change the prospects for peace.

Which enemies should we be empathizing with? Secretary of State John Kerry suggested Hillary Clinton didn’t mean ISIS; he said, “there’s no question in my mind she was referring to those out there with whom we are not actively fighting or engaged in a war but who are behaving in ways that are clearly opposed to our interests,” and later mentioned Russia.

Wasn’t the “reset button” an attempt to “show respect, even for one’s enemies, trying to understand and insofar as psychologically possible empathize with their perspective”? How did that work out?

Do our problems with our enemies really stem from our lack of empathy to their perspective? Or is it a lack of effectively countering their provocation and aggression?

Tags: Hillary Clinton , John Kerry

Todd’s Book: Reid Encouraged Obama, Hillary to Leave the Senate



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If you’ve ever wondered why the Democratic congressional leadership is so old, and why the party is led by so many figures whose biggest distinguishing characteristic is that they’ve been in Washington for a long time, this passage from Chuck Todd’s The Stranger illuminates a lot:

Initially [Hillary] Clinton was skeptical of taking the job in Foggy Bottom. She would be working for someone else, executing his policies, and leaving behind a Senate career that still had promise. There were moments when Clinton saw herself as the logical successor to Ted Kennedy, the next liberal lion of the Senate. But Obama’s appeal to her sense of patriotism was a strong pitch. And behind the scenes, Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, was making another thing clear: the Senate still worked on a hierarchical system, and a junior senator with little more than a single term under her belt shouldn’t be comparing herself to Ted Kennedy just yet. Reid had no interest in seeing Hillary become the biggest star in his Senate. Such were the ironies of Washington: it was easier for Barack Obama to become president than to become leader of the Senate, and easier for Hillary Clinton to enter the cabinet than to somehow take over running the Senate, or even step into leadership.

So Clinton would have returned to the Senate much as she’d left it — as a senator who made headlines but who had little real power in the committee system, not exactly a backbencher but somewhere in the middle, and certainly not someone who had any real chance of climbing the leadership ladder, especially not when Reid and Clinton’s senior colleague, New York’s Chuck Schumer, were still around. Without a piece of actual Senate real estate to run, she would be relegated to become either a White House Senate ally or one of its chief critics in order to fulfill her own ambitions. Leaving the Senate started to have a lot more appeal.

The Democratic Senate leadership in January 2009: Majority Leader Harry Reid, Assistant Majority Leader/Majority Whip Richard Durbin, Conference Vice Chairman Chuck Schumer, Policy Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan, and Chief Deputy Whip Barbara Boxer.

Starting in the next Congress, the leaders of the Democrats in the Senate will be . . . Minority Leader Harry Reid, Assistant Minority Leader/Minority Whip Richard Durbin, Conference Vice Chairman Chuck Schumer, who will also be the policy committee chairman, and Chief Deputy Whip Barbara Boxer.

Sure, the Senate has operated on seniority for a long time, and it’s easiest to build relationships with the rest of the caucus if you’ve served a long while. But with leadership posts in the Senate so dominated by the greybeards, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to see first-term senators running for president. This cycle we may get Senator Rand Paul, Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Ted Cruz, and perhaps Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Why do so many senators look in the mirror and see a potential president staring back at them? Because they can’t see a potential majority leader in the reflection.

Tags: Harry Reid , Chuck Todd , Barack Obama , Hillary Clinton

Hillary’s Office Web Site Hasn’t Changed Since February 2013



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It’s going to be fascinating to watch Hillary Clinton attempt to run for president without saying anything controversial:

Hillary Clinton did not comment on the Keystone XL pipeline Monday while speaking before a conservation group that is strongly opposed to the plan. During a 15-minute speech, Clinton spoke about the importance of green technology, the problems surrounding natural gas drilling and the fact that climate change exists and needs to be addressed more forcefully. But at no point did Clinton address the 1,179-mile-long project that would move oil from Canada to refineries in the United States at the League of Conservation Voters’ New York dinner.

Her official office web site continues to consist entirely of a picture of her and a contact e-mail:

Her office site — which HillaryClinton.com redirects to — has not changed since February 5, 2013.

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Keystone Pipeline

The Brutal Truth: As Obama Goes, So Go the Democrats



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John Dickerson, attempting to get Democrats, and Hillary Clinton, to acknowledge the obvious:

Each Democratic candidate who hopes to have a chance will run supporting Obama’s positions on health care, immigration, and climate change. Given those positions on the big things, any move to distance themselves from Obama will seem puny by comparison. In newsrooms, editors will monitor the micrometers between the faintest policy differences, and they will shout emergency orders to make a big deal about it. But despite all the talk about distancing, candidates will learn what Democratic senators up for re-election learned this fall: Resistance is futile. If there is a D next to your name, you can’t really get that far from the president. Over the next two years, if you could capture the relative political distance between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in Hyperlapse, it would look like two figures standing in place with a blast from the flash cameras every time one or the other made the smallest wiggle but retaining their essential original posture.

Democrats can’t escape Obama any more than McCain could escape Bush. Running for a metaphorical “third term” is hard, even during a time of relative peace and prosperity. It worked for George H. W. Bush but didn’t work for Al Gore.

How likely is it that the autumn of 2016 seems like a time of peace and prosperity? How likely is it that when Election Day 2016 rolls around, a majority of Americans like the job Obama is doing?

Headwinds.

Tags: Barack Obama , Democrats , Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton’s Deafening Silence on Obama’s Immigration Executive Order



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Boy, Hillary Clinton has been quiet since the midterms, huh?

Hillary’s past comments on illegal immigration indicate that she is the champion of spectacularly generic comments:

Hillary Rodham Clinton had just finished telling the crowd that North Carolina families could count on Senator Kay Hagan when the chants of Oliver Merino — a 25-year-old whose mother, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, faces deportation — grew louder. He held a sign that read, “Hillary, do you stand with our immigrant families?” and shouted that his mother lives in constant fear of deportation. “I have to say that I understand immigration is an important issue, and we appreciate that,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We thank you for your advocacy.”

Earlier this year, in a “town hall” on CNN, hosted by Christiane Amanpour, Hillary Clinton boldly staked out a position opposing child abandonment as a consequence of deportation policy. On immigration, she pronounced:

The horror of a father or a mother going to work and being picked up and immediately whisked away and children coming home from school to an empty house and nobody can say where their mother or father is, that is just not who we are as Americans.

Her hesitation may be driven by the fact that her spectacular collapse from her position of heavy favorite in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary was triggered in part by her sudden reversal in her position supporting giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. She said the policy proposed by then-governor of New York Eliot Spitzer to give illegal immigrants licenses “made a lot of sense,” and then said, moments later, “I did not say that I thought it should be done.”

UPDATE: Hillary Clinton issued a supportive statement last night.

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Barack Obama , Illegal Immigration

Stop Kidding Yourselves, Media. The Midterms Are Not Good News for Hillary Clinton.



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From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Stop Kidding Yourselves, Media. The Midterms Are Not Good News for Hillary Clinton.

Remember how the media often covers major events through the lens of, “but what does this mean for Obama?” Out of all the possible angles or ways to frame a story, national press habitually views major events, legislative fights, foreign-policy crises, and national controversies as if they’re all plot twists in an episode of The West Wing and particularly good or bad turns of fortune for the president — as opposed to how these events impact the nation as a whole.

Get ready for two years of, “But what does this mean for Hillary?”

The Washington Post: “Why the Senate GOP takeover might actually help Hillary Clinton”

Yahoo: “How Hillary Clinton Won the 2014 Midterms”

Part of that Yahoo piece:

In the last six elections, 18 states (plus Washington, D.C.) have voted for the Democratic candidate every single time.

This means that Clinton, assuming she’s the nominee, will start out with 242 electoral votes in 2016; she’ll need only 28 of the remaining 183 tossups to win the election.

Yes, but that was every bit as true before the midterm elections as it is today. That doesn’t make her the winner, as the headline asserts.

Let’s get something clear: Watching your party get stomped like a narc at a biker rally* in a midterm election is not something that helps a party’s presidential frontrunner. In theory, the Republicans’ belly-flopping in the 1998 midterms helped convince a lot of GOP thinkers that the next nominee had to have no tie to Washington or Congress, which helped set the stage for George W. Bush. But it’s not like a good midterm election for the GOP that year would have ruined Bush’s odds of winning the nomination or the presidency.

America is not happy with Washington, and it is particularly furious with the Obama administration and Democratic-party governance as a whole. Republicans are now governors of 31 states. There really isn’t a way to interpret that as a vast, national yearning for “President Hillary Clinton.”

Looking back at the past four cycles — 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014 — we see a coalition of African-Americans, Hispanics, young voters, gays, and single women that comes out in droves in the years Obama is atop the ticket . . . and doesn’t come out in any other circumstance so far. Will those groups come out in huge numbers for Hillary Clinton? It’s an open question. Perhaps the single women and gays do, but the African-Americans and Hispanics don’t. The Millennials seem particularly iffy.

Does the Democratic base come out just in presidential years? Or just in presidential years with a rock-star, pop-culture celebrity candidate like Obama? Or just for Obama himself? If you know the answer to that question, you know who will win in 2016.

Whether she likes it or not, Hillary’s odds of election are tied greatly to how the country feels about the current president. If he’s thriving — with a Republican Congress — maybe she’ll be able to run as the natural successor. But, more likely, if there’s gridlock, she’ll have to either explicitly run against his vetoes, creating more tension within the parties, or agree with them and become a vote to continue the status quo of gridlock.

GOP adviser Stuart Stevens, the chief strategist for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, said the notion that an all-Republican Congress is good for Clinton will not bear out.

“I don’t buy it,” he said, because Congress will pass legislation that Obama will then veto, and that will not leave Clinton much running room. “What’s she going to say? ‘I would have vetoed it, too, so I’m going to be the third term of Barack Obama’?”

It’s possible — in fact, pretty likely — that two years from now, voters are disappointed, frustrated, or angry with the results of a government run by President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker John Boehner. How that translates to a national appetite for Hillary Clinton isn’t quite clear. She’s old, a Washington fixture since 1993, a thoroughly uncreative policy thinker, closely tied to both the D.C. Establishment and Wall Street, and a key player in an administration foreign policy in a world on fire.

In other words, there’s an excellent chance that 2016 is yet another year where the American electorate wants change — and it’s going to be exceptionally difficult for her to position herself as the candidate of change.

She did benefit from 2014 in one way, however.

Maryland electing Larry Hogan their next governor — by 5 points! — ruins the presidential ambitions of Martin O’Malley. But you know what had already ruined the presidential ambitions of Martin O’Malley? Martin O’Malley.

*Thank you, Dennis Miller.

“Great night, everybody! Let’s do this again soon!”

Tags: Hillary Clinton , 2014 Midterms

Hillary, Not That Invested in Saving Democrats This Year



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From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Hillary, Too Busy Preparing to Pose for Vogue to Tape Ads for Vulnerable Democrats

There are a lot of reasons why Hillary Clinton is more vulnerable as a 2016 presidential candidate than the conventional wisdom thinks — although I suppose the conventional wisdom might be catching up.

Bloomberg News observes:

Though she’s traveled the country for Democrats, headlining rallies from Colorado to North Carolina, Clinton has not lent any of her star power to any televised campaign ads. It’s a strange discrepancy: While Clinton is one of — if not the most — requested surrogates for Democratic congressional campaigns, many seem far less seem eager to put her in their television ads.

Even the spot for Grimes, a long-time family friend of the Clintons, was online-only — a far less expensive proposition for a campaign than actually buying time to place an ad on television. And it used footage captured two weeks ago at a rally Clinton held for Grimes in Louisville, rather than any new video . . . 

Hillary Clinton’s spokespeople refused to comment on her ad appearances, or lack of them. But people close to the former first couple say they’ve been turning down requests from candidates to star in ads, fearing that if they cut a spot for one, they’d have to do them for everyone who asked. Those people say former President Bill Clinton is annoyed by several unauthorized usages of his image in ads.

So what is Hillary doing with her time these days, instead of cutting ads?

Is Hillary Clinton about to make her return to the cover of Vogue? Confidenti@l has learned that the presumed presidential candidate and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour visited Michael Kors’ studio for a fitting. We’re told the power trio huddled in Kors’ office at his Bryant Park HQ, studying a “rack of clothes.” Clinton (l.), who was with longtime aide Huma Abedin and a person our spy describes as a “huge bodyguard,” has graced the cover of the fashion bible once before. She was on the December 1998 cover, in velvet Oscar de la Renta, as First Lady in a shoot by Annie Leibovitz. Last year at an opening for a de la Renta retrospective at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark., Wintour said, “All of us at Vogue look forward to putting on the cover the first female President of the United States.”

Democrats are on the verge of an awful midterm election, gobs of Democrats are hanging on by their fingernails, and Hillary’s getting ready to pose for Vogue. If you’re one of those dedicated, door-knocking, flyer-distributing rank-and-file grassroots Democrats, how does it feel to have a front-running nominee who’s less dedicated to electing members of your party than you are?

Like the giant speaking fees (for Chelsea too!), the gargantuan wealth built during a life in “public service,” and the backslapping deals at the Clinton Foundation, these little anecdotes add to the narrative that the Clintons are dedicated first and foremost to “Clintons Inc.” and to others — even political allies — second.

What’s working for Hillary this coming cycle is that it’s hard to see any of her potential rivals turning into the next Barack Obama. Even if there’s an argument to be made to Democratic presidential primary voters that Hillary is too old, too establishment, too tied to Washington, too tied to the Obama administration’s failures, not sufficiently connected of the party’s vengeful populist id the way Elizabeth Warren is . . . who, other than Warren, could come along and play Obama next year? Martin O’Malley? Brian Schweitzer? Joe Biden? Come on.

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Senate Democrats , 2016

The Coming Effort to Persuade You That You Really Like Hillary



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In the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

The Coming Attempt to Persuade You That You Really Like Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton is already making a preemptive strike against any critical media coverage in the coming years:

Hillary Clinton, eyeing a second presidential bid and constantly at the center of intense press coverage, lamented Tuesday that modern media scrutiny has made it more difficult to be a leader today.

“We have created very difficult hurdles for people who want to serve, who believe they can lead, to do be able to do so. And the media has intensified that,” the former secretary of state said at the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, sponsored by the tech company Salesforce.

Clinton said she had watched Ken Burns’ documentary on the Roosevelt family, noting that reporters kept hidden Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s handicap. Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio at age 39 in 1921 and was largely confined to a wheelchair as president.

“Instead of, in a democracy, doing what we should to be doing, which is giving people information so they can be decision makers,” Clinton said reporters today are only interested in “the best angle, quickest hit, the biggest embarrassment.”

@Drawandstrike offers a series of Tweets, preparing us for the two years of the media “build[ing] Hillary up into the Awesome Special Champion You Can Trust With Ever-Growing Government Power.”

Every presidential campaign tries to build a heroic narrative around the life story of their candidate. Sometimes the material is there – think John McCain enduring the years of torture as a POW in Vietnam, and not coming out embittered or enraged or broken with despair. Sometimes the campaign has to stretch. I tried to lay out a heroic narrative for Mitt Romney back in August 2012; I think his campaign really didn’t try particularly hard in this area, other than some portions of his convention speech. (He was a young, barefoot, street-brawling vigilante who later in life gave away his inheritance, physically grabbed state officials who tried to skip out on hearings after accidents, and rescued drowning people on his jetski. He’s Ward Cleaver crossed with Bruce Wayne.)

The media tends to do this in a rather ham-handed way. Sometimes it comes in the cookie-cutter “This Democrat in a Red State Smashes All the Stereotypes” profiles. Sometimes it comes in increasingly heavy-handed attempts to persuade you that the offspring of the Chosen Messiah Candidate is particularly special and admirable:

That particular cover story in Fast Company tried to dance around its obvious mission of glamorizing a young woman whose adult life consists mostly of stepping through doors opened by her parents’ power and meandering through the highest levels of high society without actually doing much.

Over on NRO this morning, I look at the intensely depressed national mood and point out that the country could use someone with a bit of a heroic shine these days.

Tags: Hillary Clinton

Clinton Charges University $225,000 for Speech on High Cost of Tuition



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Only Hillary Clinton can take a $225,000 speaking fee from a public university and then, in the speech, lament how high the cost of higher education is.

“Higher education shouldn’t be a privilege for those able to afford it,” she said, seeming to not grasp that one reason tuition may be high is that universities think it’s a good idea to spend nearly a quarter of a million dollars to pay a multimillionaire to speak on campus.

America Rising noted:

When she lands in Vegas she will be paid $225,000 to give brief remarks. Following the event, Clinton will take a motorcade to a Democratic party event where she will lay the foundation for her 2016 campaign on the UNLV Foundation’s dime with Nevada politicos like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Her evening will end at a presidential suite that was required as part of her speaking contract.

“For $225,000, I expected to see live tigers.”

Tags: Hillary Clinton

Hillary’s DNC Fundraising E-Mail Pledges to Help Democratic Women, Mentions Iowa Senate Race



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Hillary Clinton has attached her name to a women-focused fundraising e-mail from the Democratic National Committee:

Democrats across our country are fighting for hard-working American families to have a fair shot at the American dream.

Strong Democratic women like Alison Lundergan Grimes, Michelle Nunn, and Natalie Tennant give me hope. They’re running to join great leaders like Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu, and Jeanne Shaheen in the United States Senate, where they will stand up for our values and our future.

I take hope from all our terrific Democratic women running for governor, including Mary Burke, Martha Coakley, Wendy Davis, Maggie Hassan, and Gina Raimondo. You can count on them to always put our families first.

These women can win — but not without your help, [E-MAIL RECIPIENT NAME HERE].

Apparently you didn’t need a shot at winning to get mentioned in the e-mail. Among the senatorial candidates, Grimes is down in the RealClearPolitics average by 3 points (but has led only one of the past 12 polls) in Kentucky, Nunn is down 2.7 points (but hasn’t lead any of the past nine polls) in Georgia, and Tennant is down by 17 points in West Virginia. Hagan is ahead by 2.4 points in North Carolina, Landrieu trails runoff polling by 5.6 points in Louisiana, and Shaheen leads by 6.5 points in New Hampshire.

Burke trails by half a percentage point in Wisconsin, Coakley leads by 1.6 points in Massachusetts, Hassan leads by 11.3 points in New Hampshire, and Raimondo leads by 4 points in Rhode Island.

Of course, Wendy Davis trails by 11.3 points in Texas, but perhaps that wheelchair ad is just the magic wand she’s needed.

The e-mail suggests that the funds will only be going to certain candidates:

With your help, we’ll keep building an organization that can go door-to-door and have meaningful conversations with voters about the issues that matter most to them. We can cut through the fog of negative ads on TV in Kentucky, North Carolina, or Iowa.

So DNC e-mail list is being asked to send money to help “strong Democratic women” . . . which apparently includes Bruce Braley, running against Republican Joni Ernst in Iowa’s Senate race.

Tags: Wendy Davis , Hillary Clinton , DNC , Fundraising

Hillary: Congress Is Out of Touch; We Need to ‘Take the Future Over’



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Of course: “The Congress, increasingly, despite the best efforts of my friends and others, is living in an evidence-free zone where what the reality is in the lives of Americans is so far from the minds of too many,” said Hillary Clinton.

Note this golden gem of clarity and vision from her in that speech: “We need people to feel that they are part of a movement. That it’s not just about an election, but about a movement—a movement to really empower themselves, their families and take the future over in a way that is going to give us back the country we care so much about.”

Who took the country away from Hillary Clinton?

When Hillary Clinton laments that Congress is out of touch, does she fear that too many members of Congress just don’t know what it’s like to be “dead broke,” as she described herself when her husband left the White House?

Yes, Hillary Clinton, who made two speeches to Goldman Sachs executives in late 2013 for the low, low, price of $400,000, now claims Congress is out of touch with “reality.”

Reality for the Clintons: Bill and Hillary have an estimated net worth of $200 million.

In Washington, D.C., the Clintons own a five-bedroom, brick colonial-style house near Embassy Row that the District of Columbia assessed at more than $5 million:

In Chappaqua, N.Y., the Clintons own a Dutch Colonial that the Town of New Castle assessed at $1.7 million; Zillow estimates the property could sell for $9 million.

Still, sometimes the former president and his wife feel the need to get away from it all and hang out in a nicer house:

Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton are renting a virtual Shangri-La in this lush, beachside paradise in the Hamptons. The $11 million mansion sprawls over 3.5 acres of prime real estate, with four fireplaces, six bedrooms, a heated pool and private path to the beach.

Tags: Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton, World-Champion Pretend Griller



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How perfectly Clintonian:

While a crowd of several thousand Democrats waited on a sloping, grassy field below, Mrs Clinton, her husband and Senator Harkin staged a mini-grilling of steaks for the press at a single barbecue grill in a fenced-off enclosure, framed by a handsome tree and a picnic table filled with some patient Iowans. Mrs Clinton gamely posed, pretending to grill a steak that had been pre-cooked for her.

Why, they’re just regular folks, just like us! (AP photo.)

Remember all those relentless media references to George W. Bush’s alleged “fake” “plastic” turkey while visiting the troops in Iraq?

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Something Lighter

Hillary Clinton’s a Book Critic Now



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I’ve never had much regard for the newspaper breakfast test, but no American family should encounter this spectacle over their Sunday hot cakes:

Maybe there’s no way to avoid the phenomenon of Democratic and Republican secretaries of state meeting in the lethal center, but couldn’t we have Madeleine Albright delivering the long-overdue appreciation of Al Haig? A John Kerry/George Shultz international cookbook? Henry Kissinger long ago ascended to an elder-statesman mesosphere where just about everybody praises his sagacity and few could tell you what his ideas are on any topic. (I’m foggy on anything beyond Vietnamization and his work as a shiatsu pitch man.) But he has a long record in foreign affairs going back to actual service (as an enlisted man, no less) in World War II, and including policy shifts like the China thaw that are, for better or worse, still with us. Clinton’s dull review of Kissinger’s new book World Order is a reminder of how little remains, just two years later, of any of her State Department’s policies.

The prospective 2016 Democratic presidential candidate does try to argue otherwise. Of 25 paragraphs in the print version of Clinton’s review, eight are mostly or entirely devoted to herself, seven deal with Kissinger’s book, and the rest are either a combination of the previous two (“Kissinger is my friend, and I relied on his counsel when I served as secretary of state”) or extremely familiar blather about America’s place in the world (“In the past, we’ve flirted with isolation and retreat, but always heeded the call to leadership when it was needed most”). It turns out, though, that her time at Foggy Bottom was more in the way of a rebuilding season: “In the president’s first term,” Clinton writes, “we laid the foundation, from repaired alliances to updated international institutions to decisive action on challenges such as Iran’s nuclear program and the threat from Osama bin Laden.”

Sadly, you can only use the “I killed bin Laden” card one time in a presidential election, and that’s already been done. That Clinton is one of the least interesting people in American public life is no big news, and it’s no surprise that even her book reviews are boring. But there is one piece of sort-of negative interest in the way she dwells on low-priority stuff like the “Asia pivot.” At some level, even Hillary Clinton understands how little she really has to run on.

“Our country is at its best, and our leadership in the world is strongest, when we are united behind a common purpose and shared mission, and advancing shared prosperity and social justice at home,” Clinton writes. “Sustaining America’s leadership in the world depends on renewing the American dream for all our people.” Like everything Clinton says, it sounds like boilerplate, but it also invites another invidious comparison: Whatever Kissinger  may have done as a statesman, you never had to listen to his opinions on domestic policy.

Establishment conservatives, human rights liberals, old-right non-interventionists and others have panned Clinton’s effort as a feuilletonist. Their reasons differ, but I’d like to say I agree with all of them.

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Henry Kissinger

Will Hillary and Obama Make Up? Tune in Tomorrow to As D.C. Turns!



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Also in today’s Jolt:

Will Hillary and Obama Make Up? Tune in Tomorrow to As D.C. Turns!

Notice this section at the tail-end of an AP story on the president’s week ahead:

Obama’s vacation has also been infused with a dose of politics. He headlined a fundraiser on the island for Democratic Senate candidates and attended a birthday party for Democratic adviser Vernon Jordan’s wife, where he spent time with former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

That get-together between the former rivals-turned-partners added another complicated dynamic to Obama’s vacation. Just as Obama was arriving on Martha’s Vineyard, an interview with the former secretary of state was published in which she levied some of her sharpest criticism of Obama’s foreign policy.

Clinton later promised she and Obama would “hug it out” when they saw each other at Jordan’s party. No reporters were allowed in, so it’s not clear whether there was any hugging, but the White House said the president danced to nearly every song.

We discussed this on Howard Kurtz’s Media Buzz Sunday morning, and I was left with the distinct impression that the Washington press corps has lost its collective mind.

The “hug it out” aspect of the recent Hillary Clinton–Barack Obama brouhaha is the absolute least important part of the whole matter. Think about it: The last secretary of state just said that Obama’s foreign policy had “no coherent organizing principle” and that “we don’t even tell our own story very well these days.” That’s a pretty damning indictment, well beyond the particulars of sending arms to the Syrian rebels. It goes well beyond Syria. But what makes the criticism so mind-boggling is that this was Hillary’s whole area of responsibility for four years, and she’s insisting that the disappointing results all around the globe are the president’s fault. If she’s telling the truth now, how would she characterize her praise for the president’s foreign policy from 2009 to 2013? How often did she suppress her objections and help enact policies she felt were doomed to failure?

In light of all that, who gives a flying fuchsia pantsuit about whether or not Hillary and Obama have patched it up, or who’s mad at who, or who’s still carrying a grudge against the other? It matters once it affects policy; until then, it’s part of a soap opera.

One of Ace of Spades’ keen observations, from last year:

For Obama’s fanbois [sic], this is not politics. This isn’t even America, not really, not anymore.

This is a movie. And Barack Obama is the Hero. And the Republicans are the Villains. And policy questions — and Obama’s myriad failures as an executive — are simply incidental. They are MacGuffins only, of no importance whatsoever, except to the extent they provide opportunities for Drama as the Hero fights in favor of them.

Watching Chris Matthews interview Obama, I was struck by just how uninterested in policy questions Matthews (and his panel) were, and how almost every question seemed to be, at heart, about Obama’s emotional response to difficulties– not about policy itself, but about Obama’s Hero’s Journey in navigating the plot of President Barack Obama: The Movie.

As with a MacGuffin in the movie, only the Hero’s emotional response to the MacGuffin matters.

Once you hear about this phenomenon of seeing all events through the lens of the personal heroic narrative of the president, you start recognizing it everywhere.

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Barack Obama , Media

Already Insufferable Speculation About a Clinton-Castro Ticket



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Also in today’s Jolt:

Urgh: Already Insufferable Speculation About a Clinton-Castro Ticket

Because it’s perfectly normal for a newly-appointed 39-year-old Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to be discussed as a potential running mate, right?

As she expands her political network in advance of an expected presidential run, Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband have been cultivating an important ally who some believe could become her vice presidential running mate.

Former president Bill Clinton invited Julian Castro, a former San Antonio mayor and incoming Obama Cabinet secretary, to the Clintons’ home in Washington last week for a private dinner that friends described as a chance for Democratic leaders from different generations to become better acquainted.

The fact that Democrats continue to insist Castro is ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency indicates how intense and unyielding identity politics and television charisma grip their criteria for a potential national leader.


(Chuck Kerr, the artist at Current who created the memorable image above, invites Campaign Spot readers to build their own Castro campaign posters, proudly endorsing Castro for president, governor, senator, mayor, Jedi master, or Top Chef contestant.)

As I keep pointing out, Julian Castro failed to tangibly improve his city much in five years as mayor:

Castro leveraged his rise-from-humble-roots narrative and the occasional wacky joke into national press coverage that most senators and governors would envy – major national magazine profilesa TED talk, an appearance on Meet the Press, a six-figure memoir deal. It’s fair to wonder whether Castro would get the same attention if he were not a member of a demographic increasingly important for national politics.

Castro’s record suggests that, if he is in fact nominated and confirmed as secretary of HUD, he will be one of the most-covered and most-discussed members of President Obama’s Cabinet. His record also suggests that he will leave the department in about the same condition as when he entered it.

Tags: Julian Castro , Hillary Clinton

Hillary Calls Obama to Say She Didn’t Mean to Criticize Him



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Looks like Hillary’s attempt to distance herself from Obama’s foreign policy did not go over well in the White House:

I understand this was the hold music:

You know how we know that Team Obama was irked about Hillary’s comments?

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Barack Obama

The Things I Like about Clinton Are Making Her More Politically Vulnerable



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I like that Clinton is drawing distinctions between herself and Obama, and I think she is generally right on policy. She is admirably forthright in her defense of Israel and in her condemnation of Hamas’s tactics of both targeting Israeli civilians and hiding behind Palestinian civilians.

The bad news is that a substantial body of Democratic opinion is actually to the left of President Obama on foreign policy. That means it is dangerous to be to Obama’s right.

I think Ezra Klein is right that Clinton is playing a politically dangerous game with her party’s leftists — who are both more numerous and more self-confident than they were when she was in the White House. History has promised the party’s activist liberals that the future is theirs, and it will take a series of consecutive electoral losses to beat the hubris out of them. That won’t happen by 2016.

It gets even worse when Clinton criticizes Obama from the right.  Obama’s approval ratings are pretty lousy, but the plurality of Democrats who are likely to vote in the 2016 primaries are almost certainly going to be heavily invested in believing Obama was a good president. The only conditions under which a majority of 2016 Democratic primary voters might repudiate Obama are conditions under which no Democrat could hope to win the general election.

Clinton’s moves to the right provide an opening for Biden. Clinton’s moves allow Biden to present himself as both the relatively less interventionist candidate (without being a left-isolationist) and the true heir of President Obama. This could given Biden access to a much wider anti-Clinton constituency than could be won by an Elizabeth Warren) whose support would likely come from white upper-middle-class liberals).

Tags: Hillary Clinton

Shorter Hillary Clinton: We Didn’t Arm ISIS Enough



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It’s easy to see why there’s so much August Silly Season excitement over Hillary Clinton’s Jeffrey Goldberg interview. Clinton’s new strategy of running against her own State Department, her convenient rediscovery of her long-missing yiddishe kop, and her criticism of President Obama’s unbelievably silly foreign policy mantra are all magnificent examples of the kind of logical arabesques and reality-bending dipsy-doodles that are hallmarks of the Clintons’ truth-distorting powers.

But there hasn’t been a lot of attention on the total inanity of Clinton’s if-I-weren’t-stuck-in-this-chair regrets about how she didn’t move Foggy Bottom to promote a kinder, gentler Islamic State back when it was just the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria:

It is striking, however, that you have more than 170,000 people dead in Syria. You have the vacuum that has been created by the relentless assault by Assad on his own population, an assault that has bred these extremist groups, the most well-known of which, ISIS—or ISIL—is now literally expanding its territory inside Syria and inside Iraq…

I know that the failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.

They were often armed in an indiscriminate way by other forces and we had no skin in the game that really enabled us to prevent this indiscriminate arming.

If you want to know why your grandchildren will still be fighting over Iraq, you have your answer right there: Today’s solution is the same as yesterday’s solution, and it’s being pushed by the same geniuses who created the problem. And tomorrow, they’ll have the same solution once again.

It’s clear that America lacked the resolve to intervene on behalf of the Sunni rebels in Syria. (The massive popular opposition to the Syrian intervention is always attributed to “war-weariness” rather than to the possibility that it was just a bad idea.) It’s also clear — as those same rebels have begun cutting off heads and burying people alive in Iraq — that intervening against Bashar Assad’s brutal dictatorship was an idea so dumb only John McCain and Hillary Clinton could have thought it was smart.

Clinton and McCain, along with many Obama detractors today, will argue, as Clinton does above, that the “secularists” and “everything in the middle” were the people who needed our help, not the Islamists. But is there any reason to believe anybody in the Clinton State Department knew the difference? They certainly don’t seem to have been able to tell friend from foe among the anti-Qaddafi resistance in Libya. During eight years of full commitment in Iraq, the United States was so unable to distinguish the nuances among Iraqi factions that we’re now stuck with an Iraqi leader who refuses to leave office even with total opposition from his own government and our government. We can’t even prevent one of our good pals in Afghanistan from killing an American general. But somehow the same people who ran those operations were supposed to know which Syrian Sunni fighters were sufficiently moderate to deserve lethal American assistance?

Clinton, in her unstoppable juggernaut of error, will insist that of course, once you have “skin in the game” you’ll be able to leverage your allies in the direction you want. Has this ever worked? Did FDR and Churchill get Stalin to moderate his leadership of the USSR in ways that history has failed to notice? Did America’s intimate involvement with the anti-communist Islamists in Afghanistan during the 1980s help the moderates in that vibrant and modern democracy? In ten years of massive military commitment and multiple coups, the United States couldn’t even get a South Vietnamese government that had the outward appearance of decency (or, as it turned out, any ability to defend itself). Closer to the region in question: The United States allied with Bashar Assad’s father openly during the 1991 Iraq war and to a lesser extent with Bashar himself after 9/11. Are we just failing to appreciate the amiable side of the Assads that emerged thanks to that cooperative experience with America?

It’s a universal law of diplomacy that allies are not friends. There are any number of quotes to this effect. The idea that you can micromanage outcomes in wartime by setting a sterling moral example, or by empowering one slightly better faction rather than another one, or just by building friendships in a chaotic coalition of Sunni Muslims, is straightup insanity.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Since being consistently wrong is a prerequisite to becoming a quotable expert on the Middle East, here’s a quote from T.E. Lawrence, who was more wrong than anybody and wrong earlier than almost everybody: “The foreigner and Christian is not a popular person in Arabia. However friendly and informal the treatment of yourself may be, remember always that your foundations are very sandy ones.”

Tags: Hillary Clinton , ISIS , Iraq , Arab Christians

If Only Hillary Had Been In a Position to Influence U.S. Foreign Policy!



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This morning we hear Hillary Clinton make her most explicit criticism of her old boss, President Obama, telling The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

If only she had been in some sort of official position where she could offer and establish a set of organizing principles for U.S. foreign policy!

She also laments, “One issue is that we don’t even tell our own story very well these days.”

If only she had some position or role where she could help tell the American story!

She tells Goldberg, “One of the reasons why I worry about what’s happening in the Middle East right now is because of the breakout capacity of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States.”

Indeed, which is why one would think our State Department would listen to the warnings of our ambassadors in places, like, say, Benghazi.

Then she told Goldberg: “I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets… Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command-and-control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult.”

 “[J]ust as we try to do in the United States and be as careful as possible in going after targets to avoid civilians,” mistakes are made, she said. “We’ve made them. I don’t know a nation, no matter what its values are—and I think that democratic nations have demonstrably better values in a conflict position—that hasn’t made errors, but ultimately the responsibility rests with Hamas.”

She went on to say that “it’s impossible to know what happens in the fog of war. Some reports say, maybe it wasn’t the exact UN school that was bombed, but it was the annex to the school next door where they were firing the rockets. And I do think oftentimes that the anguish you are privy to because of the coverage, and the women and the children and all the rest of that, makes it very difficult to sort through to get to the truth.”

She continued, “There’s no doubt in my mind that Hamas initiated this conflict. … So the ultimate responsibility has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made.”

A lot of friends of Israel will applaud those words, but imagine how the world would have reacted if she had said that, say, a week and a half ago. Hillary Clinton’s comparably pro-Israel views may still get her in trouble with the Democratic Party’s base, but she sure was quiet these past two weeks, wasn’t she?

Above: Hillary, quietly yearning for an organizing principle.

 

 

Tags: Hillary Clinton

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