Politics & Policy

The Trump and Clinton You See Are the Ones You Get

Clinton greets supporters in Brooklyn, N.Y., June 7, 2016. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

If you love Hillary Clinton just the way she is, you’re in luck.

If you adore Donald Trump and don’t want to ever see him change, congrats.

But if you’re a passionate liberal who is sour on Clinton and hoping that the “real Hillary” will break through, my advice to you is, “Start drinking heavily.”

Likewise, if you’re a committed and sincere conservative but just can’t get your head around the excitement over Trump, I’m afraid to tell you: This is it. Visions of a mature, disciplined, “presidential” Donald Trump are hallucinatory fantasies.

Don’t listen to the pundits and TV hosts asking, “Is this a new Hillary?” or, “Is this the Trump pivot we’ve been waiting for?” You’ll hear this in one form or another a kazillion times between now and Election Day. The political press wants drama — not just for ratings and readers, but for themselves. The prospect of this being as good as it gets is too depressing for them to contemplate, particularly given their complicity in delivering the choices before us.

Let’s start with Clinton. D.C. reporters have been writing variations of the “Is this a new Hillary Clinton?” thumbsucker since she was first introduced to the American people.

“Interviews with potential voters showed that Mrs. Clinton was unpopular in the role of chief policy adviser to her husband,” the New York Times reported around the time of Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. “And in April [1992], the Clinton campaign set out to remake her image.”

Since then, Clinton has had more costume changes than the cast of “Cabaret.” In no particular order, she’s been a feminist hero who scorned stay-at-home moms (standing by their man “like Tammy Wynette,” Clinton spat in one interview), a stay-at-home mom herself, a modern-day Eleanor Roosevelt ideologue, a moderate, a centrist, a neocon, a martyred wife standing by her man, a progressive. From her days as first lady of Arkansas through her stint as a carpetbagging senator in New York, she’s put on and taken off her maiden name more often than her husband removes his wedding ring.

The problem goes deeper than that. Clinton and her retinue have struggled to convince voters she’s . . . human.

“Back in the ’92 race, Clinton pollsters devised strategies to humanize her and make her seem more warm and maternal,” New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote in 2007. “Fifteen years later, her campaign is devising strategies to humanize her and make her seem more warm and maternal.”

In 1995, Clinton’s advisors wanted her to go on the sitcom Home Improvement in order to “humanize her.” In 2015, her advisors told the Times her emails might help to “humanize” her because some of them mentioned TV shows she likes.

Team Clinton has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on campaigns since 1992, and they’re still trying to convince the public Hillary is human.

Think about it: Team Clinton has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on campaigns since 1992, and they’re still trying to convince the public Hillary is human.

Trump doesn’t have the same problem. He’s all too human.

One of the funniest parts of the spectacle that is the Trump campaign has been watching many of his biggest boosters talk about him like he’s a troubled teenager or an abusive spouse. He’ll get his act together! He can change! Deep down he’s good! And, most often: He can be presidential!

Even Trump gets in on the act.

“I’m, like, a really smart person. . . . Being presidential is easy,” he says as if he were an adolescent boasting, “I could do it if I wanted to.” Trump has said more than once: “I will be so presidential you won’t believe it” — after he’s elected, of course.

His ambassadors to the legions of us who don’t buy the con keep promising the presidential pivot is coming. The Dallas police shooting launched the latest round of pronouncements that he’s changed, or found discipline, or is listening to his advisers. So far, waiting for any of these metamorphoses to stick has been like waiting for Godot.

Get Free Exclusive NR Content

It’s like one of those construction-site signs: “X Days Since an Accident.” The Trump campaign record for Days Since Unpresidential Mishap is, by my count, about three. (I restarted the clock when he interrupted his VP search to sue an ex-employee for $10 million and to — understandably if unpresidentially — question the mental capacity of a Supreme Court justice). That sign will never break double digits.

And while Hillary Clinton is a human, the campaign to “humanize” her is a lost cause, too.

Liberals and conservatives who pretend otherwise are fooling themselves, which is fine. But I wish they would stop trying to fool me.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, will be released on April 24.

Most Popular


Yes We Kanye

Kanye West is unpredictable and not terribly coherent and has generated his share of infamous and insufferably narcissistic behavior -- “Bush doesn’t care about black people” and “Imma let you finish” come to mind. Color me skeptical that it’s a consequential victory for the Right now that West is ... Read More

Poll Finds Nevada Voters Support School-Choice Programs

According to an April poll, a large number of Nevada voters support school-choice programs. The poll, conducted by Nevada Independent/Mellman, found that 70 percent of voters support a proposal for a special-needs Education Savings Account and 59 percent support expanding the funding for the current tax-credit ... Read More

Is Journalism School Worth It?

Clarence Darrow dropped out of law school after just a year, figuring that he would learn what he needed to know about legal practice faster if he were actually doing it than sitting in classrooms. (Today, that wouldn't be possible, thanks to licensing requirements.) The same thing is true in other fields -- ... Read More

Wednesday Links

Today is ANZAC Day, the anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli: Here's some history, a documentary, and a Lego re-enactment. How DNA Can Lead to Wrongful Convictions: Labs today can identify people with DNA from just a handful of cells, but a handful of cells can easily migrate. The 19th-century art of ... Read More

Microscopic Dots. Let’s Look at Them.

Stuart E. Eizenstat has written a big book on the Carter presidency. (Eizenstat was Carter’s chief domestic-policy adviser. He also had a substantial hand in foreign affairs.) I have reviewed the book for the forthcoming NR. Eizenstat tells the story of a meeting between President Carter and Andrei Gromyko, the ... Read More