Politics & Policy

Hillary Forgets Herself

(Gary Cameron/Reuters)
The Democratic nominee reintroduces herself, again.

In the hours before their candidate’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton’s aides said that she would take the occasion to “reintroduce herself” to the American people. Again. Mrs. Clinton has been a fixture — an inescapable one — in American politics for a quarter of a century. She’s had more new-and-improved versions than a brand of laundry detergent. She lamented that “there is no other Donald Trump” other than the one with whom we are familiar. There is no other Hillary Rodham Clinton, either.

But if you need a reintroduction to Mrs. Clinton, we will oblige: She is an opportunist without anything resembling a conviction with the exception of her unwavering commitment to abortion, a “public servant” who along with her husband grew vastly wealthy exploiting her political connections and renting access to everybody from Goldman Sachs to Vladimir Putin, a petty, grasping, vindictive, meretricious time-server whose incompetence and dishonesty have been proved everywhere from Little Rock to Benghazi.

Dressed symbolically all in white (as though she were a bride or a monarch enjoying her privilège du blanc), she delivered a speech that was one part It Takes a Village and eleven parts old State of the Union speeches from Barack Obama and her husband. Her presentation was her usual hectoring — she is not capable of speaking in another mode — and one of her themes was the superiority of collective action to atomistic individualism, as though she were running against Ayn Rand rather than Donald Trump. She decried “mean rhetoric” and then said that people who operate their businesses in ways that displease her are unpatriotic. She suggested that pillaging high-earning individuals and companies with confiscatory taxes could fund an endless goody bag of patronage for her constituents.

I.e., the usual Hillary.

“My primary mission as president will be to create more opportunity and more good jobs with rising wages right here in the U.S.,” she said. That is of course unobjectionable, as indeed was much of what she said — that’s how platitudes work. But five minutes’ worth of serious thinking is enough to bring into question whether Mrs. Clinton is even serious about her most vanilla banalities. There is no serious person — Republican or Democrat — who believes that the Obama administration and its policies have produced the level of “good jobs with rising wages right here in the U.S.” that Mrs. Clinton promises. Even she doesn’t believe that, and said as much in her incoherent way: Democrats have failed to address the concerns of “working people” (surely most of us are working people), she avowed, but Barack Obama still doesn’t get enough credit in spite of this failure, and she’ll do better by doing . . . exactly the same things that Barack Obama promised.

#share#Barack Obama, with his pen and his telephone — and his solid Democratic majorities during the first years of his presidency — did not actually do very much to revive American economic dynamism. He poured billions of dollars into pet projects for politically connected firms such as Solyndra and daffy green-energy projects that have not paid off while the ever-more-aggressive regulators under his control have applied something between a foot on the brake and a foot on the neck of the economy. If Mrs. Clinton objected to any of that, she was strangely quiet about it. If she has better ideas, she did not voice any of them. Where has she been since 1992 if not near the levers of power?

It isn’t that we expected Hillary Rodham Clinton to trash President Obama as he passed the Democrats’ baton to her. But if her platform is to be more of the same, then she should say as much. If her aim is to be a “change maker,” as her husband called her, then she owes the voters an explanation of exactly how and why the Obama administration failed to do what she believes it should have done. Blaming congressional Republicans for having different views and nonconforming policy preferences will not do.

Hillary was mostly maddeningly vague.

She was, of course, mostly maddeningly vague. To the extent that she ventured down from the lofty heights of moral preening and celebrating herself as a semi-divine agent of History, she mostly cleaved to her familiar list of free stuff and a proposal for punitive tax hikes on unpopular individuals, companies, and industries. Maybe there are some rubes out there who think that this will result in tuition-free college for “the middle class,” as though shifting around costs made things less expensive. (How’s that working out for your health care?) Her strategy on the Islamic State? Same thing we’ve been doing, but with an added “We will prevail!”

Well.

While we do lament the implicit lack of self-respect and individual responsibility underpinning the philosophy of president-as-Santa-Claus, the economic and cultural anxieties of the American public are not the products of political hypochondria. And neither are the national-security concerns that should be weighing heavily in American minds as the Islamic State demonstrates that its reach goes from Syria to France to Orlando and beyond. There is an alarming deficit of genuine leadership in the United States — and on the world stage — and the fact that some people have fond memories of the years in which Mrs. Clinton’s husband was occupying the Oval Office and bothering the interns isn’t much of an argument for investing her with the most powerful political portfolio on Earth.

Her most persuasive argument was that she isn’t Donald Trump. His most persuasive argument is the converse, and nothing Mrs. Clinton said on Thursday evening changes that.

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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