Hillary Clinton has plenty of White House experience. Unfortunately, it’s experience at mucking things up. Or, as The New York Times puts it in today’s long profile, “Clinton’s History as First Lady: Powerful but Not Always Deft.” There’s lots of juicy material in the Times piece, yet very little that’s new—the dramatic opening anecdote included. The Times profile is based on recently released oral histories of the Clinton presidency, but memoirs and investigative biographies have largely covered the same ground.
That is not to say that today’s profile is unimportant. On the contrary, the public has never fully digested the uncomfortable truth about Hillary Clinton’s disastrous time as First Lady. Both the extent of her power and her gross mishandling of it remain under-appreciated. The truth is hiding in plain sight, buried in an avalanche of books that no-one has time to read.
Hillary’s defense against revelations about the mess she made of her White House years is that she’s a good learner and won’t make those mistakes again. The Times makes this point today, yet it’s unconvincing. In a public relations fiasco, Hillary once closed down the White House press corridor. Nowadays she has reporters followed to the bathroom. Where’s the learning?
The more serious problem is the impossibility of making a co-presidency work. Everything in today’s Times story tends to confirm this, yet there is no analysis or acknowledgement of the problem. I tackle the disastrous Clinton co-presidency, as well as the Clintons’ inability to learn from and correct their mistakes, in “Deja Two.”
The one tidbit in today’s Times profile that I don’t recall seeing before is that some of the Clinton White House economists who worried about the effects of Hillarycare nicknamed Hillary’s team “the Bolsheviks.” So maybe the roots of the Tea Party go back to 1993.
This reminds us that Hillary was the Elizabeth Warren of her day, the leader of the left wing of the Democratic Party. I don’t think much beyond Hillary’s rhetoric has changed. Today’s Times profile shows Hillary approving the strategy of Bill running for the White House from the middle. I think Hillary’s been running a White House campaign for herself from the middle ever since she stood for the Senate. And just as happened in 1993, a run from the middle will swiftly turn into an attempt to govern from the left. With today’s Democratic Party, the real question is whether Hillary can sustain even a run from the center, much less an attempt to govern.