The Corner

The Hillary Hype

My column today is on what great fun it will be if Joe Biden decides to run for president. 

Let me expand on one point in the column.

I am increasingly convinced the Hillary inevitability talk is ridiculous (and I am at a loss as to why so many conservatives are fatalistic about a Clinton victory). As I’ve written a few times already, she’s a decidedly dull politician. Ask a normal person to watch Hillary Clinton give a speech or an interview and odds are they’ll respond, “What’s the big deal? She’s boring.” It’s worth noting that while she’s a lackluster politician she’s a very adept Beltway operator. So she can shmooze people one-on-one, dance around David Gregory and stonewall Congress with the best of them. But that doesn’t wow people on the campaign trail. And, yes, she’s also become an feminist icon. Liberal love of Hillary Clinton strikes me as the mirror of liberal hatred for Sarah Palin; both depend on a large dose of irrationality. 

And that’s where the fun will come from if Biden runs.

As it stands now, Biden and Hillary are very close. She’s joked that she thinks Joe and Bill were “separated at birth” because they have such similar personalities. If I were Mrs. Biden — oh, I’m sorry, if I were Doctor Jill Biden — I would find that less than wholly reassuring. But if Biden runs and if it looks for even a moment that he might steal the prize from Hillary, the Clinton machine will go bat guano crazy and attack Biden either directly or via legions of sock-puppet proxies. The problem is that the substantive differences between Hillary and Joe are negligible. If anything, Joe has a better record of accomplishment on Hillary’s issues. Let me say that again. Joe Biden has done more for women (as defined by feminists and liberals) than Hillary has by far. He authored the Violence Against Women Act. He (dishonorably) torpedoed Judge Bork’s Supreme Court nomination, he embraced gay marriage before Obama and Clinton etc. He’s also got a better record — by far — than Hillary Clinton on foreign policy, her supposed strength as a former Secretary of State with a million frequent flier miles. He was also Barack Obama’s partner when they passed a disastrous healthcare reform law. Hillary was Bill Clinton’s partner when he failed to pass a disastrous healthcare reform law.  But he also has many of the same weaknesses. For instance, they both voted for the Iraq war.

In short, the idea that Hillary can attack Joe on policy grounds seems far-fetched to me. Of course, they could get bogged down in an idiotic proxy fight over an obscure issue the way Hillary and Obama did in 2008 over the insurance mandate. (At the time I argued that was an absurd fight because no one really cared and either candidate would drop or adopt the policy if it suited them later. I was right. Obamacare has the very mandate Obama once denounced). But odds are Team Hillary would respond with the childlike rage that has become the hallmark of MSNBC style argumentation. How dare Joe Biden stand in the way of “Madam President!?” “Joe Biden hates women!” We might even see liberals suddenly become very troubled by Biden’s past statements on race or whatnot. When political activists have no place substantive to go but their sense of entitlement is off the charts, you can expect them to get nasty quickly. That’s the thing about irrational positions, people defend them irrationally. 

The smarter spinners will try to bait Biden into saying something stupid, which should be about as hard as baiting a bear with a huge bowl of ice cream, smoked trout and Captain Crunch. Seriously, does anyone think that he won’t say something stupid or crazy when Hillary gets under his skin? I mean the guy can be playing checkers and the pressure will cause him to shout “Fellini made movies about clowns! CLOWNS!” His sense of entitlement to the Oval Office has got to be off the charts as well. And while right now I’m sure he thinks he can keep everything civil and cordial with the Clintons, that will only stay true so long as he’s not a threat. If he starts racking up wins in the early primaries (a significant if, I grant you), Bill Clinton even more enraged than he was when he missed his chance to be a judge at the Hawaiian Tropic beauty contest. Once both sides start hurling mud, both Biden and Hillary are likely to look like stale defenders of the status quo – a status quo that stinks by the way. That’s important to keep in mind as well. Defending the Obama record works in Democratic primaries, and having Hillary and Joe fight over who deserves more credit for it will create enormous opportunities for liberal upstarts, eager to exploit everything from Obama’s deportation policies to domestic surveillance. It will also create even greater opportunities for Republicans promising a fresh start after eight — or even 16 — years of economic stagnation. 

 In 1992, most of the Democratic Party’s heavy hitters stayed out of the race because they thought Bush 41 was the inevitable victor. Bill himself just wanted to kick the tires on the race for a more serious go in 1996. His competitors that year were also B-teamers.  But, it turned out that Bush’s victory was not foreordained. There’s a similar amount of hype that Hillary’s victory is assured these days. In fact, there’s almost as much talk about her inevitability as there was in 2008 when she lost to an obscure B-teamer named Barack Obama.  

So, finally, my message to conservatives is: lighten’ up. This is going to be fun. And the only thing that would make Hillary Clinton’s victory inevitable is if even Republicans buy into the lie of it. 

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