by Professor Ruth O’Brien & Frederic D. O’Brien (a.k.a. Fred Schwarz, Deputy Managing Editor, National Review)
When a print publication’s most popular foreign-policy headline is “Obama threatened to shoot down Israeli warplanes” and the CPAC straw poll has Rand Paul winning and Scott Walker “surging,” while CPAC attendees would have “walked out on Jeb,” it would have been strategically unwise for the Democratic potential presidential nominee, former New York senator, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to put her toe in the ring. Why would HC endanger not only her candidacy but all the candidacies of the Democrats who want to win in 2016?
If HC sticks her neck out today by declaring her official Democratic candidacy, as Cokie Roberts contends on NPR than HC will be triangulated to death.
HC gives every man in the GOP field (and don’t forget that one woman, former Hewlett Packard President Carly Fiorina) a chance to prove either his foreign-policy creds (which those Governors Jeb, Scott, and Rick sorely lack) or their not-so-wacky Christian, tax fearing Tea Party creds against her.
How do conservatives get away with ¼ truths and absurdities, like the headline above about Israeli warplanes? A few well-placed bald-faced lies about HC’s position on Libya in foreign policy is the triangulation – death by association with something entirely false, such as saying the Obama administration had a military response available to save the diplomats in the consulate in Libya.
Similarly with the Tea Party, fringe conservatives are trying to convince their fellow Republicans that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker could win. Scott’s got all the Tea Party touchstones or creds: He is part of the war on women as well as the entire spectrum of the rainbow refraction coalition. Walker’s against a woman’s right to choose. He’s against same-sex marriage. And not only is he against any form of regulating business, he’s got that impressive public-union-bashing cred. Public unions, like the National Education Association (NEA), represent not just the working and professional class, like teachers, but also women and persons with different identities more than the ever-shrinking, almost-gone unions for the private sector with their Rust Belt history.
So as much as I hate to disagree with Cokie Roberts’ NPR analysis (she is, after all, the author of an interesting book on First Ladies) in this, she’s wrong. Hillary should stay out of the ring until the Republican candidates sort themselves out, at the very least in terms of money. And by money, I mean give me the Koch brothers’ money.* #RuthOBrienGC
*Chances are those brothers are giving all viable candidates money. When you have that much why wouldn’t you. So the better question is who are they enjoying giving their money to the most?
If Hillary has learned the lesson of 2008, she will openly declare her candidacy now. In 2008 she adopted a rope-a-dope strategy, low-keying it for most of 2007 in hopes of landing a knockout blow in the first round of caucuses and primaries. Then along came a charismatic young senator from her native state, and before you could blink, she was so far behind that the race was effectively over by Valentine’s Day. She can’t rely on inevitability again, not with the Democratic base all a-Twitter over Elizabeth Warren.
Hillary’s strengths come under the heading of inside politics: raising funds, building alliances, making deals. Few people are enthusiastic about her; she doesn’t have that once-in-a-generation charisma that we have seen in Obama, Reagan, and Kennedy. The longer she stays out of the race, the more time there is for other candidates to steal her support or create a groundswell in opposition. Her age will also be an issue, and the best way to show she isn’t tired or worn out is to campaign vigorously, instead of reciting her standard speech for $250K a pop before adoring campus audiences or favor-seeking corporations.
Most important, perhaps, starting her campaign early would be the best way to distinguish herself from President Obama, her boss not long ago. Right now she is cautiously waiting to see how popular he is next year before deciding how tightly to embrace him. Again, this leaves the field open for other candidates to run as progressive alternatives to the Obama-Clinton administration.
Waiting until the last minute to declare would make Hillary look exactly like what her detractors say about her: Entitled, above it all, physically fragile, overcautious, a backroom dealmaker who’s not good at mixing it up. She did her best in 2008 after it was effectively over and she transformed into Fightin’ Hillary. This time around, she doesn’t have to wait until it’s too late. #FredericOBrien