4. A president-in-waiting: The last secretary of state to ascend directly to the presidency was James Buchanan. And there’s a reasonable chance that within a few short years, we may witness another such political passage. Indeed, the president-in-waiting trope may well provide a partial clue as to why nobody really wants to cross her.
Everyone in Washington knows Hillary’s run may not be over. So what’s the point in taking her on? Key Republicans seem to like her. Listen to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is no fan of the president’s foreign policy: “She is extremely well respected throughout the world, handles herself in a very classy way and has a work ethic second to none.”
Nor do the reporters who travel with her have a stake in making enemies. Back in the day, I was on many of those trips: The quarters are close, and your access depends on not alienating people. It’s just too uncomfortable to travel with a secretary of state and their staff if you do. And besides, if you really start being tough, you may not make the access list back home.
Finally, let’s be clear. She shines because not that many others do. We face a galactic leadership deficit in America today. There are plenty of celebrities, to be sure. But not that many politicians with substance, charisma and class.
Hillary simply doesn’t have much competition — aside from, perhaps, Michelle Obama, whose favorability ratings top Hillary’s and the president’s too.
So stick with the playbook, Hillary. You may actually be a star. And in an age of dashed expectations, disappointment and rising cynicism toward America’s political class, that’s no small accomplishment.
Aaron David Miller is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.