Oh, goody. Once again we get to discuss what The Wall Street Journal calls the “hermetically sealed arrogance” of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Having given the first national TV interview (to CNN) of her White House Quest Part Deux, she says she has taken the temperature of voters and is ready to talk to the press. Be still, my heart. The problem is she still isn’t ready to actually say anything. She apparently is so worried about making political faux pas, that she has no strong opinions on crushing current events except that vaguely working for the future of women and children is, as Martha Stewart would say, a good thing.
I have spent a quarter of a century listening to what Hillary has to say. One on one, she can be delightful — warm, funny, smart and caring. Speaking to crowds, she is a puzzlement, usually speaking in platitudes, rarely making news, often coming across as slightly insufferable, even to her many ardent supporters.
Is Hillary unstoppable? Can she be elected president?
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The answer, drum roll, is possibly, but it is no sure thing.
It’s not because she is polarizing. All national politicians are polarizing now. But even after she’s been in the spotlight for decades, lived in the White House fishbowl for eight years, run for president, written two books and served her 2008 opponent as a million-miler Secretary of State, we don’t feel we know her.
The story du jour is that polls show plummeting trust in Hillary. The question is sort of ridiculous at this point. Trust her to do what? Run a scintillating campaign? Stand up to numbskulls like Donald Trump? Do well in debates? Run the country?
It’s still hard to get past the idea of Hillary as the smartest girl in the class, the teacher’s pet, the student who always had her work done perfectly and on time while being class president, holding down an after-school job and dating the class hunk. Oh no, she’s coming to the class reunion. Part of you wants to hiss, “Just go back to your rich, happy, fruitful life and leave us alone.”
The wise former Republican Sen. Howard Baker used to say that Americans want a president with whom they’d be comfortable entrusting their house key. The modern equivalent is somebody with whom you’d enjoy tossing back a beer. Somehow the idea of sharing a tankard of ale (or glass of chardonnay) with Hillary Clinton is intimidating, although I have done it. And it was fine. Even fun. But the idea is intimidating. You’re afraid she'll go all wonkish on you.
In 2008 when she ran against Barak Obama, she supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, afraid that the nation would not elect a woman opposed to war. She has since admitted she was wrong about the wisdom of invading Iraq.
Now she waffles on big issues such as trade pacts, Iran, China, entitlement reform, Greece, Wall Street reform, etc. She wouldn’t even give CNN an answer on who should be the first woman on paper money, noting only that a female face on a $10 bill is less progressive than on a $20 bill. Well, yeah. She always plays it safe, never edgy.
She wants to stamp out inequality and champion “everyday” Americans. But every self-respecting politician says that. Exactly what would she do to help the middle class get back on their feet?
If there’s any lesson in the last eight years, it is that in the ongoing blood feud between Democrats and Republicans, “everyday” Americans get shafted. How would Hillary change that climate? We don’t know.
The most off-putting thing about Personal Hillary is that she’s guarded and defensive. We rarely see her relax and be herself, whoever that is. Despite her populist rhetoric, she doesn’t seem to like or trust us “everyday” Americans; she acts as if we will turn on her at any moment. But she remains inherently closed and deceptive.
Electing the first woman president would be wonderful. But there must be good reason to elect a president other than gender. So far Hillary has failed to give us much incentive except that most of those running against her are so awful.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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