Is Hillary Clinton really in serious trouble?
You can sure get that impression from the moment to moment coverage of her still undeclared second presidential campaign.
There's a whole litany of things being bandied about ... The vague and dull book, the awkward break with President Barack Obama, the poorly-done book tour, the silly assertion that she'd been poor when they left the White House, the endless megabuck speeches, the Clintons' obvious coziness in plutocratic circles, the supposed internal infighting ...
The latest furball, over her e-mails as US secretary of state -- she ran them through a personal account on a personal server, thus keeping them separate from the supposedly accountable governmental system -- brought things to such a fevered state that she actually was compelled to hold a press availability yesterday afternoon in New York following a UN speech on women's rights.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the controversy over her e-mails following a UN talk on women's rights in New York City.
She did, well, well enough. She used one device instead of two and a personal account for "convenience." Do I buy that? Not for a second. But it's an answer. A bit more troubling is that she seemed a tad perturbed as the questioning went on.
Because she chooses to do things in a certain inimitable way, she had better get used to these sorts of questions. She evidently thinks this is small stuff. Well then, don't sweat the small stuff.
The truth is that none of this stuff -- irritating as each item may be with regard to how the Clintons do things -- is actually important enough to threaten her candidacy. There is nothing, so far at least, that makes for a compelling, specific storyline.
It's mostly process stuff, spun up by an excitable media culture that plays with these things, through tweets, snowballing chat shows, and so on, like a kitten with a ball of yarn. By the time the yarn is all over the floor, with no actual garment damaged, the kitten is chasing its tail. Till it discovers the next bit of yarn.
Unless there is a narrative driving an actual story that matters -- Hillary hiding damning correspondence proving XYZ -- it doesn't go anywhere beyond a tsk tsk "pattern of behavior" sort of thing.
Remember, Hillary is an extremely well-known figure, one of the best known people on the planet. It's not exactly unknown that she tends to be more high-handed, secretive, cozy with big money elites than is best.
I believe that most people have lowered their expectations about her and Bill, not to mention politicians and politics in general.
Bill certainly survived and even thrived in the end amidst his scandals.
As should be obvious, I'm not writing as a big fan of the Clintons. I was with Jerry Brown against Bill in '92 and favored Barack Obama over Hillary. And I'm not a fan of her performance as secretary of state, as long-time readers know.
The New York Times, which made a big deal of the e-mail revelation (so much for the liberal media conspiracy) is one of the remaining tribunes of narrative in American life. So it's made an attempt to craft a storyline linking the mega-fundraising for the Clinton family foundation with an actual issue through the supposed irony of the champion of women's rights being part of an operation that's gotten tens of millions from female-repressing Gulf Arab nations.
Yes, that is ironic, but not very. For that to be a real story, we'd have to see Hillary undermining women's rights as a result of the donations from Saudi Arabia and other conservative Arab states. But that's not the story and, suspicious as I sometimes am of Hillary, I just don't see her doing that.
To be clear, all these things are problems for Hillary. They just don't mean that she's going down. They are negative elements, but they are sadly just as much if not more about the deplorable state of politics and public discourse in contemporary America as they are about her.
The biggest problem for her is her lack of rationale, of compelling message or mission.
I believe that Hillary is running for president because she is ambitious, not because she is on a mission to lift up our civilization and move America into the the future.
That seemed clear enough with her snorer of a book, the incongruously titled "Hard Choices," which, embracing an all-of-the-above agenda amidst its tediously pleasant travelogue, was about pretty much anything but.
Electing the first woman president is a good thing to do, but it's not enough of a reason. Her gender is certainly no panacea, as recent history has shown around the world, and in Hillary's case may even lead her to be more accepting of boneheaded military interventions to demonstrate her "toughness."
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