POLITICS
04/17/2015 02:35 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

One Hillary Clinton Think Piece To Rule Them All

MICHAEL B. THOMAS via Getty Images

This week, we were faced with the daunting prospect of having to make sense out of all the Hillary Clinton think pieces that were microwaved into existence after she decided to formally enter the 2016 presidential race. And there were so many pieces of "think" to go through! Millions of microscopic particles of thinking! It was all way too tiresome.

So, in lieu of adding to an already crowded canon, what follows is a Frankenstein's monster of everyone else's hasty Hillary musings. It is one brutal Hillary Clinton think piece to rule them all -- here presented with apologies to Jason O. Gilbert, whose joke we have stolen.

eye of thinkpiece

HERE IS A WRY COMMENT ABOUT A THING THAT HAPPENED

The wait is over. Well, the longest tease in American politics is officially over. There is no breaking news here.

It comes as no surprise to most but with a video released Sunday afternoon -- delivering what might be the least surprising news of the political season to date -- Clinton made it official. Ending two years of speculation and coy denials, Hillary Rodham Clinton announced on Sunday that she would seek the presidency for a second time, immediately establishing herself as the likely 2016 Democratic nominee.

For all the months of quiet and careful planning, however, her campaign's rollout did not come off as smoothly as envisioned. The moment was thrilling -- OMG she's doing it! -- as well as anticlimactic. The afternoon's blown; what's for dinner?

MY ATTENTION SPAN WAS SUFFICIENT TO WATCH A BRIEF VIDEO

The slick, two-minute video shows quick cuts of a carefully diverse collection of Americans explaining what they are getting ready to do over the next year, talking about the challenges they face. Maybe a bit too much stock footage. It could have been for auto insurance, or soap, or anything. The video was relentlessly, insultingly vapid -- a Verizon commercial without the substance. Adding insult to vacuousness was the demographic box-checking nature of the video, however beautifully filmed.

Hillary Clinton is almost the Zelig of this rather upbeat video. She shows up at the end of a very peppy video, outside a suburban home, with her voice sounding like she's trying to strike a positive note. "I'm running for president," she said with a smile near the end.

A friend just messaged me that he had watched the video and thought at the beginning that it was paid advertising content.

I REMEMBER SOME STUFF THAT HAPPENED BEFORE

Hillary Clinton has spent more than a quarter-century in the public eye as first lady, senator and secretary of State, and her life has been scrutinized, investigated and dissected. The biggest concerns now, by contrast, are internal: Can she avoid the managerial and strategic dysfunction that plagued her campaign in the 2008 primaries?

When Clinton first sought the presidency eight years ago, her most memorable words were "I'm running for president, and I'm in it to win it," a phrasing that critics viewed as reflecting a broader sense of entitlement. That announcement began a downward trajectory in which she went from being considered the inevitable nominee to finishing in third place in the Iowa caucuses, behind Mr. Obama and John Edwards.

Remember: cattle futures, the White House travel-office firings, and the missing Rose Law Firm files. Unethical or just paranoid? That could be a distinction without much difference. Doings of HRC's younger brothers, Hugh and Tony Rodham, will come in for scrutiny.

Above all, however, Hillary Clinton will struggle against the inevitability of her own campaign, the messianic pull of an office that has long eluded her and could once again be out of reach. But the truth is that this country is 230 years old and has had 43 presidents and not a single one of them has been a woman.

TIME FOR SOME FACT-FREE ASSERTIONS

Hillary Clinton has loomed so powerfully in the American consciousness for so long that it's hard to remember how delicate, how combustible, how ultimately improbable the project of electing her president is likely to be. Her longtime coziness in the ritzy Washington-to-Wall Street Acela corridor could drive away many voters. The lesson learned from 2008: Clinton isn't as comfortable going big -- a la Barack Obama or even her husband. Using social media, rather than a big balloon drop and confetti-laced rally, was a wise choice.

And then, there's the fact that the public is hungry for someone new, she is not somebody new. She is old. She is not the new.

I think people want to see change, want to see something new and Hillary Clinton is just not that person.

Above all, can she represent the future more than the past? I think she's going to try to run away from foreign policy.

Regardless, if Ms. Clinton stays in the race, she may want to eat at a Pizza Ranch at some point.

WHO IS "GEORGE H.W. BUSH?" FOR $200

It would be hard to name another politician who has her varied experience.

KATE MCKINNON DID A THING

The characterization of Clinton in popular culture also often holds her to be inauthentic and ruthless. This was emphasized one more time on the evening before her announcement, when NBC's "Saturday Night Live" began with Kate McKinnon playing Clinton. In some ways there was more substance in this week's "Saturday Night Live" skit on the making of the video, in which Hillary, played by Kate McKinnon, struggles to record herself on her phone, than in the actual finished product. It's an auspicious beginning for what could end up a 20-month run of SNL politics hall of fame sketches.

I WILL PAD OUT THIS PIECE WITH AS MANY EMPTY PLATITUDES AS I CAN COME UP WITH

The Hillary Clinton presidential campaign wants you to know one very important thing about the former First Lady, New York Senator and Secretary of State: She's just like you! She will also look for ways to demonstrate that, after more than three decades in public life, she understands the ways of modern campaigns and can appeal to younger voters. There's a final takeaway from everything we now know: Hillary wants to send the message that she's taking NOTHING for granted.

But she has yet to show she can marry her brand to this universe to mobilize voters or raise big money. It's all too clear she's acting at being down-to-earth rather than truly inhabiting her chosen role. Unscripted Hillary still feels scripted. That reality speaks to the fundamental truth of this race for Hillary: Her greatest attribute is that she's Hillary Clinton. Her greatest weakness is that she's Hillary Clinton.

So what could possibly go wrong? Everything. Anything. Anything and everything. Regardless of the outcome, Mrs. Clinton's 2016 campaign will open a new chapter in the extraordinary life of a public figure who has captivated and polarized the country since her husband, former President Bill Clinton, declared his intention to run for president in 1991.

THE OBVIOUSNESS OF THIS SENTENCE ESCAPED MY BARELY-WITH-IT EDITOR'S ATTENTION

Where Clinton's candidacy is likely to rise or fall is on how the American people respond to her personally.

USING SOME CLICHES, THE PIECE BUILDS TO AN ERSATZ CLIMAX

As Hillary Clinton prepares to end months of speculation, a new mystery is emerging: just what kind of president does she want to be? What does she stand for? Why does she want to be president? Clinton's early rollout is answering the process question (how the announcement will go down, etc.), but it isn't answering the message question (what her campaign will be about). Clinton cannot sustain this sort of aspirational politics in the more than 18 months between now and November 2016 without getting very specific.

She lacks: A clear rationale for her candidacy. What is Clinton's rationale for running? The bigger problem, in fact, is that she lacks a rationale for running. It's a cliché these days to say that the question hovering over Clinton's campaign is about its "rationale." Did Hillary Clinton talk about her rationale for running? I don't feel now that I know much more about her rationale or ideas for a candidacy than I did an hour ago. What is her rationale for running?

A FINAL THOUGHT IN A PIECE CONTAINING NONE

No one will remember or care weeks from now, if they do even now.

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