The Hillary Primary


In an interview broadcast last Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that she wouldn’t serve in a second Obama Administration, in any capacity.  Insiders say she’s so unhappy about Obama’s paralysis on foreign affairs that she’s “looking for an exit” even sooner than 2012. 

For the first time, I feel a deep kinship with the former First Lady.  I’d like to find that exit, too.

There is much speculation over the possibility of Hillary running against Obama in the Democrat primary of 2012.  If she waits until 2016 to succeed him, or run against whoever beats him in the next election, she’ll be 69 years old.  Some observers think it’s now or never if she has any presidential aspirations.  She has occasionally said that she doesn’t, but will she really be content to finish her career as the unhappy Secretary of State to an incompetent Administration?

She was once hailed as a historic, transformational figure, but as things stand right now, she’s blazed no trails and broken no “glass ceilings.”  Her attempt to take over health care in 1994 was an epic disaster, barely remembered in the shadow of our new ObamaCare disaster.  She wasn’t the first female Secretary of State, nor has she been a particularly distinguished one – which isn’t entirely her fault, since her agenda is set by the President she has grown to palpably despise.  If history has anything to say about her at all, it’s as likely to speak of her role keeping Bill Clinton propped up in office during his impeachment drama, or her remarkable facility for shredding documents and raking in cattle futures profits.

That’s not much of a legacy for someone who was once portrayed as a stained glass saint on the cover of news magazines.  But a primary battle against the First Black President?  If she seriously wanted to win, she couldn’t run a cordial campaign declaring Obama to be a fine President who has every reason to occupy the Oval Office, and present herself as a modest alternative for those who just can’t bring themselves to vote for him.  In other words, she’d have to run a lot harder than John McCain did.

It’s hard to imagine any political party thriving after a bare-knuckle primary battle against an incumbent president.  Democrats would be telling the voters, “The last guy we put into the White House was a horrific failure we couldn’t even bring ourselves to support for re-election… but this new candidate is sensational!”  It’s hard for a party to re-introduce itself to voters, until the Loyal Opposition has been in the Oval Office for a while, and they’ve got something to run against.

Incumbents are tough to knock out of any office, but a President is viewed as the effective head of the party, the incarnation of voters’ emotional reaction to the party itself.  The Clintons are shrewd.  I doubt they would envy the task of driving the Democrat car in the 2012 Presidential Grand Prix after they’ve been forced to shoot out the tires and smash the windshield.

Around the time of the midterm elections, Obama mused in an interview that he wouldn’t mind being a “one and done” President who got a lot accomplished during a single, historic term.  Some wonder if he floated that idea to provide himself an honorable discharge from the 2012 campaign, consistent with the requirements of his ego… creating an opportunity for Hillary to painlessly slide into position as his successor.  At this point, I don’t see how Obama could possibly convince himself the American people would see him as a winner retiring for a well-earned rest after a fantastic presidency.  Not even the Libyan brand of delusional narcissism is strong enough to make a man that drunk.

For these reasons, I have to doubt Hillary Clinton plans to run in 2012, even if some remarkable set of circumstances made it a race for an open seat.  It’s a pity, because she’d bring a lot to the table, even in a doomed candidacy.  The race she ran against Obama in 2008 was rough, and she was treated badly, a fact her ardent supporters have not forgotten.  She seems wiser and more humble these days.  She’d do a good job of providing the serious voice in a conversation the Democrat Party desperately needs to have with itself.   

 I don’t have to agree with Clinton’s policies or ideals to think the country would benefit from a Party that was built more in her current image than Obama’s.  I suspect we are still many years away from seeing such a Party.