December 1, 2007

Are Democrats starting to take a serious look at Hillary Clinton’s electability?

Ask Democrat Ann Cunningham what she’s shopping for in a presidential candidate and she replies, “I want a winner, first and foremost.” She’s still mulling which Democrat is most likely to deliver the White House.

Iowa Democrats displayed a practical bent in their leadoff nomination contest four years ago. Many were upset about the war in Iraq. But in the end they abandoned Howard Dean, the anti-war former governor, in favor of Sen. John Kerry, a Vietnam combat veteran who had voted to authorize the war.

If Scott Rassmussen is right – a recent poll shows Clinton’s unfavorable numbers at a whopping 52%! – maybe they are.

Clearly something is going on in the backrooms of certain once-formidable mainstream dino-media outlets who, at one time, one would expect to absolutely swoon over anything Bill and Hillary Clinton. How, for example, can you explain articles like this – in the Washinton Post, at that?

Or, incredibly, this column, by none other than the New York Times Maureen Dowd, trashing Her Coldness and Joyless on her often vaunted “years of expertise”.

Or, this from the L.A. Times, which for once refused to gloss over Madame President’s, er, imperfections:

As a boss, she inspired equal amounts of devotion and fear. She built an insular White House fiefdom known as Hillaryland, surrounding herself with a tightknit band of loyalists who skillfully advanced her causes, but who were also criticized for isolating her from political realities.

Hillaryland’s denizens began to jokingly refer to themselves as “the Stepford Wives.” Their unflinching devotion gained them wide berth in the West Wing.

Staffers were expected to work grueling hours and report back any development that involved the first lady. She kept them busy with news clippings that she covered with scrawled questions and filed in a cardboard carton in her office.

Mistakes were tolerated, but Clinton led intense post-mortems to keep her people focused. A well-aimed glare or a roll of the eyes told them all they needed to know. “She’d stare at us and say, ‘Who was the cause of this?’ And all of us would raise our hands,” press assistant Neel Lattimore recalled.

…She appeared sensitive to scrutiny from the start. Just three days after her husband gave her authority over the healthcare plan, she was already considering limits on public access to the plan’s records. In a Jan. 28, 1993, memo, deputy counsel Vincent Foster advised the first lady and Ira Magaziner, who devised the complex healthcare process structure, that task-force records might be withheld from release under the Freedom of Information Act if the files remained “in the control of the president.”

Her response is not known because many of her healthcare documents have not been released. The Clinton library in Little Rock has released scores of healthcare memos sent to the first lady. But none of her own memos or notes is available, and though some are now scheduled for release early next year, others may remain locked away until after the 2008 election.

Her doggedness was not matched by her coalition-building skills. Chicagoan Dan Rostenkowski, the gruff, powerful former House Ways and Means chairman, felt that congressional committees should lead the way. “None of the people in your think tank can vote,” he recalls telling Clinton. “She wasn’t persuaded.”

She courted skeptical Senate Finance Chairman Daniel Patrick Moynihan, but undercut the stroking with threats. At a weekend retreat after the State of the Union address in 1993, she dismissed worries about meeting a 100-day deadline set by her husband for a healthcare bill. Asked what would happen if they were late, she said: “You don’t understand. We will demonize those who are blocking this legislation and it will pass.”

“She was naive,” recalled former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, who was in the audience.

Taken individually, each of these bluer-than-blue dino-media pieces might be shrugged off as opinion or outliers in the sea of “inevitability” the Clinton campaign has sought from the very beginning to till their boat upon. One might expect this kind of thing from more conservative mouthpieces like the New York Post or Washington Times, but USA Today, the WaPo, NYTimes, and LA Times? No, something is afoot here.

If you ask me, the odds are pretty fair that it’s only going to get worse for Ms. Clinton. As soon as you take away the whiff of inevitability from a candidate, all bets are off. The Clinton campaign has spent an inordinate amount of time trying to shield their candidate from the media, and while you can do that, perhaps, with an “inevitable” candidate, if that person suddenly finds themselves in a horserace, accessibility and accountability begin to trump inevitability.

I’ve always believed that, unlike her husband, Hillary is just not as likeable person to the average Joe and Jane, and the more people get to see her, the more they would come to realize that: a) she’s not made of presidential timber, and b) she’s as phony as a three-dollar bill. The fact that political lightweights such as Barack Obama and John Edwards are now starting to give her a run for her money (both literally and figuratively) illustrates this, and is NOT a good sign. The mainstream dino-media know that; hence, they’re starting to pick away at her in a variety of ways.

Democrats would be wise to re-think the Hillary basket they seem to want to toss all of their eggs into. Like her or respect her or not, no one can argue that she, more than any other candidate in the field on both sides, remains a polarizing candidate who will, in the end, generate a far larger anti-vote than any other. This has to be in the back of many Democrats’ minds, and of far greater concern than they’ve showed just far.

Methinks that in the coming weeks, you’ll start to see more articles of a similar stripe.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:47 | Comments (2)
  1. “The fact that political lightweights such as Barack Obama and John Edwards are now starting to give her a run for her money … illustrates this, and is NOT a good sign.” Ditto that. Those who began early to wash off their association with the Clintons may well succeed. But for those who continue to cling to the Titanic, believing it’ll soon right itself, keep on hanging on:

    Comment by Peggy McGilligan — December 3, 2007 @ 12:46 pm

  2. Thanks for the post, Peggy, and welcome to The Nation! I agree with you – the Democratic Party needs the Clintons as much as the Clintons need them. While many voters may be starting to rethink Hillary, I cannot belive the party insiders would ever let that happen.

    Comment by The Great White Shank — December 3, 2007 @ 5:28 pm

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