Hillary gauges how far is far enough from Obama's mounting stigma
By Andrew Malcolm
Posted 09:16 AM ET
Luring Hillary Clinton into his Cabinet as secretary of State for the entire first term was one of those rare political deals that both sides won. Clinton got an executive position and foreign affairs exposure, which her resume sorely lacked.
And Obama plopped his bitter Democrat primary rival into a non-political spot where she couldn't publicly second-guess him or his administration.
But that was then. This is now.
Now, we are less than 17 months from the Iowa caucuses, where Clinton finished a dismal third in 2008 behind Obama and even that John Edwards, another Democrat adulterer whose name must forever be whispered. And we are "only" 818 days from that November's election.
Clinton is clearly running. Conventional wisdom today holds that the Democrat Party's 2016 nomination is hers for the taking. Of course, the same conventional wisdom was dead-wrong in 2007-08 when Obama ran to her left opposing the Iraq war she had voted for. Again, Clinton will get a party rival to her left, this one with no expectation of winning, just making a reputation for later use.
Clinton's less-than-stellar record at the State Department, highlighted by nothing in particular and under-mined by the deadly, mysterious Benghazi debacle and video lies, will be widely debated in two years.
So, here's Hillary's challenge now: How do you claim executive expertise as a senior aide in an Obama administration when that man and administration are now so widely distrusted, disliked and disapproved?
Running as a third Reagan term worked fine for Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1988. But running as a third Obama term? Are you kidding? Which is why only Joe Biden thinks Joe Biden could realistically seek the Oval Office again.
What Clinton has to do -- and what she has already begun -- is separate herself from Obama enough to appear different and fresh in voters' eyes without looking traitorous to the Dem base, some of whom still adore the Chicago guy because of the free stuff and they can't admit they were wrong.
In effect, she's already running a general election campaign. But it's an especially tricky maneuver with an insular man as insecure and prickly as Obama.
After all, if Clinton disagreed on numerous significant issues, how come she chose to leave them out of her book, "Hard Choices"? And if Clinton later claims too many internal disagreements with Obama, the question becomes, Why did a lady of principle stick around so long?
OK, using the word "principle" in the same sentence with "Clinton" was rhetorical. And you might fairly ask how a controversial woman on the national stage for an entire generation could possibly be fresh? Richard Nixon pulled it off in 1968 after losing in 1960. But he never finished his second term.
Hillary Clinton started the separation process last week.
She told The Atlantic: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.” Obama had defended his diplomatic and strategic timidity last winter in a pithy capsule: "Don't do stupid stuff." Except he used an earthier s-word with four letters.
According to Clinton, she argued forcefully and in vain, for arming Syria's rebels early on. “The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton explained.
Characteristically, Obama delayed and delayed that decision. As he often has over doing anything real over Russia's Crimea annexation or its support of separatists within Ukraine. As he has over clamping down realistically on Iran's nuclear weapons program. And he's done it again with the Kurds, who've long been begging for modern weapons to do their own fighting against ISIL's barbarians.
The Baghdad regime blocked some $200 million-worth of U.S. weapons left for the Kurds in 2011 and the U.S. did nothing. Only now is the CIA supplying ammo and small arms, useless against ISIL's captured tanks.
Obama provided an answer to Clinton over Syria during a Friday interview with the New York Times:
"This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards.”
Clinton phoned Obama Tuesday to assure her fellow Chicagoan that the interview was no attack. Of course not. What silly person would ever think a former cabinet member calling a president's Syria policy a "failure" was an attack?
A Clinton aide also read a suck-up statement of glowing praise for Obama. The aide said the former senator looked forward to seeing the former senator at a Martha's Vineyard party fundraiser last night and "hugging it out."
Feel nauseous? Stock up on Dramamine. Much more of this to come.