The suspense was non-existent. “If” Hillary would run again has been “when” for a very long time. “How” was all that remained to be revealed, and her strategy for announcing was an effective alternative to her 2008 entitled-to-win-it grand opening. No big staged event, with American flags flying and hordes of supporters waving signs. No big speech. Just a short video on social media in which she didn’t come on camera until halfway through. Emphasis on “ordinary people” talking about their goals, aspirations and challenges. All topped off by her Elizabeth Warrenesque assertions that “the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top.”
And, if you doubted where she was going, she made it clear, at least thematically: “Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion” so they can do more than just get by, so they can get ahead. And then she and her aides and advisors took off on a bus to Iowa and elsewhere (presumably driving all the way from New York) for a series of small (intimate) meetings in homes and coffee shops. We know no more about where she wants to lead the country and how she wants to take us there than we did six months or a year ago. But it still felt right.
I confess (please don’t tell anyone) that I felt a tinge of pride as a fellow Wellesley College alum became the first woman to have a really solid chance of becoming President. Fortunately, those who would vote on the basis of gender alone are under 15 percent. Hillary certainly has more experience than anyone running in either party. She is as tough and savvy as any male candidate. The wonder is that, after all she has gone through, including the constant attacks from Whitewater on, she would want to subject herself to that again. But she is doggedly determined, which could make for a very strong leader.
Her supporters are “ready for Hillary,” and so are the Republicans. Her opacity in handling her emails, the questionable contributions to her foundation (and the potential conflicts of interest they imply), her ties to the Goldman Sachs crowd, all feed the unease about her, even among would-be supporters. According to a recent Bloomberg poll, her favorability swooped from 67 percent in January, 2013 to 49 percent right now. A majority of those polled find her untrustworthy. Seventy-two percent of Democrats and Independents think she needs a challenge for the nomination. They aren’t convinced of her inevitability and want her to be tested early and often. I agree.
Her acolytes claim this isn’t necessary, that she’s already been vetted. But just claiming vetting doesn’t make it so, and we need to hear more about the finances of her foundation. There are a lot of questionable entanglements Bill got into that need to be explored. And how does she square championing international women’s rights with taking big bucks from the Saudis and others who are so abusive toward women?
Will we revisit the Hillary fatigue factor, summed up musically back in 2007 by my colleague Rick Horowitz, an editorialist from Milwaukee Public Television.
She’ll be called upon for more specificity regarding her accomplishments as Secretary of State. Hard work and miles travelled don’t tell the whole story. Benghazi won’t go away. We need more details on areas in which she differed from President Obama, as she has said she did in the matter of arming dissidents in Syria. Where was she on the Afghanistan draw-down? What would she do differently in the deal with Iran to stop it from developing a nuclear bomb?
At this point, Hillary’s candidacy looks formidable, but polls are just a snapshot in time, and we’re still more than a year and a half from the general election. Hillary’s now in, and political junkies an informed citizens will watch with fascination how she articulates a vision, chooses sides in policy debates, and handles critiques from across the political spectrum on her character and record. And, by the way, we’ll also be watching Bill Clinton to see how he comports himself as he auditions for the role, as Saturday Night Live put it, as “first dude.”
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