Get ready for the dirtiest US presidential campaign in history.*
That’s the first thing that occurred to me when Hillary Clinton finally announced she would run for the presidency in 2016: “I’m running for president … Everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion … So I’m hitting the road to earn your vote — because it’s your time. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey.”
On day two of her journey, Mrs Clinton left her New York home in a mini-van for Iowa and, a few hours into the 1600km trip, the 67-year-old Democrat tweeted a picture of a friendly family at a Pennsylvania petrol station (photo above). On day three, she arrived in the important primary state of Iowa where she was greeted by some fellow travellers, if you’ll excuse the pun (photo tweeted below).
Mrs Clinton chose to launch her campaign on YouTube, using social media to appeal to “everyday” Americans and sounding like a first-time candidate and not one of the most famous women in the world. http://bit.ly/1IEUpXV
She doesn’t appear in the 2-minute video until 1.33, letting those ordinary and real Americans, not actors, talk about their aspirations for the future. And there is no Bill Clinton in sight.
Her husband and former president said he would take a backstage advisory role – a very good idea. Bill Clinton is popular, but like Hillary, brings a lot of baggage to her campaign. Some say he hindered, rather than helped, Hillary when she took on Barack Obama in 2008. He criticised Obama for claiming better judgment than Hillary on the Iraq War, which was later used by Mitt Romney in the 2012 campaign. http://huff.to/1DagloV
Then there’s Monica Lewinsky. David Taylor of the London Times reports on a new book that focuses on the White House staff – the butlers, the cleaners et al – who reveal all about life behind the scenes, for the presidents, first ladies and families and, in particular, the relationship between Bill and Hillary Clinton. According to The Residence, by Kate Andersen Brower, a member of the White House staff said Hillary literally threw the book at him. Cleaning staff discovered blood on the bed and the president claimed he had hurt himself running into the bathroom door. But the staff member said: “We’re pretty sure (Mrs Clinton) clocked with a book. Brower writes: “There were at least 20 books on the bedside table for his betrayed wife to choose from, including the Bible.” http://bit.ly/1FHjfA8
It gets juicier: Staffers had been watching the affair between the president and the intern well before the public found out in January 1998. Brower reports: “The butlers saw the president and Lewinsky in the family movie theatre, and the two of them were seen together so frequently that the workers started letting one another know when they’d had a Lewinsky sighting.” Brower goes on: “For three or four months in 1998, the president slept on a sofa in a private study attached to their bedroom on the second floor. Most of the women on the residence staff thought he got what he deserved.”
Tell me that the Republicans won’t use that against Hillary in the campaign if she wins the Democratic nomination, and I will have to beg to differ with you. They will use that as well as Mrs Clinton’s denial of the allegations of her husband’s affair with Lewinsky the day after he publicly denied it. It’s all there in the report by the independent counsel, Kenneth Starr, which led to the President’s impeachment by the House of Representatives on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. He was acquitted on both charges by the Senate in 1999.
The Republicans are already bagging Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal rather than a government email account while she was Secretary of State, donations from foreign governments, including Australia, to the Clinton Foundation from which she resigned yesterday, links to the recent Iran nuclear agreement, and the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya that led to the death of ambassador Chris Steven and three other Americans when she was secretary. I’m sure there will be more in the months to come.
Just a couple of examples: Libertarian Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist with his eyes on the presidency, had this to say on his Facebook page moments after her announcement: “if the liberal media has their way, her “campaign” will be nothing more than a coronation. But I’ll tell the truth about why Hillary’s disastrous record disqualifies her from the Presidency. My campaign team has produced a brand new ad showing why recent polling proves I’m the best Republican candidate to take on Hillary in 2016.” An excerpt from the slick, one-minute ad: “Hillary Clinton represents the worst of the Washington machine: arrogance of power, corruption and cover-ups, conflict of interest and failed leadership with tragic consequences.” http://on.fb.me/1JEE0QW
No one could ever accuse the New York Post of being part of the liberal media and predictably they ran stories about how New York Democrats were unmoved by the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, even the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio. He was Mrs Clinton’s campaign manager when she won the Senate race in New York, and she campaigned for him in his successful bid to become mayor. Mr de Blasio said he wouldn’t endorse her yet: “Not until I see — and, again, I would say this about any candidate — until I see an actual vision of where they want to go.” http://bit.ly/1FOBCWh
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, has joined Rand Paul and Texas Senator Ted Cruz as major candidates announcing their bid for the Republican presidential nomination. In a speech in Miami launching his campaign, he criticised Hillary Clinton as a leader from yesterday: “Yesterday is over. And we are never going back. Before us now is the opportunity to author the greatest chapter yet in the amazing story of America. We can’t do that by going back to the leaders and ideas of the past.” http://wapo.st/1CIpBgn
A great newspaper which has written many chapters in the amazing story of America, but which could not now be considered part of the liberal media, The Wall Street Journal, came out with a story by its national political editor, Peter Nicholas (with help from Rebecca Ballhaus), in which he reports the Clinton campaign has set a goal for itself: “Showing that she’s likeable. Period.” http://on.wsj.com/1aY8HF8
That’s why Hillary Clinton will seek more intimate settings like an Iowa cafe (photo above) where she can charm a smaller group of people, rather than large campaign rallies, as she did in 2008. According to Nicholas, Team Clinton says: “At large rallies, Clinton has trouble charming the audience. She can seem distant and unapproachable. Put her in a room with a small number of people and it is a different story.”
This reminded me of the criticism often aimed at Julia Gillard, who seemed to be a bit distant when being interviewed on television or addressing large crowds – except when she was angry (“I will not be lectured on misogyny by this man.”) – but in small gatherings, she exuded warmth and charm. I wrote about this in a blog post, “Let Julia be Julia,” after watching the then Prime Minister work her magic on the staff and crew of Channel Ten when she came in for an interview in June 2011 on Meet the Press (a show unfortunately axed by the Ten Network. It’s still in “hiatus,” as far as I know!). http://wp.me/p1Ytmx-F
I wrote at the time: “Julia Gillard is warm, charismatic, funny and engaging, and that doesn’t come across on television very often, but when you see her working a room as she did with our studio crew and observers last Sunday morning, you’d think she was a female Bob Hawke – and he is the best I’ve ever seen. Let Julia Gillard be Julia Gillard and the Labor Party and the country will be a better place as a result.” I haven’t been up close and personal with Hillary Clinton, but I’m betting she would be “warm, charismatic, funny and engaging,” if Team Clinton allows her to be so.
UPDATE: A friend of mine, Ron Javers, a former executive editor of Newsweek, recalls a lunch with editors (including then editor-in-chief of Esquire, Terry McDonell) and publishers convened by Ellen Levine, then editor-in-chief of Good Housekeeping Magazine and a rising star at Hearst, who’s now editorial director of Hearst Magazines. Ron writes: “After being introduced by Ellen, Hillary rose from her chair and, as she spoke, began moving around the room, speaking without notes, on a wide variety of political and national issues. She was quite knowledgeable and compelling, yet informal, witty and warm. She was not terribly well known in those early days of Bill’s candidacy for President, but it is safe to say she charmed that room of hard-boiled, high-powered New York publishing executives and editors. Some of them would be surprised that a few terms later, they would be voting for her as Senator Clinton of New York.” This augurs well for the Team Clinton’s Likeable Campaign.
The Clinton campaign comprises a formidable array of veterans from the family dynasty and newbies from the Obama team who helped defeat Hillary in 2008. Politico has prepared a guide to the most influential players, and there is a wealth of experience here: http://politi.co/1yjo3OJ
But the Republicans will do everything they can to portray Hillary Clinton as tough, mean-spirited, arrogant and a key member of an administration that has failed middle-class Americans. Barack Obama has said she will make an excellent president, but it’s unlikely she will be doing much campaigning with him, except in African-American constituencies.
And if former Florida governor Jeb Bush manages to overcome his baggage as a member of a controversial family including two former presidents, then it’s possible a Bush and a Clinton will be the main combatants in the 2016 presidential election campaign — déjà vu all over again.
It will be a long and winding road to the White House, with much mud thrown along the way.
*Footnote: According to Janice Turner of the London Times, it has already begun. She writes in a piece published in The Australian today: “Within 24 hours of Hillary declaring her run for president, I’ve seen her called a bitch. I’ve read that, at 67 — the same age as Ronald Reagan and younger than John McCain — Hillary is too old and that Bill O’Reilly on Fox News believes ‘there’s got to be a downside to a woman president’.” http://bit.ly/1H59mjH
Get ready for the dirtiest US presidential campaign in history.*