Politics, et Cetera
A publication from The Political Forum, LLC
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
They Said It:
Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Brutus and Caesar—what should be in that “Caesar”?
Why should that name be sounded more than yours?
Write them together, yours is as fair a name.
Sound them, it doth become the mouth as well.
Weigh them, it is as heavy. Conjure with ‘em,
Cassius in William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” 1599.
HILLARY CLINTON: THE EVITABLE INEVITABILITY.
We’re going to go out on a limb and predict that Hillary Clinton will NOT be the next President of the United States. We’re not sure who will be. We only know that it won’t be Hillary.
Now, we realize we’re not exactly breaking new ground here. Indeed, a surprising number of commentators have noted over the last several weeks that Hillary looks far more vulnerable than she once did. And they had good reason to do so. Among other things, her recent, highly publicized book tour not only didn’t sell many books but turned out to be a painful reminder of why the Democrats chose Barack Obama over her six years ago. And lest anyone say that she lost to one of the greatest campaigners of all time, we would argue that his political skills are vastly overrated. In any case, neither he nor she could carry Hillary’s husband’s jockstrap, not that anyone would want to do such a thing.
Truth be told, we’re not all that interested in Hillary’s shortage of political skills. We’ve always known that she is sadly lacking in some of the most elementary aspects of this trade. She’s not funny. She’s not interesting. She’s not engaging. And she is overly pleased with herself, and shows it. What’s to like?
Yes, we know, this lack hardly disqualifies her or anyone else from competing in the center ring. Take a look, if you will, at the list of presidential nominees that the two parties have dug up over the last few election cycles. Mitt Romney was a nice enough man, but then, a truly talented politician doesn’t find himself alienating nearly half the electorate by saying – in public – that he believes them to be little more than leeches sucking the life force from the productive half of the country. As for John McCain and John Kerry, it would be hard to imagine two less likable and less engaging politicians; crusty and condescending aren’t on the top of anyone’s list of ideal presidential characteristics. In fact, one could argue Barack Obama won only because he looked so spectacular by comparison.
In other words, our prediction about Hillary’s success isn’t entirely based on the fact that she is a hack with limited skills at best. That alone wouldn’t stop her. No, her real problems are far bigger and far more serious.
For starters, she was not wise enough to separate herself from the Obama administration when she had the chance and when it made sense to do so. Anyone with even the slightest sense of politics could tell by the 2010 midterm elections, if not sooner, that “the One” was far over his head and was destined to be a massive disappointment. Hillary had put in her time, and there was absolutely nothing for her to gain by staying, but everything to lose.
The result was that she squandered what little credibility she had gained from being Bill’s putative partner in high stakes politics. Perhaps she considered herself to be invulnerable. After all, the amazingly forgiving American voters never stopped regarding her as a reasonable and believable person despite her many close calls with outright corruption. Recall that she had a brief but remarkable career as a cattle-futures whiz made possible just by reading the newspaper. Recall as well that her finger prints were literally all over a box of subpoenaed records that went missing for more than two years; that her finger-prints were figuratively all over the unwarranted firing of the White House travel staff and the equally unwarranted hiring of a former bouncer who wound up pilfering FBI files; that she blamed her husband’s fidelity issues on a vast conspiracy of some sort or another; and that she even ran for the Senate from a state in which she never lived.
In short, Hillary has survived many disasters, but she won’t be able to survive the biggest of them all, namely Barack Obama.
As it turns out, the Obama administration’s bungling and duplicity with respect to the Benghazi attacks were the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back in Hillary’s case. And her involvement in the whole stinking mess was simply more than the public could stand. She might have gotten away with it, if her part in the tragedy had been limited to simple negligence regarding the State Department’s handling of security at the facility. But her performance in the aftermath was mind-bogglingly bad even without the ludicrous, faux-outrage she ginned up as she famously/infamously yelped: “what difference, at this point, does it make . . .?”
Of course, it is not just Benghazi alone. Since that attack, the already-shaky Obama foreign policy has completely collapsed. Russia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, China, Iran, etc. have all exploded in his face over the last eighteen months. And as his Secretary of State for his entire first term, Hillary has been badly injured by the shrapnel. Not only can she not point to any significant accomplishments, her lack of success in critical diplomatic affairs is palpable. And it will hurt her badly in 2016.
We had assumed – and predicted – that Hillary and Bill would have anticipated Obama’s failures and thus would have made a much quicker exit from the administration. In her new book, Hillary second guesses her old boss, knocking Obama for his handling of Hosni Mubarak, the Israel-Palestinian peace process, and other assorted foreign policy disasters. This criticism rings hollow now. But it wouldn’t have if she had left the administration earlier – say in late 2010, early 2011.
She could have said, “I tried. God knows I tried. But I couldn’t get through to the man. So I left.” As it is, she is now just as much associated with Obama’s failures as he is. And as these failures continue to metastasize, her standing will continue to plummet. Moreover, her post-hoc disavowal of Obama’s foreign policy makes her look disingenuous – or more disingenuous – and opportunistic. “It was my foreign policy when you liked it, but his now that you don’t.”
By far and away, though, Hillary’s biggest problem is the fact that she is Hillary Clinton and over the last five years or so, being Hillary Clinton – or anyone like her – has become something of a liability. Certainly, it is not the unqualified advantage it once was.
Let us explain.
As you have likely heard, Miss Hillary has a money problem, which is to say that she is fabulously wealthy and yet still considers herself just an ordinary gal from the neighborhood who has to scrimp and save and take a tax right-off for donating her husband’s skivvies to charity.
To most on the Left, this is a non-issue. ALL presidential candidates are rich, after all. And even Hillary’s vast fortune can’t compare with that of Mitt “Uncle Pennybags” Romney. So what’s the big deal? Well, the way it is seems to work among the lefties, is that your free pass from the press doesn’t last forever. That is, at some point, if your armor becomes a little tarnished you can come under limited fire from previously friendly sources. Kind of disciplinary warning, so to speak. And this is not good news for a Democrat in good standing. A case in point was a recent comment by The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus.
Dear Secretary Clinton,
Please consider this in the nature of a friendly intervention. You have a money problem. It’s time to deal with it before it gets worse.
Actually, you have two money problems. The first is how you talk about it. The second is how you collect it — or, to be more precise, the fact that you’re still frenetically collecting it.
Let me be clear at the outset: The issue isn’t that you’re rich, or even that you and your husband became rich after leaving office. American voters don’t have a problem with wealthy candidates or even wealthy ex-presidents and ex-officials.
They have a problem with wealthy candidates who are whiny and/or defensive about their wealth; who are greedy and/or ostentatious in their acquisition and display thereof; or whose wealth makes them, or makes them appear to be, out of touch with the concerns of everyday people. Your difficulties, at the moment anyway, appear to be chiefly in the first two categories: defensiveness and greed.
Not a knockout punch. But a warning. Marcus claims the problem with “how” Clinton collects her money is a question of volume and vigor. Hillary is too enthusiastic about making money, which leaves her looking greedy, which is bad. One assumes that Marcus realizes that Hillary’s problem isn’t only about the appearance of greed, that Marcus is pulling her punch. Helping an old friend out a little. Warning that old friend that the next shot could be the knockout blow, if she doesn’t stop wobbling and messing up the Left’s political chances.
Unfortunately for Hillary and Ruth Marcus, the damage has already been done.
The real issue here is not how Hillary collects her money, but how she makes it. And how Bill makes his. And how these two people who haven’t had real jobs outside of government in more than two decades have managed to amass a personal fortune equivalent to some of capitalism’s greatest entrepreneurs. In his appearance on the Hugh Hewitt radio show last week, the inimitable Mark Steyn came a great deal closer than Ruth Marcus to explaining the problem:
The problem here is it’s a Mitt Romney problem. When Mitt ran, people talked about Bain Capital, and a lot of people couldn’t understand what Bain Capital did. You know, he would talk about Staples, but everyone understood he wasn’t the guy who invented Staples, he wasn’t the guy who worked in stationery and office equipment and built up a chain of stores. Somehow Staples had fallen his way, and he turned it around. And people couldn’t quite equate that as work. And I think it’s actually even worse for Hillary Clinton, because she and Bill Clinton are stinkingly rich just from giving $200,000 speeches to rather shady and shifty figures from the United Arab Emirates. That’s basically how they’ve got rich . . . People don’t mind money, and people don’t mind Bill Gates having a ton of money, people don’t mind Steve Jobs making a ton of money. But this is hard-to-explain kind of money.
But even Steyn doesn’t have it all right. Yes, Bill and Hillary have become “stinkingly” rich just from giving speeches. But that’s really not all that hard-to-explain. Bill and Hillary Clinton are being paid for being Bill and Hillary Clinton. That’s it. Period. They don’t make anything. They don’t do anything. They don’t offer anything – other than the fact that they are who they are. Like Kim Kardashian, Bill and Hill are famous for being famous. The only difference between them and her, of course, is that Kim Kardashian’s father earned the money that allowed Kim to become famous. Bill and Hillary didn’t. They just had it handed to them.
In a strange but somewhat relevant recent article on the issue of the Clintons’ money, the New Yorker’s Jonathan Chait wonders “How has Hillary Clinton been suddenly transformed into Marie Antoinette ” in just six short years? That’s a stupid question. Hillary hasn’t been transformed. She has been the same old Hillary for a very long time. But then again, neither was Marie Antoinette transformed. She was Marie Antoinette long before she was “Marie Antoinette.” Which is to say that Marie Antoinette was an historically insignificant nobody married to an historically insignificant King of France and was changed into an everlasting symbol of ostentatious wealth and obliviousness not by anything she did but by the changing circumstances in the country, which made her an object of enmity and revulsion. The same thing has happened to Hillary. She’s is the same person she has always been. It is the country that has changed. Or, to be more precise, as was the case with Marie Antoinette, the people’s perception of her has changed.
As you may well have heard, the GOP has been fractured over the last several years by the emergence of this thing called the “Tea Party.” The Tea Party, in turn, represents the public expression of immense and unrelenting dissatisfaction with the ruling class, the people who presume to make all of the important decisions in the country and who have, over the last few decades, come to make those decisions based on their own personal beliefs, desires, and interests rather than those of the people they represent or of the country as a whole. The “ruling class,” as it turns out, is generally less well liked today than it was five years ago. Our old friend Angelo Codevilla put it this way four years ago in the seminal work on the subject:
Never has there been so little diversity within America’s upper crust. Always, in America as elsewhere, some people have been wealthier and more powerful than others. But until our own time America’s upper crust was a mixture of people who had gained prominence in a variety of ways, who drew their money and status from different sources and were not predictably of one mind on any given matter. The Boston Brahmins, the New York financiers, the land barons of California, Texas, and Florida, the industrialists of Pittsburgh, the Southern aristocracy, and the hardscrabble politicians who made it big in Chicago or Memphis had little contact with one another. Few had much contact with government, and “bureaucrat” was a dirty word for all. So was “social engineering.” Nor had the schools and universities that formed yesterday’s upper crust imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed. All that has changed.
Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters — speaking the “in” language — serves as a badge of identity. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct. Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector. Some, e.g., Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, never held a non-government job. Hence whether formally in government, out of it, or halfway, America’s ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government.
The two classes have less in common culturally, dislike each other more, and embody ways of life more different from one another than did the 19th century’s Northerners and Southerners — nearly all of whom, as Lincoln reminded them, “prayed to the same God.” By contrast, while most Americans pray to the God “who created and doth sustain us,” our ruling class prays to itself as “saviors of the planet” and improvers of humanity. Our classes’ clash is over “whose country” America is, over what way of life will prevail, over who is to defer to whom about what. The gravity of such divisions points us, as it did Lincoln, to Mark’s Gospel: “if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”
For variety of reasons, the enmity between the ruling class and the country class has grown exponentially in the period since Hillary Clinton last ran for president. TARP and the associated bailouts stirred the proverbial pot, as did Obama’s first act in office, namely the so-called “stimulus,” an overwhelming percentage of which went to bailing out fellow members of the ruling class. Then came health care reform, financial services reform, global warming bills and regulations, comprehensive immigration reform, and on and on and on. And in each and every case, the political class pushed legislation the primary function of which was to help the ruling class.
Three weeks ago, then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated in his primary contest against a largely unknown and woefully underfunded candidate (economics professor David Brat). There were a number of reasons why Cantor became the first House Majority leader to lose such a campaign in the 115 year history of the office, but taken in sum, they all pointed to the fact that Cantor had, fairly or unfairly, become the face of the Republican establishment, which is to say that he had become the face of ruling class to the Republicans in his Virginia district.
In a similar, but much grander way, Bill and Hillary Clinton have become the faces of the ruling class for the entire country. They are creatures of Washington. They have always been creatures of politics. And they have never done anything else. In his description of the ruling class, Codevilla notes that the one tie that binds the “rulers” together is their reliance on government. To wit:
What really distinguishes these privileged people demographically is that, whether in government power directly or as officers in companies, their careers and fortunes depend on government. They vote Democrat more consistently than those who live on any of America’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Streets. These socioeconomic opposites draw their money and orientation from the same sources as the millions of teachers, consultants, and government employees in the middle ranks who aspire to be the former and identify morally with what they suppose to be the latter’s grievances.
Could anything better describe or explain Bill and Hillary – and Chelsea! – Clinton? Hillary hasn’t worked outside of the government in several decades. Bill has never had a private-sector job. His foundation, of course, is funded by the rest of the ruling class and is aimed at “solving” exactly the problems Bill Clinton and the ruling class think need solving, i.e. “what they suppose to be the” global poor’s “grievances.” Or, as the Foundation web site puts it, “We convene businesses, governments, NGOs, and individuals to improve global health and wellness, increase opportunity for women and girls, reduce childhood obesity, create economic opportunity and growth, and help communities address the effects of climate change.”
As for Chelsea, the progeny of no apparent skill and no apparent talent, she has had a hand in every profession of the ruling class, including having been paid $600,000 a year by ABC for . . . well . . . almost nothing. She laments, however, from her $10.5 million apartment, that she tried to “care about money,” but just couldn’t. Poor little rich girl. And so now she too works at convening the ruling class talk about the problems of the accursed canaille.
In her hand-wringing column about Hillary, written as a letter to Hillary, the aforementioned Ruth Marcus advises the former and future Democratic frontrunner directly, insisting that “the issue isn’t that you’re rich, or even that you and your husband became rich after leaving office. American voters don’t have a problem with wealthy candidates or even wealthy ex-presidents and ex-officials.” This is true, but only to a certain point.
It is true that Americans don’t have a problem with rich candidates. It is also true that they don’t have a problem with ex-politicians making a little money. But the Clintons are in a completely different league in both cases than anyone else in recent memory. With the possible exception of Jack Kennedy, every American president since World War II has worked for a living. Some of them – i.e. the Georges Bush – may have come from wealthy families and may not have needed to work, but even they found jobs, started businesses, failed at business ventures and the like. Truman was a haberdasher. Eisenhower was, well, Eisenhower. Johnson was a high school teacher (believe it or not). Nixon was an attorney. Ford and Carter (and Kennedy, for that matter) were naval officers, and then Carter farmed peanuts. And Reagan starred in movies with monkeys. Clinton is alone among the post-War president’s in never having done anything but work in government.
Clinton is also alone among ex-presidents when it comes to wealth gained after leaving office. He alone has maintained a global profile. He alone has sought out multi-million dollar book fees. He alone has gone from “dead broke” to “stinking rich” simply by being himself. Others made money, to be sure. But none made the kind of money Bill has. And none sought it so vociferously and for so little in return. With an estimated net worth approaching $100 million, Bill Clinton is now worth more than the Georges Bush, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon, combined.
In her lament about how she and Bill were dead broke when they left the White House, Hillary kvetched that they “struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses.” This statement is telling, we think, and not just because of the plural in her description of their post-White House living arrangements. Obviously, in the wake of the credit crunch, recession, and housing market meltdown, many Americans have shared the Clintons struggles with respect to mortgages. Of course, most Americans aren’t the Clintons, which is to say that most Americans weren’t able to turn, in their time of need, to the former chief fundraiser for the Democratic Party, their own handpicked chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a crony-capitalist extraordinaire, and the future governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The apparently omnipresent Ruth Marcus, then just a staff writer, reported the story thusly in the September 5, 1999 edition of the Post:
After President Clinton and fund-raiser extraordinaire Terry McAuliffe played a round of golf in upstate New York on Tuesday, the president made an unscheduled visit to St. Camillus Nursing Home to visit McAuliffe’s ailing 79-year-old mother, Millie, who recently had hip replacement surgery.
Later in the week, McAuliffe returned the favor – and then some. When former White House chief of staff Erskine B. Bowles at the last minute balked at guaranteeing a $1.35 million mortgage for the Clintons’ new house in Chappaqua, N.Y., McAuliffe rode to the president’s rescue.
In a move that enables the Clintons to buy the house – and Hillary Rodham Clinton to have a base for her New York Senate run – the 42-year-old real estate developer and dealmaker pledged to put up $1.35 million in cash to secure a mortgage for the Clintons.
In the post-crash, Obama era, Bill and Hillary Clinton are the virtual embodiment of the ruling class, of the people who suffer no consequences for their actions and who have no understanding of the struggles of average Americans in this slow-growth, low-employment age. A couple of weeks ago, while speaking at the “Road to Majority” conference organized by the Faith and Freedom Foundation, Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana and presumed presidential wannabe in his own right, warned that the palpable sense of unrest and discontent among the country class continues to grow stronger day-by day. “I can sense right now a rebellion brewing among these United States, where people are ready for a hostile takeover of Washington, D.C.,” Jindal said, “to preserve the American dream for our children and grandchildren.” Part of us thinks that Jindal is simply engaging here in a little partisan hyperbole. But part of us doesn’t. Rather, part of us wonders where Jindal has been for the last five years. A rebellion “is brewing,” you say? We see it as fully brewed and thus steaming hot.
And it’s directed at the likes of Hillary Clinton.
At the risk of sounding like Ron Popeil: Wait! There’s more!
The worst part of all of this is that it leaves Hillary with absolutely no base at all for her run for the presidency, no core group of supporters, no one on whose votes she can conclusively count.
The hard-Left, of course, despises the Clintons and their squishy-soft “Third Way.” They chose Obama over her last time around because he was one of them, and she wasn’t. And after eight years of painful disappointment, the lefties will all but certainly and in typically leftist fashion, conclude that Obama’s problem wasn’t that he went too far, but that he didn’t go far enough. And they’ll find someone even to Obama’s left. There’s a reason that Senator Elizabeth Warren’s name gets bandied about so much as a potential presidential candidate, that is because she’s the only possible candidate they can think of who is both to Obama’s left and is allowed out at night without supervision. The Left will, in short, turn on Hillary with a vengeance and, we suspect, with Obama’s approval as well.
More to the point, given her new status as the money-grubbing face of the ruling class, Hillary is all but certain to lose the support of those who supported her primary candidacy most vigorously back in 2008, the working-class Scots Irish, whom most political observers these days call the “Jacksonian” Democrats.
Like all Southern Democrats – or what remains of them – Bill Clinton won his campaigns on the backs of the Jacksonians. He won the Scots-Irish, Appalachian states. He won the white working-class. And he won them all handily.
When it was her turn, in 2008, Hillary won them too. It is to forget now, given the passage of time and the seeming inevitability of “The One,” but Hillary won a lot of primary votes six years ago, and many of them came from Bill’s core supporters, the white working class Jacksonians. Some people, like Jonathan Chait, insist that “Clinton’s association with white working-class populism owes a great deal to the fact that she ran against a black person in 2008.” But that’s pure Leftist posturing. Hillary won the Jacksonians because, at the time, they thought she was one of them. Bill had always been. So they figured she was too.
The catch here is that these very same Jacksonians are the backbone of the populist revolution against the ruling class. They are the Tea Partiers, the newly non-partisan dissidents who want desperately to throw ALL the bums out. They were the ones most hurt by the recession and who have been slowest to recover in the “expansion.” They are the voters who tossed Eric Cantor out on his backside. And they are unlikely to be wooed by a politician who is worth a $100 million that she “earned” doing nothing and who spent the last four years associated with an administration that considered them bitter-clinging, toothless racists from flyover country.
Hillary Clinton is a politician without a base. She has no home state. Is it Arkansas? New York? Illinois? She has no particularly loyal supporters. And she has no constituency whatsoever. All she has is several truckloads of cash, which might have been an asset at another time, but which right now make her public enemy #1.
All of which is to say that Hillary Clinton will not be the next president of the United States. She and Bill may think of her as the country’s or even the world’s indispensable woman leader. But we suspect that they’re the only ones. Her role, if she has one, may be simply to ensure that the next president will be ABH, which is to say “Anyone But Hillary.”