GRAND FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA, August 18, 2014 — Those speculating on whether Hillary Clinton will run for President need to find a new game to play. She already is running. She has not formally announced, but there is no way a woman of such blind ambition is going to forego trying to win the most powerful job in the world.
Her actions in the public eye are every bit in keeping with the formula for a presidential run. Those willing to retire gracefully from public life do not announce it. They quietly disappear. Anybody going out of their way to be in the public eye more than two years before the election is running.
By now everybody knows the woman who changed her name from Hillary Clinton to Hillary Rodham Clinton to merely “Hillary” depending on her husband Bill’s popularity. Her supporters point to her intelligence and her potential to make history as the first female American president. Her critics remind everybody that she is a cutthroat, vicious, corrupt individual who makes Lady MacBeth seem ethical by comparison.
Hillary is perceived as a woman who will say anything and do anything in her quest for power and control. Despite her every move being dissected, one burning question about this woman remains.
Does Hillary Clinton stand for anything? Does she have any core beliefs at all? Or is she really a soulless robot who asks pollsters to convene focus groups to decide what she should say, think and feel at any given moment?
Conservatives have always criticized her, but liberals view her with suspicion as well. Her husband’s presidency became synonymous with the word “triangulation,” the strategy of occupying the middle ground and being above the petty partisan bickering of both extremes. Bill Clinton mastered this strategy, but it is easy to be above the fray when nothing is happening. Bill Clinton was gift-wrapped an internet boom on the economic front and a world that fit snugly between the Cold War and September 11th.
When Hillary tried the same strategy on Iraq, she failed miserably. Bill Clinton adviser Dick Morris, the inventor of the triangulation strategy, opined that, “you cannot triangulate a war.”
Most Democrats voted against going to war in Iraq, but the major Democrats considering a run for the White House voted for the war. Senators John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton all voted yes on the resolution authorizing force.
When the war became unpopular, she turned against it while simultaneously refusing to apologize voting for it. She jumped on the “(President George W.) Bush lied” bandwagon despite her having the same information based on her spot on the intelligence committee. When asked to explain herself, she twisted herself into a pretzel by saying she was “lied to.”
She has a history of talking tough and then reversing gears. She insisted that Iraq was a distraction from the “good war” in Afghanistan. Yet when the national mood soured on Afghanistan, she was ready to pull out of there as well.
As Secretary of State, she favored a hard line against Syria. When President Obama’s “red line” became meaningless, she kept quiet and allowed up to 170,000 Syrians get slaughtered. This is in keeping with her long tradition of speaking about human rights while turning a blind eye to genocide. 800,000 Rwandans died on her husband’s watch while she stayed silent.
In the culture wars, Hillary has always been willing to take a position after the outcome has already been decided. Whether one is for gay marriage or against it, there is no denying that Hillary has been all over the map.
She supported her husband signing the “Defense of Marriage Act,” citing her Christian beliefs.
She then came out in support of gay marriage in 2012 after Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama did first. She was still a Christian. She claims that her position “evolved,” but her evolutions seem to always coincidentally occur right before she seeks her next political promotion.
Her evolutions always go in the same direction as popular sentiment.
Even on the least controversial of issues, Hillary often cannot offer a simple rationale for her policy positions. Take something as dry as the capital gains tax. Bill Clinton cut the capital gains tax rate from 28% to 20%. George W. Bush cut it further to 15%. In both cases the stock market and the overall economy responded positively. Yet Hillary in 2008 promised that if she were elected, she would raise it back to 20%. She claimed that she wanted the rate returned to what it was in the 1990s because “things were pretty good in the 1990s.”
This defies common sense. She was in effect claiming that her husband found the magic number of 20% that would be forever right, and that the decision to raise or lower the rate was irrelevant. This is how she could support lowering rates when he was president but raising them in her potential administration. Lowering rates was good when Democrats were in charge but bad when Republicans ran things. This is how she could describe the 1980s mergers and acquisitions on Wall Street as the “decade of greed” while praising the even larger Wall Street mergers and acquisitions of the 1990s as a booming economy to be lauded.
When Bill Clinton was elected with only 43% of the vote in 1992, she cited the Electoral College as proof of his mandate. When George W. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000 but won a narrow Electoral College victory, she proposed abolishing the Electoral College. When Barack Obama won a 2008 Electoral College victory much larger than his popular vote margin, Hillary was back supporting the Electoral College and the Obama governing mandate.
Whenever she is criticized for her reversals, she claims sexism or some other sinister motive on the part of her critics. This hollow strategy fails because plenty of women from Senator Elizabeth Warren to Governor Nikki Haley take clear stands on issues.
Hillary’s behavior is not new. In 1964 the Vietnam War was popular. She ran the local College Republicans and campaigned for Barry Goldwater. By 1966 the war had become massively unpopular. She then became an anti-war protester and raging leftist.
During her husband’s presidency, she was a dove. After 9/11, she portrayed herself as a hawk. Her supporters can claim that she is brilliant at capturing the national mood, but the truth is that her conversions are reactive. That is being a follower, not a leader.
In 2008 Hillary tried to portray herself as a centrist. The primary voters saw her as a craven opportunist lacking authenticity. As she prepares for 2016, those concerns seem as valid as ever. The Democratic party was willing to vote for a mediocre individual solely because he was pas partially black. They are desperate to vote for another mediocre individual solely because she is a woman. Yet even the most obsessed identity politics players are hoping for a different woman such as Warren.
The only debate over Hillary is why she refuses to show everybody her core beliefs. One possibility is that like her husband, she does not have any. The other possibility is that like Obama, she has to hide her beliefs until after she gets elected. Based on her history, the most likely explanation is the latter.
What Hillary has never seemed to grasp is that the presidents who publicly stated what they believed and governed based on their deeply held principles were among the better presidents. This crosses the political spectrum from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan. Presidents in the Bill Clinton mode spend their entire presidency reacting. They go out of their way to excite nobody and offend nobody. Boldness is replaced with blandness. This is why Clinton, and to a lesser degree George Herbert Walker Bush, are regarded as average presidents. Clinton was just “there,” an inconsequential placeholder.
Unlike Bill, Hillary does not seem content to just “be” president. She is an activist at heart, and activists obsess over dong things whether the American public wants them or not. Hillary’s reluctance to give people the slightest hint on what she would do if given the job means that deep down she knows the public does not want to buy what she is selling. Obama was personally likable, but for the same reason never offered specifics.
The staunchest Hillary defenders will say that it is still early. After all, focusing on the 2016 election before the 2014 midterms take place makes little sense. The real truth is that Hillary has spent her entire life hiding from the public who she really is. Her hairstyle changes are poll tested, voter approved. In over two decades of public life, she has never taken a bold stand on anything and then backed up her words with matching actions. When the going gets tough, she gets going in the other direction.
Over two decades in public life is more than enough time for anybody to have developed guiding principles and the ability to explain them in the public forum. After eight years of economic and foreign policy pain due to an unprepared leader, Americans have every right to ask what their next leader believes. Bush Senior called it “the vision thing.”
It is time for Hillary to stop hiding. If she stands for anything at all, it is her responsibility to tell the American people what that may be.
If she remains hidden in her shell out of fear of being disliked, Americans have every right to conclude that her shell is an empty one.