WASHINGTON, April 17, 2015 – The unusual video Hillary Clinton used to introduce her campaign has received critical reviews, from liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats.
That video was the latest step in the re-branding of Hillary Clinton.
Liberal columnist Richard Cohen wrote that,
“It looked like one of those Vaseline-lensed dog-food commercials, so lacking substance that I wondered if I had summoned the wrong video from the Internet…All I can remember is a bunch of happy people and Clinton saying something about being on the side of the middle class… I think it is no mere coincidence that the Clinton campaign now has the services of Wendy Clark, a senior marketing specialist from Coca-Cola. Maybe Clinton will ‘teach the world to sing.'”
The announcement video was followed by Clinton’s strange van ride to Iowa, complete with video of her ordering a burrito bowl at Chipotle. She did this while wearing dark glasses, as did her aide Huma Abedin, which produced security-camera pictures making if appear that they were traveling incognito.
She said that she would be an advocate for people like “the truckers that I saw on I-80 as I was driving here.”
Perhaps appealing to authenticity would fail in Mrs. Clinton’s case.
After losing to Richard Nixon in 1968, the Democratic Party candidate, Hubert Humphrey, conceded that his effort to be authentic, his real self, might have done him in: “It’s an abomination for a man to place himself completely in the hands of the technicians, the ghost writers, the experts, the pollsters and come out only as an attractive package.”
After all of her years in public life, no one really knows where Hillary Clinton stands on any issue. The one constant is her desire to be president. In a cover article “What Does Hillary Stand For?” THE ECONOMIST declares:
“For someone who has been on the national stage for a quarter-century, her beliefs are hard to pin down. On foreign policy, she says she is neither a realist nor an idealist but an ‘idealistic realist.’ In a recent memoir, she celebrates ‘the American model of free markets for free people.’
Yet to a left-wing crowd, she says,
‘Don’t let anybody tell you, that, you know, it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs.’…Some candidates’ views can be inferred from the advisers they retain, but Mrs. Clinton has hundreds, including luminaries from every Democratic faction. Charles Schumer, her former Senate colleague from New York, called her ‘the most opaque person you’ll ever meet in your life.'”
In THE ECONOMIST’s view,
“Skeptics raise two further worries about Mrs. Clinton. Some say she is untrustworthy—a notion reinforced by the revelation that she used a private server for her e-mails as Secretary of State, released only the ones she deemed relevant and then deleted the rest. The other worry, which she cannot really allay, is that dynasties are unhealthy, and that this outweighs any benefit America might gain from electing its first female president.”
The Clinton candidacy tells us a great deal about the current state of American politics. We often forget that public opinion is usually carefully manipulated, in the present era by an army of public relations consultants.
Discussing the start of a campaign some years ago, David R. Altman, chairman of the Altman, Stoller and Weiss advertising agency, assessed the influence of advertising upon American politics this way:
“The annual exercise in political irrelevance has begun. Once again, the American viewing public is being subjected to a barrage of flashy thirty and sixty-second spot announcements urging votes for this candidate or that.
T.V. has become the most destructive political force we have known.
It is an open invitation to the demagogue, a path to elective office for the incompetent but glib candidate, and it is a definite deterrent for the brilliant but full office seeker. It has changed the rules of the game of politics from ‘let the better candidate have a chance to win’ to ‘let the most appealing candidate win.”
Mr. Altman charged that,
“For the most part, political ads on t.v. perform what I consider to be a massive confidence game on the American people. Why? Because political commercials do not as a rule inform the electorate. They stimulate the emotions. They arouse passions. They polarize people on different sides of the political street. They use trickery—trick lighting, trick makeup, a full gamut of Hollywood special effects—and occasionally candidates have been known to tell lies on television. What has been the result? We consistently elect candidates who later ‘surprise’ us—-who turn out to be different from the image perceived during the campaign.”
The well known political consultant Davjd Garth once said “You’ve seen one of my campaigns, you’ve seen them all.”
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His technique was to put together cinema variety clips of his candidate and show them on television.
Illustrative of his technique was the 1969 reelection campaign of New York City Mayor John Lindsay, when Lindsay was an unpopular mayor. He won a second term in large part because of Mr. Garth’s advertising campaign in which Lindsay repeatedly told voters, “I made mistakes.” This approach, Garth recalled, was highly successful.
Now, Hillary Cljnton is trying to become a person different from the one all of us have come to know, realizing that victory in the presidential race requires such a radical make-over. Is this really going to be a successful enterprise? Former Sen Jim Webb of Virginia, who is considering a presidential run of his own, says that “people are looking for leadership they can trust” and that Americans would like to go back to the party of Harry S. Truman and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“Think about Harry Truman, what he would be saying to someone who told him he needed a consultant to show him how to dress or a lifestyle consultant to tell him that he needed to go to Wal-Mart. You know, we need people who will, in politics, lead the same way that they live.”
Enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is difficult to find among the liberal commentators who might be expected to be a bit more supportive. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote that,
“The choreographed launch was over-thought, over-produced and, in the scheme of things, not terribly important in details. Everyone already knew she was running.”
Hillary Clinton’s candidacy tells us a great deal about contemporary American politics, none of it good.