Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Power of Hillary

"Hillary Clinton really is one of the weakest . . . nominees with whom the Democrats could be saddled."

"Democrats are worried sick about her chances."

"Just give someone else a chance, so we in the Democratic Party can elect a Democrat."

"She cannot possibly, possibly win."

Yada, yada, yada.

We've heard all this "Hillary can't win stuff" before. In fact, the quotes above aren't from recent weeks but from six years ago, when many pundits -- and Democrats -- said there was no way that Hillary could get elected to the Senate. She won by 12 percentage points.

We don't know if Hillary is going to run for president, but as advisers who have worked on the only two successful Democratic presidential campaigns in the past couple of decades, we know that if she does run, she can win that race, too.

Why? First, because strength matters. Our problems as a party are less ideological than anatomical: Our candidates have been made to look like they have no backbone. But the latest Post-ABC News poll shows that 68 percent of Americans describe Hillary Clinton as a strong leader. That comes after years of her being in the national crossfire. People know that Hillary has strong convictions, even if they don't always agree with her. They also know that she's tough enough to handle the viciousness of a national campaign and the challenges of the presidency itself.

One thing we know about Clinton campaigns: Nobody gets Swift Boated.

The woman who gave the War Room its name knows how tough politics at the presidential level can be. Adversaries spent $60 million against her in 2000, and she endured press scrutiny that would have wilted most candidates. She gave as good as she got, and she triumphed.

For those who think that the politics of personal destruction might be rekindled against Hillary or her husband, we can only remind people how consistently that approach has backfired in the past. Bill Clinton would certainly be a huge asset if Hillary decided to run.

In fact, Hillary is the only nationally known Democrat (other than her husband) who has weathered the Republican assaults and emerged with a favorable rating above 50 percent (54 percent positive in the latest Post-ABC poll).

Yes, she has a 42 percent negative rating, as do other nationally known Democrats. All the nationally un known Democrats would likely wind up with high negative ratings, too, once they'd been through the Republican attack machine.
The Power of Hillary, James Carville and Mark J. Penn.


Carville and Penn then go into some specifics about how Hillary could win.

Obviously, one couldn't find two more biased people to appraise Hillary's chances of winning. However, one would also be hard-pressed to find two more qualified people, at least on the Democratic side. And what they have to say makes a lot of sense.

The knock on Hillary is that people hate her so much, they'll turn out in droves to vote against her. I believed this myself until recently. But can you really imagine a big group of people who hate her who didn't hate Kerry? He was everything she is, but worse. She triangulates, he was pegged as the "I voted for it before I voted against it" guy. He waffles because he's indecisive; nobody doubts her decisiveness. She's called a liberal (which she isn't!) and he really is one. Kerry epitomized every negative Democratic stereotype: he's effete, aloof, and without charisma. Hillary doesn't have a lot of charisma, but at least she's tough and real.

She has what other Democratic candidates lack -- balls. I think the best line in the piece is: "One thing we know about Clinton campaigns: Nobody gets Swift Boated."

So true. There were MUCH more credible accusations about Bill Clinton's extra-marital affairs before he was elected, including some allegations of sexual harassment and worse, than anything the dirty Swift Boat Veterans dreamt up. Hell, he got a blowjob from an intern in the oval office, lied about it on national television, was successfully impeached, and his approval ratings remained well above 50%!

Hillary doesn't have his charisma or likeability. But she does have that toughness, and man, wouldn't it be nice to have a tough Democrat leading the country?

Maybe she can win.

12 comments:

Leigh-Ann said...

My personal dislike of Hillary stems from the fact I don't think she's liberal enough. I'm Canadian, so where I'm from "liberal" isn't a bad word like it is in the US ;-) It seems to me like she's been straying more to the centre and right-of-centre with some of her statements, although that may just be my perception of the situation and not actual fact (I think it was her support of a flag-burning amendment which pushed me over the edge).

I wish the US had a viable third party to keep things interesting.

Flippy said...

I'm a Democrat, a woman, and I don't like Hillary. Never did. I'll vote for her if she gets the Democratic nomination, of course, but I like her a whole lot less than many other qualified Democrats. If Al Gore won't run again, then I'd like Russ Feingold to be our frontrunner.

Jewish Atheist said...

Oh, there's no doubt that she's too far to the center/right to be a lot of Democrats' first choice, including myself. But that might exactly what makes it possible for her to win the general election. Bill was probably even more to the right than she is and I'd take him for another 3 terms if I could. :-)

Anonymous said...

"I think the best line in the piece is: "One thing we know about Clinton campaigns: Nobody gets Swift Boated.""

No we don't know that at all. The Swift Boaters got their point across through the blogosphere. The MSM didn't pay much attention to them until they were forced to. In '96 and before the blogosphere wasn't what it is now.

Anyway, I wish I understood what Dems think they are communicating when they say "Swift Boated." To many of us the Swift Boaters were telling the truth and doing a publc service. Hillary has plenty of skeletons in her closet, Travelgate, Filegate, just to name what comes off the top of my head. For all we know there might something about the Arkansas tainted blood scandal that might be coming down the pike if it looks like Hillary is going Don't worry there are going to be plenty of opportunities for truthtellers (aka Swift Boaters)

Another anon

Jewish Atheist said...

Anonymous:

Most Dems believe the ads to have been dishonest and untrue. If you want, you can research it yourself, starting with wikipedia.

However, as I stated in my post, attacks against Bill Clinton were more credible yet had little effect. Whether the ads were true or not, the Kerry campaign was way too slow in responding to them and he himself didn't inspire much faith. Carville and Penn's point is that a Hillary campaign would respond much better.

Your point about bloggers is interesting -- it has changed the landscape. However, if the accusations against Hillary haven't gained traction after all these years of hatred against her, I can't believe she has too much to worry about in that department. The hard right will continue to hate her and believe everything negative about her while the majority of the country continues to believe either that she did no wrong or that the wrong she did was insignificant.

Random said...

"Most Dems believe the ads to have been dishonest and untrue." Well yes, they would I suppose. I heard many assertions along these lines at the time but detailed point-by-point rebuttals are surprisingly hard to find - and on at least one key accusation (Christmas in Cambodia) even the Kerry campaign was forced to back off and admit things hadn't happened the way their man said they had (to put it at it's mildest). And please - don't direct anybody to that Wikipedia artice, it's a classic example of why Wikipedia should not be relied upon for issues of ongoing political controversy.

But yes, the Clinton's would have dealt with it much more decisively (and with much less regard for the truth, if we're going to be cynical about it). I have to say though that basing your support for a candidate on the basis not that they're honest but that they're sufficiently slippery that the mud won't stick is a somewhat... surprising ethical position.

There is though at least one other person wh would love to see Hilary run - Jeb Bush. By all accounts, the governor of Florida is one of the best qualified Republican candidates, but the nepotism factor will rule him out. Unless of course if Hilary runs - if the Dems are running the wife of the last president as a candidate, they can hardly criticise the Republicans for running the brother of the current president.

Having said that, I'd love to see a woman president. Unfortunately my preferred choice (Condi) is showing no signs of wanting to run. A pity really - it would be fascinating to see how the Democrats would go about attacking a black female without alienating their own base...

Jewish Atheist said...

I heard many assertions along these lines at the time but detailed point-by-point rebuttals are surprisingly hard to find

Well, that may be, but the testimony of the people who were actually there that day tends to agree with Kerry's version.

I have to say though that basing your support for a candidate on the basis not that they're honest but that they're sufficiently slippery that the mud won't stick is a somewhat... surprising ethical position.

I'm not saying that she would be dishonest. In fact, as I stated, I believe the Swift Boat claims to be lies, so we're discussing how to respond to false allegations. The truth doesn't always win so even when you are in the right, as I believe Kerry was, you must respond well or be pummelled, as Kerry was. Since I believe Bill was probably lying regarding some of the allegations against him during his campaign and he *still* came out on top, I think it stands to reason that his wife (with the same people) would be much more likely than Kerry to respond well to false claims.

(Regarding Bill, I do NOT support his behavior nor his lying, but overall preferred him to the alternatives. Honesty is important, but it's not the only imoportant thing. If you believed Nader was 100% honest, for example, you still wouldn't vote for him.)

There is though at least one other person wh would love to see Hilary run - Jeb Bush. By all accounts, the governor of Florida is one of the best qualified Republican candidates, but the nepotism factor will rule him out.

I'm worried the nepotism factor will rule out Hillary as well. After Dubya, the country may well be tired of it. I always thought Jeb was more impressive than Dubya, but he's at least as far to the right, so I really hope he doesn't win.

A pity really - it would be fascinating to see how the Democrats would go about attacking a black female without alienating their own base...

This is one of the more infuriating claims that Republicans make. Where is it written outside of talk radio hosts' heads that Democrats can't criticize anybody who happens to be Black or female for any reason? If Alan Keyes ran against a White guy, do you think anyone on the left would have hesitated to criticize him?

asher said...

There has to be something positive about Hillary. After all she's been in the senate for 4 years or so. What has she accomplished? If her last name was not Clinton would we be hearing about her.

The entire world knew Bill was having affairs but Hillary was oblivious (read in denial). If you had a female friend who's husband continually cheated on you (mostly in public) and then asked that she defend his actions by telling the world it was part of a conspiracy, would you have respect for this person?

Hillary did not practice law until Bill was elected Attorney General of Ark. When he was elected governor she magically made partner in the firm. Now that's an independent woman.

As a citizen of New York State, I am proud that we have our first female senator..and just think, she never lived in New York, has absolutely no previous political experience and was the wife of the only president to be impeached in the 20th century.

And don't forget:
Whitewater
Filegate
Travelgate
Rose Law firm records
The failed health care program
Monica
Jennifer
and the other ladies

But, hey, she's a democract and and she's a woman...give her a pass. After all, look at her stance on the Iraq war.

For those of you who are ashamed of this country because of how we appear abroad, and this terrible Iraq war, please INSIST on going to work on July 4th to show your distaste.

Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

We've heard all this "Hillary can't win stuff" before. In fact, the quotes above aren't from recent weeks but from six years ago, when many pundits -- and Democrats -- said there was no way that Hillary could get elected to the Senate. She won by 12 percentage points.

She also ran against a total nobody.

Anonymous said...

Here's why I don't want Hillary. Because I'm against monarchy. If it's Hillary/Jeb in 08, then one of them is gonna win, serve out a term, maybe 2 terms, then it'll be 2016 and it'll have been 28 years since we've had a President who didn't have one of 2 surnames! Isn't that an odd thing to happen in a Republic?

Random said...

"Well, that may be, but the testimony of the people who were actually there that day tends to agree with Kerry's version."

Not sure what "day" you are talking about - Kerry was in-country for about 4 months before managing to get himself set back home on a technicality. however it is perfectly true that all but one of the men who served under him endorsed his election campaign. It's also true however that 16 out of 23 of the officers who served alongside him in the same coastal division signed up to SBVT. I don't want to sidetrack this thread however, so I will leave it at this - a lot of these issues are essentially unresolvable with the current state of evidence. Which raises the question - why has Kerry still refused to authorise full release of his service records, despite promising several times to do so? What is he afraid they will reveal?

"This is one of the more infuriating claims that Republicans make. Where is it written outside of talk radio hosts' heads that Democrats can't criticize anybody who happens to be Black or female for any reason? If Alan Keyes ran against a White guy, do you think anyone on the left would have hesitated to criticize him?"

Actually Keyes has run for elected office and was indeed vigorously criticised. He ran against Barack Obama however, so that may not fit your criteria. As for the more general point - to be very blunt about it, I think the Democrats would do what they have done in the past and use their support for civil rights in general to allow them to be far more brazenly racist towards specific conservative blacks than any Republican would ever dream of being. You'd get a repeat of the "high tech lynching" of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, or a repeat of the spectacle of Condi's own SecState confirmation hearings when the Democrats, apparently without any sense of shame whatsoever, let a former Exalted Cyclops and Kleagle of the Ku Klux Klan lead the attack on her.

Anonymous, 2:00AM -

Odd, but not unprecedented. It would be rather like the situation in India where, although it's a functioning democracy, you pretty much have to be a member of the Gandhi (no relation to the Mahatma, though they keep that bit quiet) family to be prime minister. Oh, and in 2016 both Chelsea Clinton and either of the Bush should be old enough to run for the presidency:-)

Half Sigma said...

I'm sure that people hate Hillary more than they hate John Kerry.