Originally published in 2006.
My hunch that Hillary Clinton will be a lackluster presidential candidate is reinforced in an interview Hillary gave to The Atlantic, published in November, 2006: “Everything I do carries political risk because nobody gets the scrutiny that I get,” Hillary told The Atlantic‘s senior editor, Joshua Green. “It’s not like I have any margin for error whatsoever. I don’t. Everybody else does, and I don’t.”
Green’s article, “Hillary’s Choice: Why Success in the Senate Could Deny Clinton the Presidency,” gets to the heart of Hillary’s problem. His lengthy, insightful article reviews Hillary’s Senate career and her position in the Democratic Party:
“Clinton has adapted surprisingly well to the byways of the Senate, becoming what few could have foreseen: a wily manipulator of the Senate’s outsize egos, and a master of cloakroom politics. This has come at the cost of some of her most deeply held values. However flawed Clinton’s health-care plan was in execution, it was undergirded by an element of sincere idealism that is all but absent from her Senate record. Clinton has chosen systematic caution as the path to power…
“Clinton has emerged within the Senate as the unlikeliest of figures: she, not George W. Bush, has turned out to be a uniter, not a divider.”
Green sharply observes that “Clinton’s Senate career mirrors that of her political life generally: a pattern of ambition, failure, study, and advancement. It provides a showcase for her very considerable skills. But it also points up her core liabilities as she prepares to move from the New York stage and back to the national one. Maybe one way to frame the question is this: Can a woman who has made herself small enough for the Senate be big enough for the country?”
“Years of tireless study have made Hillary Clinton the consummate insider—but at a time when antiestablishment fervor in the Democratic base is at its highest point in a generation…Clinton has reached the top of the Democratic establishment that once thwarted her. But that is looking like a less viable launching point to the presidency than at any time since she got to Washington….
“There remains another option—one to which she is unquestionably well suited. As an admiring senator put it to me, “Hillary Clinton is everyone’s secret choice for majority leader.
“…It is fair to wonder if Clinton learned the lesson of the health-care disaster too well, whether she has so embraced caution and compromise that she can no longer judge what merits taking political risks. It is hard to square the brashly confident leader of health-care reform—willing to act on her deepest beliefs, intent on changing the political climate and not merely exploiting it—with the senator who recently went along with the vote to make flag-burning a crime. Today Clinton offers no big ideas, no crusading causes—by her own tacit admission, no evidence of bravery in the service of a larger ideal.”