I didn’t fully “get” Bill Clinton’s appeal until 1999 when watching him deliver his State of the Union address. The phone rang soon after that Democrat started speaking, so I put the TV on mute and took the call. As I spoke to my friend, I watched the then-president and was captivated by his performance. I had to admit that the man whom I often mocked looked presidential.
But, when I ended the conversation with my friend and turned the volume back on, I found that Clinton’s speech was little more than well-delivered platitudes, devoid of substance. I turned the volume up when I went into the kitchen (I was thus unable to see the TV) to do the dishes and found his speech increasingly vapid.
I had a similar experience last week while doing cardio at the gym. I saw clips of Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaking to the Take Back America Conference. Lacking headphones, I could not hear their remarks. With his chiseled face, Kerry, the erstwhile Democratic presidential nominee, looked presidential. Hillary, a prospective Democratic presidential nominee, looked like an angry divorcÃ©e* addressing the PTA. She doesn’t have the presidential presence of her husband. No wonder the latest Iowa poll showed her slipping. That survey may well be harbinger of her performance in the Democratic primaries and caucuses in ’08.
A few days later when I saw clips of the speech with audio, both Kerry and Clinton sounded the same, whiny, bitter, angry. Given the way Kerry looked, it was no wonder he bounced back after the first presidential debate in 2004. Given the way Hillary looked, it’s hard to see how she can convince those skeptical about her leadership qualities that she has the gravitas of a Chief Executive.
Contrast Hillary’s presence with that of a female conservative icon — Lady Margaret Thatcher. While against her husband, Hillary fades into obscurity. (Just as Denis Thatcher seemed to disappear when in the presence of his wife.) Next to Ronald Reagan, Mrs. Thatcher held her own, two great leaders standing strong and confident.
Or contrast Hillary with her more accomplished California colleague, Dianne Feinstein. One day in the 1990s when was working on Capitol Hill, I walked over to the Senate side just as a vote was being called. As I passed through an elevator lobby, I saw a number of Senators (whose faces I recognized from the news). Mrs. Feinstein was the only one who stood out.
After watching those images from the conference, I became increasingly certain that Hillary is going to have a much tougher time than people think winning the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. To be sure, her husband may pull out all the stops to help her win the nomination — and the election. But, standing next to him at the Democratic convention in ’08, her lack of gravitas will be made increasingly manifest. People will become less confident of her ability to lead.
It’s no wonder Hillary’s gradually losing her status as the Democratic frontrunner for 2008. She seems to be as Peggy (AKA My Athena) described her 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention, “full of certitude and lacking in sincerity.” She appears to stand only for whatever is politically expedient, and lacks the presence of a leader, the sense that she could take charge the moment she takes the Oath of Office. Lacking particularly the wherewithal to stand strong in a crisis.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com