In the first of my postmortems on Hillary’s loss in this year’s contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, I noted how “I grew to admire her tenacity and resilience, that she kept at it when even after . . . pundits had written her off.” Her intelligence and command of the issues also impressed me.
Not only that, she was as and incredibly disciplined and focused campaigner who improved as the campaign went along. Early in the campaign, she avoided one-on-one interviews with reporters and pundits. By the end of the campaign, they become her strong suit in clear contrast to her rival for the nomination who looked much better on the stump than did she. And while her hand gestures looked forced in the debates, her answers were lucid and intelligent.
Finally, even as she failed to adequately address how a rapid withdrawal from Iraq (which she favored) could hurt our standing in the Middle East, she did show a serious understanding of the terrorist threat, particularly the need to confront Iran. Her answers to certain foreign policy questions gave me hope that she might delay that withdrawal out of national security interests.
While those qualities and that understanding increased my admiration for the former First Lady, other things diminished my respect for her. She and her minions were too often whiny in the face of an increasingly hostile press, too peevish particularly in the wake of Tim Russert’s tough questions in the Philadelphia debate last October. They seemed all too ready to trot out the sexism charge whenever things went badly for the campaign.
And we learned from her experience is Bosnia that she, in the words of Christopher Hitchens, “is subject to fantasies of an illusory past.” She seemed to reinvent her past in order to meet the needs of the present campaign, just as she tailored her policies to the latest political fads. She came across as an opportunist who would do anything to win this election.
She did hold firm on one issue. She never ceased to turn government to solve any pressing social problem. She clearly does not trust the private sector. During the campaign, she even moved away from some of the free-market reforms which her husband promoted when he was president which she then championed.
And how will these strengths and weaknesses play out should her party’s nominee fail to defeat John McCain this fall and she again runs (as all expect she will) for her party’s presidential nomination again in 2012?
Will her failure to win this time put her at a disadvantage, with her appearing as an also-ran? Or will her strong finish propel her into the position of frontrunner (where she started this year’s campaign)? Or will the lost aura of Clinton invincibility doom her to the second tier of candidates?
Her husband no longer enjoys the status he had in his party at the outset of this contest largely because of the way he campaigned for her, but will that be irrelevant four years hence largely because of the way she campaigned in the final months of this race?