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The Agony of Hillary Clinton

| February 23, 2016

hillary clinton agony

Prompts and shadows. (aphrodite-in-nyc)

By Elizabeth Drew

Being Hillary Clinton, one of the most celebrated women in the world, holder of some of the highest offices in American politics, and possibly the next president of the United States, has had more than its share of agony. Widely regarded a year ago as a shoo-in for the Democratic Party’s nomination, she has faced a far more difficult slog than anyone, including her, ever contemplated.

Yet most of the problems Clinton is encountering were predictable and foreshadowed in 2008, when she ran against Barack Obama. Others she has brought on herself.

For one thing, she’s simply not a very good politician. Clinton is the only person known to have launched her campaign twice. (The first attempt, in Iowa, where she talked to about eight people in closed meetings, didn’t work out very well.) This impressive, remarkably intelligent woman just doesn’t have the feel for politics that is demanded at the highest levels.

Success in US presidential politics requires superb intuition, being quick on one’s feet, and, above all, a compelling rationale for running. True, Clinton offers numerous programs that she would push as president; but, to borrow from Winston Churchill, there is no theme to her pudding. The closest she comes to a message is a less-than-soaring “I’m a progressive who can get things done.”

By contrast, her rival, Bernie Sanders, has become a serious contender because he brilliantly composed a persuasive message for his campaign: The system is rigged and a corrupt campaign-finance regime is holding it in place.

The sweeping programs Sanders is pushing – a single-payer health-care system and free tuition at public colleges – however impracticable, are popular, especially among younger people, who overwhelmingly favor him over Clinton. Her message is one of incrementalism: Don’t dare to dream big. Meanwhile, Sanders is preaching a political revolution.

Then there’s the issue of trustworthiness. Sanders’s integrity comes across as unimpeachable, while Clinton continues to provide reasons for questioning hers. She and her advisers are clearly stunned by the force of the challenge she’s facing.

Sanders appears authentic; Clinton seems programmed. She sometimes seems to be tone-deaf, particularly out of tune with the public mood on the subject of money. Anger at the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else has been brewing for years. Shortly before she began her campaign, Hillary Clinton said that when they left the White House she and her husband were “dead broke.” If so, they recovered quickly: Bill and Hillary Clinton are believed to be worth well over $100 million, all of it made since they left the White House and most of it through astronomical speaking fees.

Not unlike other former US presidents – Jimmy Carter is a notable exception – the Clintons exploited their fame and influence to build up a fortune. It’s not so much how they made most of their money as who paid them. While Bill made business deals with some shady international figures, Hillary made a lot of her fortune by giving speeches to Wall Street firms, the main target of public wrath for causing the Great Recession of 2008.

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This provided an ideal target for Sanders, who singled out the fact that Clinton earned $675,000 for three speeches she gave to Goldman Sachs. Sanders’s charges put her back on her heels; when asked by the moderator in a CNN Town Hall why she accepted so much money from Goldman Sachs, a nonplussed Clinton shrugged and replied, “That’s what they offered.”

Then there’s the controversy over her having chosen to use a private, unsecured server installed at her home in Chappaqua, New York to process her emails, business as well as personal, when she was Secretary of State during President Barack Obama’s first term in office. The server issue, first revealed in March 2015, now dogs her campaign, speaking not only to her tone-deafness, but, more deadly, to her judgment. How could she not know that a Secretary of State will receive and may respond to classified information?

After the server became public knowledge, Clinton, as her husband has also done, resorted to legalisms: She hadn’t received or sent information on her server that was “marked classified at the time.”

Students of Hillary-speak immediately sensed something fishy. The State Department, it turns out, has two email systems: one classified and one unclassified; and one kind of material can’t be sent on the other. To avoid sending her classified information on her private server, her aides delivered it by other means – orally or in written summaries. Thus, they weren’t “marked classified at the time.”

Yet State Department inspectors have found hundreds of emails that had been sent to her server that should have been classified. An FBI investigation is underway.

Finally, what was supposed to be a huge asset for her candidacy – the prospect of making history as the first woman president – isn’t working out as she and her campaign had expected. As in 2008, large numbers of women don’t want to be told that they must support Clinton simply because she’s a woman. They find that an insult to their intelligence, and young women in particular are largely supporting Sanders; they prefer his platform and are troubled by questions about her integrity. The only group of women that Clinton carried in New Hampshire, where Sanders beat her by 22 percentage points, was those over 65.

In the latest caucus, in Nevada, Clinton’s presumed advantage among non-white voters, who are a far greater factor in Nevada than in Iowa or New Hampshire, seems to have served her well, with Sanders failing to win enough African-American voters, in particular, to defeat her. This augurs well for future nominating contests. But the general election could be something else.

elizabeth drewElizabeth Drew is the author of 14 books, most recently, of Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon’s Downfall. She moderated the debate between the Democratic candidates for the nomination in the 1984 race, was the Washington correspondent for The Atlantic until 1973 and the New Yorker until 1992, and writes regularly for the New York Review of Books. (© Project Syndicate)

26 Responses for “The Agony of Hillary Clinton”

  1. Mark says:

    How can you call her intelligent? She is riding Bill’s coattails. What has she done? Libya, Syria in flames, great job.

  2. r&r says:

    And boohoo she cried. She should be happy that she’s not in prison where her and Bill belong. She is evil and has no morals.

  3. Anonymous says:

    What about our AGONY if we are to have to listen to her voice as president the next 4 years.

  4. dave says:

    She will say and do anything for a vote. I don’t trust her after the email blunder, the dollars received from special interest groups and Benghazi.

  5. Sherry says:

    You know what. . . maybe what we need is someone who is not really that great at “playing politics”. How about someone who has “actively” worked her entire life for equality for ALL US citizens regardless of their skin color. Hillary is a true Democrat, and certainly supports women’s rights over their own bodies. She paved the way for health care for ALL in our nation. . . stopping the insurance companies from denying coverage to those who need it most.

    Hillary Clinton’s IQ is 140 which puts her at near genius. Somehow I doubt many of those commenting here can say as much. In addition, Hillary does NOT have the EQ. . . Emotional Quotient . . . of a petulant, narcissist child the way dangerous, megalomaniac Trump does.

  6. Bc says:

    Well she does have a reset button.

  7. Jason says:

    Yet millions of people will vote for a man (Trump) because he says he will build a wall to keep illegals out. No one cares he hasn’t even talked about his plans for the economy, employment, education, etc.

  8. Outsider says:

    Well, all I can say is if what Hillary has done is what “near genius” gets you I will take stupid any day.

  9. Knightwatch says:

    Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate running for the presidency. She has proven herself to be the most knowledgeable of any candidate on a host of domestic and foreign policy issues. No one, and certainly not Trump, Cruz, et al, can match her knowledge and skills. She is smart, rational, resolute and capable — the one person in the race that can govern and lead all Americans on day one in office.

  10. ryan says:

    She’s had a target on her back for too long. Give it a break. Her predecessors also had the same email systems but were not scrutinized. Why would classify email after the fact? Benghazi? Please!!! Can’t get up the Hillary with the pitch folks and torches to set her house on fire.

  11. Diana L. says:

    HRC’s opponents fear her. They have always secretly thought of her as a brilliant woman. So they have been on a steady march to discredit her with lies and made up controversies. HRC has more intelligence and tenacity than all of them put together.

  12. confidential says:

    To Mark and others above…What about the mess Bush made out of the Middle East attacking Iraq under lies…he just handed the whole Muslim world to Isis, generating the pathetic imbalance we see today and perpetuating the loss of lives of our brave soldiers and the profiteering of the war machine manufacturing.
    Yes my dislike of Hillary is for he push in Lybia but Syria is still the results of imbalance created by Bush.
    Like I said then in 2000 when decided to attack Iraq “he didn’t know the magnitude and nature of the beast”
    but he was brainwashed by evil Cheney and his special war interest to benefit Halliburton, etc: How could we forget it?

  13. Common Sense says:

    Hilary is not perfect but she is intelligent and capable. When I ask critics to cite specifics in their criticism of Hilary all they can do is repeat the lies floated by Republicans. Never can anyone say anything specific.
    For example, Benghazi, eight Republican investigations and not one fact about anything she did wrong.

    I will take her over Trump any day.

  14. dave says:

    Hillary is just another Washington suck up who will do what she is told by the PAC and other special interest groups that owns the government . Maybe a complete outsider who could careless about these lifetime members of congress who are supposed to represent us but fall victim to the pressure in office and their increasing self voted paycheck.

    All I want to see is no more BS from a lifetime politician, talk is cheap at election time but most just BS their way by playing the blame game on others. Our Congress is a total joke. What the voters should vote on in Nov is a term limit. President, max of 2 terms, Congress max of 3 terms and the Supreme court a max of 12 years. Like I said Congress is a joke and whoever is president is just another figure head looking over a band of lifetime misfits,

  15. Retired says:

    I would take anyone over Trump, even Manfre.

  16. r&r says:

    Trump is the only canidate able to turn this country and mess Obama caused around.

  17. I/M/O says:

    Did you hear her response to the Social Security question the other night?

    “As President I will keep the Social Security Trust Fund solvent as long as I can”

    Just what does that mean? What happens after that.

    Seniors had be very beware as to Hillary Clinton. She is advising the Social Security System may go bankrupt during a Clinton administration.

    Obama took our Medicare money to pay for Obama Care and now she is advising the Social Security System may go bankrupt.

  18. getagrip says:

    like the millions who voted for the guy that promised, transparency, cutting the deficit in half and hope and change?

  19. Diana L. says:

    Your claim that Medicare was robbed for Obamacare has been fact checked time and again and it is false.

  20. Geezer says:

    Hilary Clinton is old wine in a new bottle.
    The old bottle being Bill Clinton.

    I feel the BERN!

  21. Sherry says:

    While I really like a lot of what Bernie has to say, and I personally have experienced the success of the cultures of “Democratic” Socialism when staying in homes and having long political discussion with several citizens in Denmark in Sweden. . . I do not believe that most US citizens know the difference between “Socialism” and “Communism”, much less between “Democratic” Socialism.

    My thinking is that if Bernie became the Democratic nominee he would be painted every minute, 24/7, as a “Communist” by the Republican party. And, the under educated, uninformed voters would not take the time to learn the truth. Unfortunately, his self proclaimed label as a “Socialist”, in my opinion, would keep him from winning in the general election.

    Hillary, by far, is the most qualified candidate to be an excellent President of the United States!

  22. Geezer says:


    Nah, no Hillary for me. Since I like you so much, I’ll just agree to disagree.
    I do know that you’re feeling the Bern as a result of Bernie currently having
    the same number of delegates as Mrs. Clinton.
    And they said it couldn’t be done.

    You are correct about he 24/7 “pinko” attacks, but I promise you that the Donald
    will implode…err explode after he’s postulated as the repugnican candidate.
    He will flip his wig figuratively and literally. Just remember I said so…

    Hillary is Bill with a wig. We have her and Bill to thank for NAFTA.
    She thought it was a good idea.

    I’ll stick a pin in my eye before I vote for her.

    But I still love your comments! Be well!

  23. Shell says:

    The problem is the woman is so crooked she has to have a couple of staffers help her screw on her pantsuit every morning.

  24. Just me says:

    confidential says:
    February 24, 2016 at 6:59 am
    To Mark and others above…What about the mess Bush made out of the Middle East attacking Iraq under lies…he just handed the whole Muslim world to Isis, generating the pathetic imbalance we see today and perpetuating the loss of lives of our brave soldiers and the profiteering of the war machine manufacturing.
    Yes my dislike of Hillary is for he push in Lybia but Syria is still the results of imbalance created by Bush.
    Like I said then in 2000 when decided to attack Iraq “he didn’t know the magnitude and nature of the beast”
    but he was brainwashed by evil Cheney and his special war interest to benefit Halliburton, etc:

    WOW I did not know we went after Iraq in 2000??? the rise of ISIL is not from Bush as Iraq was much more stable in 2009 when 0bama took over then now or when ISIL became what it is today. ISIL if one looks to put blame on any president is the fault of the current president not one gone some 7+ years. 0bama is the one who left a vacuum in that place that lead to their rise of power.

  25. Recovering Liberal says:

    “Not unlike other former US presidents – Jimmy Carter is a notable exception – the Clintons exploited their fame and influence to build up a fortune.” HUH? Which OTHER FORMER Presidents and/or spouses have used their fame to this level? Well OVER a hundred million dollars!!!! NOT A SINGLE ONE!! One has to wonder why so many people have paid so much for a speech by Bill or Hillary Clinton? Are they compelling and entertaining speakers? Or do they expect to get a big return on their ‘investment’?

  26. Robert says:

    She needs to go to jail. Vote Trump!

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