Friday, July 29, 2016

Hillary’s One-Candidate Race

The Wall Street Journal
Potomac Watch

She’ll try to disqualify Trump because she loses if the election is a referendum on her.

By Kimberley A. Strassel

Conventions are useful for clarifying elections, and this week’s Philly confab notably so. A week of speakers—Democrat after Democrat beseeching the nation to please know that Hillary Clinton really is a good gal—has made something clear: This is, essentially, a one-person presidential race.

It’s Hillary against Hillary. This November is about whether Americans can look at 40 years of Clinton chicanery and nearly a decade of broken Obama promises, and still pull the lever for her. Not that Donald Trump doesn’t matter. He does, in that he can help sharpen those concerns. But Hillary is the main event.

The polls bear this out. Aside from his recent convention bump, Mr. Trump’s numbers have been largely consistent. Whether he leads or trails, and by how much, is mostly a function of voters’ shifting views on Mrs. Clinton. Lately her poll numbers have been devastating.

A CNN survey this week showed 68% of voters say she isn’t honest and trustworthy—an all-time high. CBS found virtually the same number: 67%. In the CNN poll, meanwhile, only 39% of voters said they held a favorable view of Mrs. Clinton. This is lower than any time CNN has polled Hillary since the spring of 1992—before she was first lady.

Mr. Trump’s poll numbers also bear this out. He is currently leading in the Real Clear Politics average despite no real ground game, little real fundraising, little policy message, a divided conservative electorate, and one of the messiest conventions on record. As of June 30, Mrs. Clinton and her allies had raised a stunning $600 million, which is already being spent to trash Mr. Trump. Yet to little or no effect. Mr. Trump is hardly a potted plant, but even if he were . . .

Mrs. Clinton’s problem is Mrs. Clinton. She is running against her own ethical morass. Already she was asking voters to forget about cattle futures and fake sniper fire and Whitewater and Travelgate. Then she chose to vividly revive the public nausea with her self-serving email stunt and her Clinton Foundation money grubbing.

Oh, she tried to roll out the usual Clinton defense: that this was just part of a renewed attack by political enemies. Yet the neutral inspector general of the State Department slammed her handling of official email; the FBI director (who works for Barack Obama) attested that she was careless with classified information; and she was caught on tape telling a series of lies about the situation. All of which makes it tough to blame the vast right-wing conspiracy. Tim Kaine’s many assurances that he “trusts” Mrs. Clinton was the campaign’s public acknowledgment that almost no one else in the nation does.

Hillary is running, too, against the reality of President Obama policies, which she promises not only to continue, but to build on. The president’s glowing appraisal Wednesday night of his time in office bore no relation to the country most Americans see—one in which health care costs more than ever, they struggle to pay the bills, and terror attacks on Western democracies are a weekly event. The state of the country might not be quite so grim as Mr. Trump painted it in Cleveland, but the mood is much closer to that grimness than to Mr. Obama’s forced optimism.

The president’s policies, which Mrs. Clinton now owns, have alienated significant tranches of voters that she needs this fall—in particular blue-collar Democrats. Coal communities are rejecting Hillary outright. Many union workers are too, whether they be Teamsters for Trump, or police officers appalled by the Democratic Party’s attacks on their profession.

Mrs. Clinton is trying to win back that blue-collar support by moving sharply on issues like free trade, but she’ll be hard pressed to out-populist Mr. Trump on that score. Whatever Bill says, Americans do not look at Hillary and see “change”—at least not the kind of change they are after.

Hillary is also running against her own party, which has moved left without her. She has chased after progressives, adopting one position after another from Bernie Sanders, feting Elizabeth Warren, working “progressive” into every sentence. But this week showed that her party’s liberal wing is unconvinced, still feeling the Bern. Yes, she has done some uniting in Philly, and will likely get her own bump. At the same time, 45% of Democrats who voted in the primary told that CNN pollster they still wish Sanders were the nominee.

Mrs. Clinton will continue to warn that her opponent is a threat, to try to worry voters enough that they overcome their misgivings about her. Mr. Trump can certainly make that job easier for her. Conversely, he can help his own numbers and campaign by focusing precisely on her vulnerabilities, and by presenting a stronger policy agenda of his own.

Mrs. Clinton is ultimately banking that a significant number of Americans won’t be able to vote for Mr. Trump. Certainly some won’t. But a dislike of Mr. Trump does not imply a like of Mrs. Clinton—and certainly not a vote for Mrs. Clinton.



What’s the Case for Hillary?

Elect her because she wants to be elected.

By Charles Krauthammer 

‘The best darn change-maker I ever met in my entire life.” So said Bill Clinton in making the case for his wife at the Democratic National Convention. Considering that Bernie Sanders ran as the author of a political revolution and Donald Trump as the man who would “kick over the table” (to quote Newt Gingrich) in Washington, “change-maker” does not exactly make the heart race.

Which is the fundamental problem with the Clinton campaign. What precisely is it about? Why is she running in the first place? 

Like most dynastic candidates (most famously Ted Kennedy in 1979), she really doesn’t know. She seeks the office because, well, it’s the next — the final — step on the ladder.

Her campaign’s premise is that we’re doing okay, but we can do better. There are holes to patch in the nanny-state safety net. She’s the one to do it.

It amounts to Sanders lite. Or the short-lived Bush slogan: “Jeb can fix it.” We know where that went.

The one man who could have given the pudding a theme, who could have created a plausible Hillaryism was Bill Clinton. Rather than do that — the way in Cleveland Gingrich shaped Trump’s various barstool eruptions into a semi-coherent program of national populism — Bill gave a long chronological account of a passionate liberal’s social activism. It was an attempt, I suppose, to humanize her.

Well, yes. Perhaps, after all, somewhere in there is a real person. But what a waste of Bill’s talents. It wasn’t exactly Clint Eastwood speaking to an empty chair, but at the end you had to ask: Is that all there is?

He grandly concluded with this: “The reason you should elect her is that in the greatest country on earth we have always been about tomorrow.” Is there a rhetorical device more banal?

Trump’s acceptance speech was roundly criticized for offering a dark, dystopian vision of America. For all of its exaggeration, however, it reflected well the view from Fishtown, the fictional white working-class town created statistically by social scientist Charles Murray in his 2012 study Coming Apart. It chronicled the economic, social, and spiritual disintegration of those left behind by globalization and economic transformation. Trump’s capture of the resultant feelings of anxiety and abandonment explains why he enjoys an astonishing 39-point advantage over Clinton among whites without a college degree.

His solution is to beat up on foreigners for “stealing” our jobs. But while trade is a factor in the loss of manufacturing jobs, even more important, by a large margin, is the emergence of an information economy in which education, knowledge, and various kinds of literacy are the coin of the realm. For all the factory jobs lost to Third World competitors, far more are lost to robots.

Hard to run against higher productivity. Easier to run against cunning foreigners.

In either case, Clinton has found no counter. If she has a theme, it’s about expanding opportunity, shattering ceilings. But the universe of discriminated-against minorities — so vast 50 years ago — is rapidly shrinking. When the burning civil-rights issue of the day is bathroom choice for the transgendered, a flummoxed Fishtown understandably asks, “What about us?” Telling coal miners she was going to close their mines and kill their jobs only reinforced white working-class alienation from Clinton.

As for the chaos abroad, the Democrats are in see-no-evil denial. The first night in Philadelphia, there were 61 speeches. Not one mentioned the Islamic State or even terrorism. Later references were few, far between, and highly defensive. After all, what can the Democrats say? Clinton’s calling card is experience. Yet as secretary of state she left a trail of policy failures from Libya to Syria, from the Russian reset to the Iraqi withdrawal to the rise of the Islamic State.

Clinton had a strong second half of the convention as the Sanders revolt faded and as President Obama endorsed her with one of the finer speeches of his career. Yet Trump’s convention bounce of up to 10 points has given him a slight lead in the polls. She badly needs one of her own.

She still enjoys the Democrats’ built-in Electoral College advantage. But she remains highly vulnerable to both outside events and internal revelations. Another major terror attack, another e-mail drop — and everything changes.

In this crazy election year, there are no straight-line projections. As Clinton leaves Philadelphia, her lifelong drive for the ultimate prize is perilously close to a coin flip.

— Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2016 The Washington Post Writers Group


New York Post
In his emotional speech Wednesday, President Obama promised that “we’re going to carry Hillary to victory.” To judge from Clinton’s performance last night, being carried by the party is the only way she’s going to get there.

Instead of giving the speech of her life on the biggest night of her life, Clinton delivered an uninspired and uninspiring wish list of all the things she and other Democrats would get Washington to do.

Big things, little things, everything. Her core principle, if it can be called a principle, is that government is here to take charge, making her theme of “stronger together” suddenly seem like a warning that her main goal is building an all-consuming federal bureaucracy.

On top of earlier vows to issue even more executive orders than Obama, she promises a more powerful, more intrusive government across the board, with no problem too big or too small for its focus.

All that “compassion” would be expensive, meaning higher taxes and more national debt.

She tried to make a virtue of it, saying, “I sweat the details,” because “if it’s your kid or your family” that needs help, “it’s a big deal to you, and it should be a big deal to your president, too.”

At another point, she pledged that “we will empower Americans to live better lives.”

Individual initiative apparently would no longer be necessary or admirable. Clinton’s vision for America is for a Golden Age of Big Government.

The result is that instead of redefining herself in new and appealing way, she revealed herself to be much as we already knew her — as somebody who sees no limits to the role of the federal government. Though she cited the founders several times, she takes a far different view of America, and of the Constitution and declaration they wrote.

As the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major party, Clinton’s acceptance speech was a historic event in itself, and the delegates celebrated with her at several moving moments.

Her main goals, in addition to bashing, ridiculing and mocking Donald Trump, were to reveal a soft side and a tough one, as someone who can deliver paid family leave and destroy Islamic State. She also tried to paint herself as the one candidate who can unite America.

Great goals for sure, but there are two major contradictions at the heart of the effort. The first is the false claim that Clinton represents both the change the nation wants and the third term of Barack Obama. She can’t be both, yet she pretended she could be.

The second claim is that she can unite a divided country. Her history is exactly the opposite, and the polls showing that nearly 70 percent of Americans find her dishonest and untrustworthy mean it would take a near miracle for her build a national consensus on anything of significance.

Her performance fulfilled the party’s fear that she would be overshadowed by a roster of political heavyweights at her own convention and waste an opportunity to reinvent herself. Without doubt, the fourth and final night of the convention was a letdown.

The result is that Clinton is not so much leading the Democratic Party as the beneficiary of its sprawling political cultural, and racial strength. Resembling a European-style parliamentary leader, she is running like she wants to be a prime minister selected by her party instead of an American president elected by voters.

That sets up another risky contrast with Trump. He is a great disrupter, leading the Republican Party he took over, and is appealing directly to voters to give him a personal mandate.

At a time when most of the nation is demanding strong leadership, Trump is in a position to seize a big advantage. His recent lead in most national polls and the dead heat in key swing states are largely a testament to his brawling, street-fighter style.

Clinton’s advantages — superior knowledge of complex issues and extensive government experience — are more difficult to exploit in a change election. Even the main thrust of the Dem assault on Trump, that he is reckless and dangerous, while she is steady and responsible, makes a vote for her sound like a vote for the status quo.

And, as we learned this week, she is kind, generous and warm, a great friend, a greater mother and the greatest grandmother. The effort to paint Clinton as both human and superhuman, ordinary and extraordinary, faces its own inherent problems.

For one thing, the softness of the image created didn’t so much humanize her as womanize her. Was there any doubt?

For another, the over-the-top descriptions were silly exaggerations, which is a very odd way to get people to trust someone they consider a liar — by telling more lies about them.

The bid reached its apex, or nadir, during Chelsea Clinton’s cloying introduction of her mother. Given mostly in a hushed, reverential tone, it could have been designed to keep Bernie Sanders’ noisy brigade quiet.

Or maybe it wanted to put them to sleep.