The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Clintons never change

You can see how Hillary Clinton lost in 2008. She comes in with an air of entitlement. The chattering class declares her the prohibitive favorite. She runs a campaign with questionable political judgments based on her own inevitably. The cloud of controversies that follow the Clintons like Pig Pen’s dust comes blowing in. The pundits and then the voters are reminded what an ordeal the Clintons can be while Hillary Clinton’s innate caution and lack of accomplishment make her less than stirring as a presidential candidate. Enter someone to her left to remind primary voters that they are forever being cheated of a “real” standard bearer.

With the exception of a rival to her left, you can easily fit 2016 into the same sequence. In 2008 Clinton was 30 or more points ahead in early polling, but she ran on experience in a “change” election. Now, to the dismay of some of her media fans, she’s weighing in very early, trying to rid the field of competitors before the race even starts. But soon we are reminded of the Clintons’ money-grubbing ways (then it was the Lincoln bedroom, now it is the Clinton Foundation) and penchant for mismanagement. The Anthony Weiner incident not only echoed the Clintons’ private dramas but also focused on the peculiar deal Clinton struck with , Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin:

Ms. Abedin, 37, a confidante of Mrs. Clinton’s, was made a “special government employee” in June 2012. That allowed her to continue her employment at State but also work for Teneo, a consulting firm, founded in part by a former aide to President Bill Clinton, that has a number of corporate clients, including Coca-Cola. In addition, Ms. Abedin worked privately for the Clinton Foundation and for Mrs. Clinton personally.

Yes, the line between the taxpayers’ money and the Clintons’ own pecuniary interests has been as porous as President Obama’s red lines. Conflicts of interest and the Clintons go hand in glove. (“The arrangement set off concern among some government watchdog groups and a senior Republican in Congress, who questioned whether a person in a sensitive State Department position should be working for clients in the private sector at the same time.”)

In 2008 Clinton was a former first lady and the sitting junior New York senator with a thin track record (who can forget bullets over Bosnia?) and failed Hillarycare; now she is a former secretary of state who left in her wake the Benghazi mess, a discredited Russian reset and no discernible policy for the Middle East’s serial upheavals. For all her talk of women’s rights, she did comparatively little in office on behalf of the world’s oppressed girls and women. Executive management has never been her strong suit.

It is noteworthy that the stories of her current travails on the foundation and Abedin come from the New York Times, a sign that perhaps the liberal media won’t treat her with kid gloves this time around.

What may save Clinton this time is a dearth of young Democratic talent. Vice President Joe Biden is making noises about a run. (“While Mr. Biden has made no decision about his future, people familiar with his thinking say, he hasn’t ruled out a bid for the White House. If he runs, that could set up a titanic battle between two of the party’s most prominent figures.”) That probably does not send chills down the spines of the loyalists in Hillaryland. (He’s older than she and has been in D.C. since first elected as a senator in 1973.)

She may have an easier road than in 2008 to the nomination absent a “historic” opponent. But as a general-election candidate she would have more baggage than just about any major presidential candidate in recent memory. It is a good thing for the GOP that electability has never been much of a concern for the Democrats; Clinton may be the candidate against whom a Republican outside the Beltway governor or fresh D.C. face stacks up nicely.