Hillary Clinton may be the overwhelming front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, but she’s going to have to deal with some knotty problems sooner or later. She can’t ignore forever either her party or the media’s entreaties to talk on important subjects.
The first problem surely is health care. President Obama won’t allow it to be repealed, so the Affordable Care Act will be hanging there, damaged and disliked for Clinton to address. Will she throw it and her former boss overboard, call for a single-payer plan as a sop to the left and risk scaring off the electorate in Nov. 2016?
It’s not like the problem is going to go away. According to one poll, a majority of young people think the law will be repealed — next year. You can bet these people won’t bother to sign up for a program they consider a goner. Couple that with news reports of scamming and a 10 percent error rate and the incentive for the millions who must sign up to make the scheme work pretty much vanishes. Obamacare threatens to hang over Clinton’s campaign like low-hanging fog. Frankly, before long she may be begging Obama to get rid of it so she doesn’t have to deal with it. (It won’t help that Obamacare closely resembled the health-care plan she ran on in 2008.)
The other problem is her record at the State Department. It is supposed to qualify her for the presidency. Instead it’s becoming a burden. Benghazi, Libya, is back in the news, reminding everyone it was on her watch that the requests for additional security were ignored, the first ambassador since 1979 was killed and a who’s-on-first routine of misleading statements showed an administration lacking both honesty and competence. The Post reported on Friday: “U.S. officials say efforts have stalled to capture about a dozen people secretly charged in the 2012 attack on the American compound in Benghazi that claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. . . . So far, none have been brought to trial and the lack of progress in capturing [suspected ringleader of the attack Ahmed Abu] Khattala has frustrated U.S. intelligence officials and lawmakers who want to see him and the others prosecuted. One official said that Khattala continues to operate in eastern Libya with impunity.” And we still haven’t gotten the perpetrators as she promised we would. How is it that no one is held accountable?
Is her excuse really going to be “I didn’t now. No one told me. It wasn’t my fault.”? At some point, like Obama’s Obamacare rollout, she’ll likely need to claim incompetence to avoid the impression of mendacity. More so than on Obamacare, foreign policy was her bailiwick. Russian reset, Iran engagement, Libya policy (or lack thereof) and the rest were her responsibility. Wasn’t the failure to negotiate an Iraq status of forces agreement her doing? Did she do anything but speechify and go on bended knee to the Russians to deal with the mass atrocities in Syria? If we had acted under her watch our options would have been infinitely better (because jihadists had not yet poured into Syria). The more it looks like she was a pleasant but incompetent secretary of state who left a mess in her wake, the more she may remind voters of the perils of a rotten executive. And if it was all run by the White House, what qualifications would she really bring to the job?
Clinton’s problems are one of many reasons why a GOP governor would match up especially well against her. These are people who took charge and accepted responsibility, dealt with natural disasters and stubborn bureaucracies. (The governors most likely to run are perfectly positioned to say things like, “You didn’t get the memo pleading for more security in Libya? You must be joking! What kind of shop were you running over there? I always made sure the most important issues got to my desk. It’s executive skills 101.”)
Don’t get me wrong. Chances are overwhelming she’ll be the nominee. But Democrats might begin to fret that she’ll be a hobbled one, someone (along with Vice President Joe Biden) burdened by a record and hampered in separating from an administration gasping for breath. Maybe that is why Republicans are coming around to the idea that Clinton is the perfect opponent for them to confront in 2016.