It is sometimes hard for Hillary Clinton’s critics to understand how she has risen to the point of inevitability in the Democratic Party’s presidential 2016 sweepstakes. Yes, she failed at health-care reform on her own. Sure, she had no discernible achievements at the State Department and some pretty big flops (e.g. Russian reset, Iran engagement, Israeli relations, Benghazi, Libya). Oh and yes, the health-care plan that essentially duplicated her 2008 platform and which she pushed for internally while on President Obama’s cabinet is widely disliked. And of course, she gobbles up speaking fees from hedge fund donors and courts Arab royalty for Clinton Foundation donors — behavior that would earn a Republican vilification from the New York Times. And yet, we are told, she is the most competent woman on the planet. How, many Hillary Clinton skeptics want to know, is this possible?
We can’t overlook the role of identity politics on the left. And besides, who else do the Democrats really have but her? Still, there is a missing element that baffles conservatives. I think it comes down to shamelessness. Consider the tweet with a photo of her and Masha Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova, the two members of Pussy Riot imprisoned in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Hillary Clinton chirps: “Great to meet the strong & brave young women from #PussyRiot, who refuse to let their voices be silenced in #Russia.”
A lesser politician would have thought to avoid this scene. After all, Clinton was the mother of the Russian reset, which sought to get along with these musicians’ jailer. It was Clinton’s State Department that threw sand in the wheels and tried to delay passage of the Magnitsky Act. Clinton’s image is not exactly the one that pops to mind when one says “Human right defender for Russian dissidents.” And yet, there she is mugging it up with two of Putin’s most famous victims.
Unlike mere mortal politicians who might think, “Gosh maybe this will just call attention to my rotten record and provoke accusations of hypocrisy,“ Clinton hums along. Her confidence, one suspects, is built not only of a self-image that departs markedly from reality but from the confidence that the mainstream media will never call her out, revisit her record in detail and skewer her for her blatant shortcomings. She has been at this a very long time. (Who can forget her “pretty in pink” appearance, the former tough-as-nails-lawyer, denying any knowledge of how the Rose law firm documents went missing?)
I would like to think her confidence in the media’s indulgence is misplaced, but the track record of the mainstream media in providing exacting coverage of “historic” leading lights in the Democratic Party is not a strong one.
For that reason, Clinton apparently feels no qualms about courting hedge fund managers and Arab royalty. They’ll be plenty of this in the months and years ahead, I suspect. She will go to an American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy meeting and tout her pro-Israel credentials despite her record of constant haranguing about its building in its capital and her ambush of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the “1967 borders.” She’ll take credit as a great supporter of gay rights, although she trailed and did not lead on gay marriage.
Her ability to carry on with not only a straight face but a chip on her shoulder about the criticism she must put up with is without parallel. You do wonder, though, whether one of the Pussy Riot gals was thinking: What did she ever do for us? American voters should ask the same question.