Former “Vanity Fair” and (failed) “Newsweek” editor Tina Brown knows a thing or two about reinvention. Now the head of the Women in the World Summit, she tells her friend Hillary Clinton the job of president is too small for her: “Being president you may have more power than anyone else in the country, but you quickly discover that you have much, much less than you thought you’d have going in. You’re hamstrung in ways you never dreamed of. That’s truer now than it’s ever been. It’s not that you can’t get anything done. It’s that what you can get done is so paltry compared to what you wanted and expected to get done. You are doomed to disappoint the people who elected you. You’ll disappoint yourself. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg of stress that awaits you.” She warns, in a week in which Benghazi has come up again, “It’s now clear that given the vile toxicity of the campaign experience and the grueling gridlock of the Oval Office itself, the only reason to run for the highest political office in the land is not the presidency but the post-presidency.”
In other words, skip the small-potatoes stuff and get right to the role of doyenne of feminism, defender of the world’s children and selfless philanthropist. Madame Curie meets Eleanor Roosevelt. Al Gore did it, although he tried and failed in his presidential run. And he got a Nobel Peace Prize. Hmm. Bill Clinton doesn’t have one of those. She wouldn’t have to do much (President Obama did nothing) other than announce herself as eschewing power for humanitarianism. And Bill Gates is more famous and beloved saving the world’s poorest from disease and improving U.S. education than he was as Microsoft co-founder.
Eh. I don’t quite buy it. The Clintons have defined themselves as political survivors, riding through scandal and failure (Hillarycare) only to emerge more powerful than before. Moreover, as a classic liberal statist, Hillary Clinton certainly believes the coercive welfare state has huge influence. It’s about getting people to do things even if they don’t know what’s good for them. You have to control the levers of the state in order to compel big societal change, the sort of “New Foundation” President Obama pined for.
Besides, as a loyal Democrat, she knows all too well that if she doesn’t run, it’s a long drop to the next level of candidates. Most everyone thinks she can run. How could she say no?
Other than the Nobel Prize, what might stop her? Age and the wear and tear of a two-year campaign might. The incessant attacks by the press, whom she continues to mistrust if not despise, are a drag. She’s going to have to spend time on the rubber-chicken circuit, looking inquisitive in factories (donning safety goggles as well) and dealing with a whole lot of minutiae. Does she really want to spend her senior years haggling with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over the size of the Pentagon budget? Borrring.
I still think she’ll run, but this week was one more reminder that Hillary Clinton is never as admired as when she is out of office and judged for who she is, not what she has done. She is one of the few people whose standing would go down if she won her party’s nomination for president.