Are we to believe that, as one report about Hillary Clinton suggests, “the presumed presidential candidate has made clear in recent public appearances that she wouldn’t be running for a de facto third Obama term in the White House”? Hmm. If so, she hasn’t been all that explicit about it, in part because she understandably fears a backlash from the left if she comes out boldly in favor of doing “more to woo Republicans and [taking] a more assertive stance toward global crises, while sounding more downbeat than her former boss about the U.S. economic recovery.”
If she really wants to separate herself from the failing president, and not simply wink and nod at the voters — who are increasingly fed up with politicians trying to be a blank canvas on which to project their own hopes (as with Obama) — she’ll have to cast off her telltale caution and begin talking specifics on policy.
On foreign policy she could, for example, be honest: The president didn’t want to leave a significant troop force behind in Iraq. This was a mistake as was his decision to override senior advisers on Syria. Now the U.S. must act robustly with allies both to defang Iran and its allies and to prevent an al-Qaeda state. She could also declare the interim deal with Iran to be counterproductive, and join with Democrats like Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (N.J.) in advocating new sanctions unless a final deal meeting previously established criteria is reached.
On domestic policy, it doesn’t sound like she is “distancing” herself from the president when she refuses to say what she would do about the Keystone XL Pipeline, expresses outrage over the decision enforcing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that her husband signed or pretends serious problems with the Affordable Care Act don’t exist. She doesn’t sound like she is stepping away from Obama’s cronyism so long as she keeps speaking for outlandish fees and is silent on a tax code and budget riddled with giveaways for select industries. And if she really thinks the economy isn’t performing strongly enough, where are her tax and regulatory reforms? If Clinton believes she can deal with Congress, she could share how she would have handled the grand bargaining in 2011, which Obama fumbled away.
As you might have gathered, I don’t think Clinton is daring enough to do what it takes to break from Obama, for that would unleash the jackals from the left and raise the White House’s ire. She might want others to speculate that she would do things differently, but to come right out and say it would be out of character for the politician who has made a career of being the last, not the first, to embrace controversial stances (such as gay marriage). If you are a betting person, I wouldn’t wager on any dramatic policy breaks from the president – even if that means further deterioration in her polling. The plan to separate herself from Obama, if there is one, is a general election strategy that recognizes the president went too far left and too imperiously. It is doubtful there is much support for either proposition in the Democratic primary.
Hillary Clinton is not her husband. Bill was and still is the master at being all things to all people — a loyal liberal to liberals and a moderate pragmatist to others. Moreover, she has the misfortune to follow Obama, who has succeeded in making most Americans into cynics and reducing the tolerance for political bobbing and weaving.
Her insistence notwithstanding, she is not a pol willing to speak from the heart and tell it like it is. I’m not sure she even knows what positions she wants to take. (Without in-depth polling, how is she to know?) If the Democrats really want someone who isn’t going to offer a third Obama term, they’d do better to find someone who didn’t serve in his administration for 4 years, didn’t defend it for 1 ½ more years and doesn’t habitually trim her sails on virtually every issue that comes her way. But so far they seem happy with Hillary.