As is their habit, the Clintons have gone bonkers. This time it’s over publications of several books taking a hard look at Hillary and Bill’s careers and foibles. They are notoriously hostile toward the media, but their demand that these authors not be “allowed or enabled” to pitch their wares in the media is rather stunning even for them. (They, of course, are both authors, so perhaps only pro-Clinton books should be allowed or enabled to gain access to the mainstream media.) The Clintons should take a deep breath. These books, whatever their quality, don’t matter all that much.
Authors, reporters and columnists have been writing about the Clintons’ finances, marriage and scandals (these often overlap) for decades. Their collective work product did not keep Bill from two terms as president or Hillary from the Senate or the State Department. It was not Hillary’s documented foibles and missteps, but her inept campaign and lack of personal charm and political vision that kept her from the White House in 2008. Accounts of the Clintons’ antics don’t seem to damage them all that much. Critics already dislike them, and supporters prefer to ignore their failures and misdeeds. They have always managed, especially Hillary, to maintain plausible deniability. In short, the books about their rise to and stay in the White House persuaded very few people to change their impression of the Clintons; 20 years later they will persuade even fewer (especially if the sources refuse to go on the record).
If Hillary loses or chooses not to run in 2016, it won’t be because of the White House travel office or Rose law firm document episodes, or even because of her failed Hillarycare. Voters’ memories are short, and this is ancient history for most of them. No, if Hillary fails to reach the White House, it’s far more likely to be a result of her failures in her most recent job at State and inability to evade responsibility for the consequences of policies she helped design and implement. If conservatives want to do something productive, they will put aside the 1990s and focus on 2009-2012, holding up her wrongheaded ideas and missteps for scrutiny.
Moreover, voters may simply decide that she is about the past and other political candidates are about the future. The most telling aspect of her book tour may have been how little she had to offer and how empty her rhetoric has become. Even more so than in 2008, the voters in 2016 may well suffer from Clinton fatigue and the desire for someone brimming with new ideas, boundless energy and up-to-date skills suited to addressing our current problems. If once again Hillary represents the past, the public will gravitate to a pol who offers a fresher and more optimistic vision of where we are going.
Conservatives in the 1990s generated hundreds, if not thousands, of op-eds, jumpstarted talk radio and wrote books by the bushel — all focused obsessively on the Clintons. There was a veritable industry in Clinton investigations and analysis. It was satisfying and cathartic for the right, and in some cases, lucrative. But it didn’t dislodge the Clintons from the national stage. If conservatives really want to do her in this time, they will make the connection between her foreign policy (at State and now) and the international mess in which we find ourselves. Even better, they will come up with an opponent who can inspire, lead and unify voters. The rest is, frankly, a waste of time.