The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Hillary Clinton couldn’t figure out how she differs from Obama

Right Turn readers know I have my differences with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), but on this he has got Hillary Clinton pegged: “I think she is going to try to say oh, I’m different than President Obama. He’s very unpopular. But I have different policies. She was part of his administration and I really don’t know of many, if any, policies they disagree on.”

Hillary Clinton has said as much. In her “60 Minutes” interview with the president last year, she told Steve Kroft that during the campaign she realized they were two peas in a pod: “We could never figure out what we were different on.” Indeed. As for her tenure at the White House, she cooed: “I think there’s a sense of understanding that, you know, sometimes doesn’t even take words because we have similar views. We have similar experiences that I think provide a bond that may seem unlikely to some, but has been really at a core of our relationship over the last four years.”

On the issues, it is hard to think of many differences, and where there are a few, Clinton wound up sometimes to Obama’s left (Obamacare was really her campaign health-care plan) and only occasionally to his right, as she was on Syria. And even when there were differences, Clinton often applauded the president’s decisions, as she did when he rubbed out the Syria red line and off-loaded the chemical weapons problem to the Russians in 2013.

They got along so famously because they see the world in similar terms. It’s not clear where these supposed differences would even come from:

Raising taxes on the rich? Both are for it.
Pulling all troops out of Iraq? Both were for it.
Obamacare? Both were strongly for it.
Cap and trade? Both are for it.
The sequester? Both want to get rid of it.
Domestic spending on items like preschool education? Both want more.
Russian reset? Big fans, both of them.

They are traditional liberals with conventionally liberal views. The left doesn’t tolerate much intellectual diversity, so you can bet liberals with national ambitions are for abortion rights, pro-gay marriage, pro-Big Labor and pro-spending.

This was one reason why the midterm election results are so problematic for her. Insofar as the president’s policies, every one of them, were on the ballot, Clinton’s were too.

If Hillary Clinton does try to separate herself, I suspect she will do it in a rhetorical fashion only, using lots of adjectives and sounding different in tone. But parsing through the fog of words that she throws up, voters and even the media may find she favors essentially continuing the same policies with vague promises of “improving” or fixing any glitches. If voters think these policies, some of which she designed, have not worked, that is a a serious problem for her in the general election. Just as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was burdened with the faults of the George W. Bush presidency, so too will Clinton be — and more so, given that she was a loyal official and loyal ex-official.