It’s only Wednesday, but it’s already been a lousy week for Hillary Clinton. Trying to ride the populist tiger, remain silent on key issues and not be a target in the inequality wars would be a hard balancing act for any politician, but for one without much political grace and a problematic record, she has her hands full.
The populist wave washed over the White House yesterday with a shellacking from President Obama’s own party on the trade agenda. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), as she did on banking and on the president’s nominee for the No. 3 spot at Treasury, drove the debate and stood up to the president — from the left. Clinton did not have the nerve to do so or to bolster the president, once again showing that her caution paralyzes her and makes her irrelevant. She gets no kudos from either Obama or the anti-free trade left. Once again Democrats are reminded: The only thing Hillary Clinton stands for is getting Hillary Clinton elected.
As the The Post editorial board put it, “So powerful has the opposition on the left become, in fact, that it has turned the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, into a quiet follower on the issue, rather than the forceful leader she once was — and still could be. While her opponents for the Democratic nomination populistically posture, all she has mustered are a couple of anodyne remarks.” The same could be said on Iran, Israel, Iraq and even the Keystone XL pipeline.
Then we shift to the poverty debate. Obama joined a discussion at Georgetown University, telling the audience not to demonize opponents — while demonizing his opponents. As USA Today reported, the American Enterprise Institute’s Arthur Brooks had to admonish the president not to castigate the House and Senate GOP leaders. “We have to be really careful not to impugn their motives, and impugning motives on the other side is the number-one barrier against making progress.” Obama and indeed all Democrats can never talk at length about poverty without making the discussion about inequality; it’s not enough to discover and combat the root causes of poverty — you have to take money away from the rich. (That we have spent trillions on poverty programs that haven’t worked suggests more money is not a panacea.) But who is the poster girl for cronyism, the 1 percent, the greed and refusing to play by the rules? Hint: She hasn’t driven her own car for decades. Yes, the more the liberals want to talk about inequality rather than opportunity the more incongruous it seems to have Clinton as the nominee.
And then, hanging over her head is her State Department record. Former CIA official Mike Morrell not only indicted White House operative Ben Rhodes for the overly-politicized talking points but put down bread crumbs for Clinton’s opponents to follow.
And yes, while Jeb Bush was struggling to explain what he’d do on Iraq if he knew there were no WMD’s, the base must recollect that Clinton voted for the war. She admitted she was wrong, but wasn’t the whole argument against her in 2008 that she lacked judgment on foreign policy? I’m not sure how confessing she blew it makes that better eight years later. “Because of this lack of governance, during the spring and summer of 2012, the security situation across Libya, deteriorated,” Morrell relates. “CIA analysts accurately captured this situation, writing scores of intelligence pieces describing in detail how the situation in Libya was becoming more and more dangerous.” What was Clinton doing in response? Nothing as far as we can tell. Likewise, while the CIA updated its own security at the annex, little was done at the State Department’s compound. (“As a result of the deterioration in security in Libya, we at CIA at least twice reevaluated our security posture in Benghazi and made significant enhancements at the Annex. It was only later — after the tragedy of 9/11/12 — that we learned that only a few security enhancements had been made at the TMF.”) Clinton? It was someone else’s job she’s said.
And that bit about the video sparking the riots (a line Clinton repeated when the caskets were met just days after they were killed)? Rubbish. “In fact, there were three separate attacks that night, none of them showing evidence of significant planning, but each of them carried out by Islamic extremists, some with connections to al Qaeda, and each attack more potent than the one before,” Morrell writes. “Since the definition of terrorism is violence perpetrated against persons or property for political purposes, each attack in Benghazi was most definitely an act of terrorism — no matter the affiliation of the perpetrators, no matter the degree of planning, and no matter whether the attack on the TMF was preceded by a protest or not (an issue that would take on enormous political importance in the weeks and months ahead).”
In short, the secretary of state was blissfully unaware or unfocused on the obvious, rising terrorism threat. She then blamed others rather than admit she’d missed a huge development in the spread of Islamic terror. Forget the question about what Bush would have done on the Iraq War, the real question is what Clinton would have done if she’d been paying attention to and willing to address the phony election positioning that al-Qaeda was on its heels.
Clinton will remain the inevitable nominee unless and until the left figures out she is not one of them, has never been and has a boat load of liabilities, not the least of which is that she and her husband have gotten rich off the promise of giving billionaires and disagreeable kingdoms access to power. For a party stretching its populist muscles, she seems like an odd standard bearer.