When the story of Hillary Clinton’s second run for the presidency is written, it may come to resemble “Dante’s Inferno” more than a customary campaign book. We’ve seen greed — lots of greed (the fourth circle). We’ve seen the destruction of material, the failure to live up to her agreement with the State Department and misleading tax returns from the Clinton Foundation. In Dante’s hell, the corrupt politicians got to the eighth circle. We’ve seen flashes of anger (“At this point what difference does it make!”) — that’d be the fifth circle.

And then there are Dante’s Gates, where cowards appear (“Included among these cowardly souls–also known as fence-sitters, wafflers, opportunists, and neutrals–are the angels who refused to choose between God and Lucifer.”).  Bob Kagan writes today:

Yet now, when the trade agreement hangs in the balance, when the all-important question of “trade promotion authority“ was voted on in the Senate, Clinton has been silent, or worse, has quietly indicated her concerns about the agreement. Whether or not this is posturing to avoid offending her party’s left wing, only Clinton can know for sure. But it is an interesting departure from her statements as the nation’s top diplomat.
There are always candidates who believe they can run a careful race for president, trimming on issues that seem to require it during the primaries and general election, with the idea that, once elected, they can do what they know is the right thing. Unfortunately, American politics rarely work that way. It is generally the case that if you don’t have the courage to run on a particular platform, you will not have any more courage to govern on it once you are in office. . . . For a candidate who as yet faces no primary challenge, to cower in the face of possible criticism from the irresponsible wing of her party gives little assurance that she has what it takes to lead the nation in the very difficult years ahead.

But that is only one instance in which Clinton’s lack of nerve shows. She refuses to take questions. She hedges on the most central issue of our time, Iran. She won’t tell us her view on the XL Pipeline. And liberals know all too well how long she took to change her view (or admit she changed her view) on gay marriage.

It’s ironic that Clinton regards herself as a pioneer. She makes even the most cautious politicians seem reckless in comparison. One has always sensed with Clinton that, far from leading, she is following, and doing so clumsily. But the presidency is no place for cowards. All the easy decisions get resolved before they get to you. You get hammered from all sides and the media. It takes extraordinary character — as  demonstrated during the surge by President George W. Bush — to withstand pressure and do what is perilous to one’s career and legacy. That is one thing Hillary Clinton is sorely lacking — character.

There has been a lot of talk about Clinton’s polling on “trustworthiness” and her campaign’s apparent conviction that she can have low numbers on that and still win. Unfortunately, there is not much to compensate in other areas. She lacks Bill Clinton’s charm and creativity. Her track record on foreign policy looks miserable if we look at the state of the world. So what’s the argument for her presidency again? It’s surely not character or visionary leadership.