Down the Yellow Brick Road with Hillary
When Hillary officially announced her candidacy for president of the United States on April 13, I figured she would come out swinging. Instead, her initial video was so innocuous, it might as well have been accompanied by Julie Andrews twirling with unsuppressed joy and warbling, "Hillary is alive with the sound of music." The idea, I suppose, was to picture the dawning of an idyllic Clintonesque day when unflatteringly called "everyday Americans" – women, gays, the poor, single moms, workers, small business folks – would eagerly join hands with Hillary on her enlightened journey to Election Day 2016. It was like an infomercial in which she's hawking an age-defying product: herself.
Is this the kind of feel-good fare we can expect Hillary's handlers to dish out in the months to come? Is it possible that her campaign has decided to take the "high road" by default, in an attempt to bypass the issues and scandals dogging her candidacy? Is the ploy to make her Republican challengers seem like nothing more than an argumentative, cynical, mean-spirited bunch of wannabes, ganging up on a wiser, more experienced woman, who seeks the kinder, gentler world that no male president – not even Bush Sr. – managed to grasp?
It's hard to imagine Hillary as a guardian angel rising above the national fray. Still, we got a dose of this self-image in her book Hard Choices, with its presumption that the author chose devotion to family and country, hard work, and high ideals, instead the easier alternatives strewn along her principled path.
So can we really expect to see a chastened, high-minded Hillary Clinton taking to the campaign trail? Should we anticipate her dismissing the hard questions as little more than diversions from the main message of her campaign, which is to save America like no president has been able to...since Bill?
Hillary has cracked under pressure before. She lost it badly in her outburst before the congressional committee investigating her role in Benghazi. As a result, she handed the Republicans a snippet of Clintonesque pique that will be replayed ad nauseam between now and the presidential election. It may, in fact, be better for Republicans if they allow Hillary to condemn herself.
Yet it almost seems as though somebody has since sat Mrs. Clinton down and explained to her that peevish ranting is not the way back to the White House. So while Madame Secretary is no sweeter than before, she might try to pull off a charade of benevolence as a viable campaign tactic. Like her husband, Ms. Clinton is an accomplished chameleon, not a hard trick for those who lack true colors.
Hillary's pretensions of innocence and her countless denials of wrongdoing began a long time ago. Most recently, in her response to e-mail-gate, a wide-eyed Hillary again denied misconduct, insisting on her right to protect – and then destroy – thousands of her so-called personal e-mails, which she said had to do with things like her daughter's wedding, her mother's funeral, and (get this!) her yoga appointments.
Inasmuch as Hillary employs the well-compensated wife of Anthony Weiner as her personal scheduler, one might think it easy enough for Huma Abedin to set up exercise sessions for her boss. And how involved in her daughter's wedding does a mother get when she is otherwise diplomatically engaged as secretary of state? Other than submitting a list of friends she wanted at the ceremony, Hillary would have been wise to leave the rest of the wedding planning to the bride and groom and the professionals hired to cater the event. As for funeral arrangements, they hardly require thousands of e-mails. One phone call, and somebody in that line of work is put in charge. In fact, it seems rather incredible that a highly placed government appointee would have so much free time in which to send such a plethora of personal e-mails.
That aside, Hillary's goal is to come across as one of those "everyday Americans" she regards as her constituency. After all, she's just a woman trying to balance job and family, like all her sympathetic sisters out there. So it was necessary to remind us how, with her fine-tuned feminine instincts, she finds time from her whirlwind, world-changing work to experience the joy of a child's marriage and the sadness of a parent's death. In other words, Hillary wants to be seen as an ordinary player in America's game – ignoring the fact that she invents her own rules.
In the past, Hillary has managed to sweep her dirt under the magic carpet. But her e-mail server woes could represent a generational chasm into which she has unwittingly fallen, tripped up by her technological naïveté. For those generations who cannot seemingly exist in a world without cutting-edge technology, this could be Hillary's unpardonable sin. Imagine not being savvy enough to handle more than one simple device!
I live in a trendy apartment complex where most of the residents are a lot younger than I. Our major interaction is in the elevator, where not much conversation takes place between floors and the underground garage. Most of my neighbors are busy staring at handheld screens. I boldly asked one young man why he was carrying two iPhones. "One is for business, one for personal," he explained. Obviously, he's way ahead of Hillary Clinton.
So I'm not convinced that there will be a rush of savvy young people, even women, necessarily, all that eager to hold hands with Hillary Clinton on her road to a brighter tomorrow. Not if the eventual Republican challenger understands better than she does where they get their news and their groove. Ms. Clinton may model herself as a modern version of the Pied Piper, but will young voters heed her siren call?
Enter daughter Chelsea, by all accounts being groomed to continue the Clinton dynasty. Right in time for her mother's anticipated plunge toward the presidency, Chelsea is featured on the May cover of Elle magazine wearing expensive Gucci and Cartier. She will be counted on to supply the missing link between a dated candidate and society's obsession with social media.
Like her mother, Chelsea purports to be the champion of undervalued women everywhere. The impetus for her new "No Ceilings" project is her horror at "the lack of parity" in the workplace and the remaining gaps in gender equality around the world. In reference to her own country, Chelsea opines, "One of our core values is that we are a land of equal opportunity." This is an odd statement coming from a scion of privilege who early on got six-figure salaries as a commodities trader and a part-time "consultant" for a leading TV network! The hypocrisy deepens with her recent purchase of a multi-million-dollar penthouse in Manhattan. Not exactly your "everyday people," those Clintons – but expecting fealty from the masses nevertheless.
At this stage of her campaign, it may seem that Hillary is content to spread the unexplained promise of a benevolent distaff presidency. But behind the scenes, her staffers are discarding velvet gloves and digging into the dirt of scandal to find or invent something against her Republican challengers. The fact is that Hillary has not morphed into Mother Teresa. She's just publicly auditioning for her latest role in political theater.