The Overhyping of Hillary

Last year I attended the first ever of a nonpartisan event called Politicon, which brought together an impressive number of popular conservative and liberal political gurus.

One learns quickly enough, however, that there is no such thing as “nonpartisanship” when it comes to both the players and the crowd that attend such gatherings. At a panel featuring Doris Kearns Goodwin and several other “spokeswomen” for women, the praise for Hillary Clinton was enough to make one’s ears ring, if not one’s heart throb. The obsequious bias -- some of it from one of Barbara Boxer’s daughters who produces documentaries – lauded “the Hillary effect,” a nebulous term they used to describe her impact on women worldwide.

There’s little doubt among diehard Hillary supporters that Madame Secretary is a rarified role model of brains and accomplishment, whose time to pivot toward the presidency has more than come.    

Such idolatry dictates that any criticism of Hillary Clinton be construed as rooted in malice, jealousy, or misdirected political zeal. Anyone who finds fault with her actions is considered a truth-twisting misogynist.

One expects plenty of negative fodder from both sides during an election campaign. George Soros will see to it that Trump is savaged in a barrage of expensive media advertising. And before it’s all over, Hillary will put on her usual stiff upper lip as the perennial poster child for political victimization by the same “vast right wing conspiracy” that unfairly went after her husband at the end of his term in office.

Destructive rhetoric in all forms is de rigueur in an election year. What is unusual is not the negativism, but the unbridled and unwarranted optimism with which Ms. Clinton’s supporters describe her. The idea, perhaps, is that if something -- like the “Hillary effect” -- is proclaimed often enough -- it becomes believable.    

Take, for example, the well-circulated presumption that Hillary Rodham was “the valedictorian” of her Wellesley College class. I have heard this bit of misinformation dozens of times, by way of illustrating her lifelong brilliance. The fact is that Wellesley does not have valedictorians, and if it did, it would not have been Hillary, who wasn’t even elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa, an honor reserved for the class’ top academic achievers. Instead, Hillary, a campus activist at the time, was chosen as the class spokesperson -- maybe more for her mouth than her mind. (Note: Bill Clinton was elected to Phi Beta Kappa at Georgetown University.) 

It was rare to allow a student rebuttal of sorts at a Wellesley graduation. But the 60s was a tempestuous decade, and any presumed image of women’s college co-eds dutifully presiding over high tea -- pinkies properly extended -- had by then passed into history. So the college administration yielded to pressure, but not before insisting that the acting president be allowed to vet Hillary’s speech beforehand. That effort didn’t matter, however, since Ms. Rodham stood up on graduation day and gave an entirely different one -- a mean-spirited rebuff to the commencement speaker, then U.S. Senator Edward Brooke, a Republican representing Massachusetts, a war hero, and the first black senator popularly elected since the Reconstruction. 

The hyped picture of Hillary gets rosier still. In a recent interview, Diane Sawyer -- herself a Wellesley grad -- referred to her guest as a “star” at Yale Law School. If she was, her brightness dimmed considerably with her inability to pass the Washington, D.C. bar.

Around that time, Hillary was fired from her first job in Our Nation’s Capital by Democrat Jeffrey Zeifman, counsel and chief of staff of the House’s Judiciary committee and Hillary’s supervisor on the Nixon Watergate investigation, who concluded that she “engaged in a variety of self-serving unethical practices in violation of House rules.” Ms. Clinton has said that there were two sides to that story -- one more, incidentally, than she allows her enemies when she attacks them.   

Nevertheless, Hillary’s image continues to be overhyped by those who love her, which includes herself. She has brashly boasted on the campaign trail about her diplomatic move of presenting Vladimir Putin with a big “button” by which to “reset the clock” in the faltering relationship between our two countries. Yet the truth is that Hillary’s ersatz gimmick has resulted in an “uptick” for Putin, who has all but “cleaned our clock” with his aggressive actions in the Middle East and vulnerable former Soviet bloc countries.   

In the high-stakes game of Clinton spin, the coin always lands heads up. If she is sometimes described as The Queen of Denial, it is because she interprets every criticism as a vicious attack on her person. She likes to claim that for years she has been the victim of those intent on silencing her feminine voice in the political arena, as though she were a long-suffering dissident, a champion of the people akin to a Nelson Mandela. In fact, her long years in the public eye have yielded few verifiable achievements, notwithstanding such mantras as “I take a back seat to no-one!” and “I have a strong record!”

If there’s one thing Hillary has mastered from her pals in the grievance industry, it’s how to neutralize verbal attacks by behaving as though they are grossly unfair. So when she made the unwise assertion that she would close down the coal mining industry and put the remaining miners out of work, the unexpected outcry drove her not to defend her policy, but to defend herself. Looking downcast and deeply “hurt” by their reaction, she could say only that her comments must have been “taken out of context.” For who could doubt the goodness of Hillary Clinton as the long-time protector of coal miners and all other oppressed Americans? (At least Eleanor Roosevelt put on a hard hat and went down into the mines!)

Nevertheless, Hillary can move from the aggrieved to the aggressor with the skill of a seasoned actor. Seven hours after Trump tweeted that the downing of the missing Egyptian plane was likely the result of terrorism, haughty Hillary concluded the same -- accompanied with the usual clichés -- i.e. the incident “shines the spotlight” on the problem. And to impress us with her worldly experience, she glibly tossed out a few nuggets, such as the fact that there are “other” terrorist groups out there beside ISIS. (Who knew?)

Hillary has declared her Republican rival unfit to be president, soberly pointing out that it takes “strength, smarts and steadiness” to succeed in that position.  Well, it wasn’t very “smart” of her to bypass State Department rules and set up her own e-mail server, potentially compromising U.S. security. Nor is it a secret that she is not considered a very “strong” candidate. As for her so-called “steadiness,” it’s the lifelong result of her insatiable and unswerving quest for power.   

Overcoming Hillary’s negatives -- the greatest of which is her untrustworthiness -- will require some conjuring from the magician’s hat. All her boring, hand-sawing, platitudinous bombast must somehow be obscured by ever more insincere smiles at her rallies and phony hugs to her newly-designated “Economic Czar.” Still, Democrats hold to the official party line that no matter how disappointing their presumptive nominee’s negatives appear to be, Donald Trump’s are worse.  

The other whiff of hope to this lame defense presumes that somehow Hillary’s innate promise will be fully embraced once pesky Bernie is out of the picture. It brings to mind how Barbara Boxer reminded the rowdy Sanders supporters at the Nevada state convention that the Democratic Party behaves itself, a comment she delivered just before being ushered off the stage under a hail of nasty “boos.”

The considerable Clinton “baggage” -- which her campaign passes off as Santa sacks full of goodies for struggling Americans -- will make it hard to hoist Hillary onto anything resembling a pedestal. But that won’t deter her worshippers, who fail to see that their idol has feet of clay.