Tuesday, April 19, 2005

So How Good Is She Really?

We must admit we bought into the conventional wisdom that holds that Hillary Clinton is a "great" politician. In the free Wall Street Journal site, Opinion Journal, blogger Jay Cost argues that reports of her greatness have been greatly exaggerated:
OpinionJournal - Extra: "It is, of course, gospel that Hillary Clinton is a political genius, or something to that effect. She is so brilliant that potential Democratic opponents are warned by pundits everywhere that she will work her secret devil arts on the poor fool who dares cross her. She is that good. Ostensibly, the only hope that humble conservatives have to keep her from being the first female president is some tawdry book by Ed Klein.

I have never understood this. Where do her political credentials come from? It seems to me that she was a great supporting player to a good (though highly overrated) politician. She played the part of the forgiving, intelligent, driven wife with great effectiveness. When she takes center stage, however, the results are quite mixed. She botched health-care reform so badly that President Clinton got absolutely nothing from a Democratic Congress. She coined the term 'vast right-wing conspiracy'--guaranteeing that conservatives everywhere would curse her existence until the end of time. She did win that New York Senate seat, but that, to my mind, was pretty unimpressive. She beat latecomer Rick Lazio, who was not a formidable candidate, to say the least (the word 'sophomoric' comes to mind).

If her political accomplishments are unimpressive, why is she so feared? Why is she seen to be a political genius? The answer to this question eluded me for a long time, perhaps because it is so simple. The plain fact is that Hillary Clinton is actually one of the worst politicians in national politics today. She is feared as a brilliant politician only because she is such an obvious politician, which is actually the key mark of a bad politician."
Cost notes that all politicians must be somewhat calculating to be successful, but the best politicians do it so well you hardly notice. Hilary's positioning for the 2008 presidential race and her "move to the center" have been done with such finesse, skill, tact, and subtlety that practically no one noticed. Er, at least almost no one who has been in a coma for the past 6 years has noticed.

In fact everyone knows what she is doing and why. She comes across as cold, calculating and ruthless [Why would that be?], which is the opposite of how a truly good politician appears.

None of this means she won't be nominated or that she can't win, although it does suggest she's got a long row to hoe to get back to the Whitehouse.

Read the rest of Jay Cost's article.

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