So, after sixteen years on the national stage, Hillary Rodham Clinton has finally declared that she is a candidate for President of the United States. After years of denying this transparent ambition, it must be a relief to get it out there in the open.
No such relief was evident in the announcement video on her website, where she looked uncomfortable and sounded as stilted as ever. “I’m in, and I’m in to win” is a line that takes some panache to deliver—even a grin. But Hillary’s repertoire of dramatic tones is limited, ranging from prim high-mindedness (verging on the self-righteous) to faux regular-gal camaraderie. So when she talks about opening a “national conversation” and says, “let’s chat,” there is nothing authentic or inviting about it. It is, of course, an attempt to sound casual and open. But Hillary isn’t casual or open, so the effort falls flat.
Despite her iron discipline about refusing to indulge in self-revelation, her conviction that she is meant to wield power, and to edify the rest of us, nonetheless shines through. Though a feminist by belief and training, she owes most of her political success to her husband’s skills and successes. That particular opportunism galls in 2007, when plenty of women hold high office by their own efforts.
Hillary has behaved ruthlessly toward anyone who stood in her way, and in her campaigns she has trimmed endlessly on policy matters to hide her leftist views. Still, one might ask what those views mean given her willingness to trade them for power. In the Senate, her votes have been calibrated to give her cover as a responsible centrist. Now, especially on Iraq, she can say that she has had enough—and thus get the votes she needs from her party’s anti-war base.
Like many students of Hillary, I veer between thinking that this is as far as she can go politically and fearing that she will be our next President almost by default. The weak field of candidates for 2008, Democrat and Republican alike, offers little reassurance that she won’t be.
It should be an interesting race.