With only a little more than a year and a half until the presidential election, I reckon it’s well past time for me to weigh in on the race. I don’t suppose it will help to point out that at this point prior to the 2004 election it looked like Hollerin’ Howard Dean would be the Democratic nominee or that at a similar juncture ahead of the 2008 race everyone thought Fred Thompson would be the GOP nominee. No? Very well, here we go…
Let’s start on the Democratic side, where Hillary Clinton’s coronation has been all but assured for several months already. There’s been some talk of late the e-mail controversy could be the fatal straw on her campaign’s back, but I don’t think so. Not that it shouldn’t be, but there are two things that constitute the Clinton brand — being a magnet for self-induced scandal and the uncanny ability to shed them off like the most untouchable mafia don.
There are plenty of reasons to disqualify Mz. Clinton. Her political record isn’t exemplary by any objective standard. Touted in Bill’s 1992 campaign to serve as the most active and policy oriented First Lady in history, her biggest political contribution was the secret drafting of a failed health care reform package that was so egregious it delivered her husband a Republican House of Representatives — the first in four decades. There followed two uninspired terms in the Senate, done solely in preparation for a failed run for the Democratic nomination to the White House in 2008. After that, she was made secretary of state by a president who knew little and cared less about foreign affairs, and went on to preside over the most directionless and ineffectual stretch of foreign policy the nation has ever seen. Ask the Ukrainians how well her infamous “Russian reset” worked out. And now we have the e-mail scandal on top of all that.
But remember, before all, she’s a Clinton, and a part of the Clinton equation is the ability to weather scandal. A large part of that ability is what one might call political sociopathy — they just don’t care. The various failures, cover ups and controversies matter less politically if they don’t matter much to the politician. Just as it didn’t really bother Bill he lied about his dalliances, it doesn’t seem to bother Hillary that, at the very least, she ducked and weaved around federal guidelines and laws with her e-mail policy. To quote Ms. Clinton herself, at this point what difference does it really make?
Hillary could yet face opposition. There remains talk of Elizabeth Warren, the darling of the extreme left, who when not pretending to be a Sioux warrior princess, is advancing policies that are virtually indistinguishable from those that, say, Hugo Chavez might have pursued. I wouldn’t rule her out. T he far left of the Democratic Party considers Ms. Clinton too moderate or establishment for their tastes and is looking for a kindred spirit. President Barack Obama doesn’t like Hillary very much, and is more ideologically aligned with Warren in any case, so it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see him back a Warren candidacy. And, of course, there’s Vice President Joe Biden, who some say is considering the job. Rumor has it a coalition of late night talk show writers and editorial cartoonists are scrambling to form JOEPAC to ensure his viability.
How about the Republican side? U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is the only candidate to officially announce, surprising no one. I like Sen. Cruz in a general sense. He’s certainly conservative, and his positions are more well-thought-out than his carefully constructed anti-establishment persona and rhetoric sometimes suggest. He’s intelligent, a graduate of both Princeton and Harvard, and accomplished both academically and professionally. He’s a tad bombastic for my tastes, but that’s what lawmakers do.
Is he electable? He could be, probably, with the right guidance. But his biggest problem is he’s a senator, and I’ve long maintained senators generally don’t make the best chief executives.
What about the governors in the hunt? There’s Jeb Bush, who in my estimation is a solid conservative, has a record as an accomplished and effective governor and could be a formidable candidate. Except his last name is Bush. It might not be fair, but Americans, especially stubbornly independent Republicans, resist the idea of political dynasty, and three Bushes in as many decades would a dynasty make.
Which takes us to Scott Walker. Walker is a solid conservative who got himself elected, repeatedly, in a solid blue state. He took on the unions and won. The unions took him on, with all they had in their arsenal, and he won again. He’s smart, articulate and has instituted and defended conservative reforms in Wisconsin that have had positive concrete results. There’s much to admire there.
I suspect I’ll have much more to say about each of these in the months to come. But really, at this point, what difference does it make?