Hilary Clinton Secretary of State Portrait

Hilary Clinton Secretary of State Portrait

So, Hilary has made it official. Last time she was the front-runner and lost, but this time there are no particularly strong presumptive nominees: no Obama, nobody even as strong as Edwards was.

Clinton’s negatives are terrible and she has a lot of baggage. The right will hammer her on Bengazi, but more serious to left-wingers is Iraq and the larger picture of foreign policy when she was Secretary of State. Libya’s a complete mess, the Arab Spring failed and gave way to more repressive states, ISIS rose (albeit its spectacular breakout was after her resignation), and so on.

Back in 2008, I read the three major campaigns’ policy documents and releases carefully–it was my job. Edwards was the most left-wing candidate, the other two weren’t even close. Not a lot separated Clinton and Obama on substantive issues, but, generally speaking, she was slightly to his left on domestic bread and butter issues and slightly to his right on foreign affairs. It is instructive that her post was at State.

When Lincoln Chafee declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination last week, he was very explicit about Iraq; Chafee was the only Republican to vote against the war. Say what one will, that took integrity and guts. Clinton likes to say she makes “hard choices,” but it’s not clear to me what those choices are. Her “hard choices” are generally of the “make your bones” variety: Do what the elites want and shove it down the throats of ordinary people.

The main exceptions would be in terms of women’s rights, in which she genuinely believes and for which she has fought.

Can Clinton beat the Republican candidate–most likely Jeb Bush? Well, her negatives are high and she’s trying to extend a Democratic presidency which has been pretty awful on the economy (many people will try to pretend otherwise, they are either stupid, in the top 5% or so who have done well, or on the payroll). On the other hand, identification with the Democratic party is significantly higher (almost 10%) than with the Republican party. That’s a significant advantage.

This far out, I don’t know. There are weaknesses in a Clinton candidacy. This is not 2008, where the election was the Democratic nominee’s to lose. The real election in 2008 was the Democratic primary, everyone knew it, and that’s why the fight was so vicious.

Personally, of the people who have put themselves forward so far I like Chafee the best. He seems to have some actual integrity and is at least saying most of the right things. He doesn’t appear to have much of a chance; like every other Democratic nominee so far he’s about waiting for Clinton to stumble.

I think coronating Clinton is most likely a mistake, though, and not just because I don’t like her politics. She needs to be tested properly in competitive primaries. The Clinton of the late 2008 campaign was a fierce campaigner, but she’s bungled a great deal before and since then.

May the best candidate for America, and the world, win.

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