When ordinary voters think about Hillary Clinton — which I hope they do very little since life is short — some may think “secretary of state,” some may think “scandals” or “Benghazi,” and some may think of the double-edged sword that is her famous husband.
But for me, and I suspect for an increasing number of Americans, the gut reaction to Hillary is boredom.
Just as you can imagine a teenager writing down random combinations of “Chevy,” “road,” “union,” “girl,” “town,” and “engine,” interspersed with assorted first person pronouns and single-syllable verbs to create a convincing Bruce Springsteen song, it wouldn’t be hard to teach your eighth grader to write a plausible Clinton response to any question she’ll be asked or to draft believable Clinton talking points on any issue of policy or politics.
Her words would include “everyday,” “ordinary,” “living wage,” “equality,” “Republicans,” “tax breaks,” and “regardless of who you love.”
Since the official start of her presidential campaign, has Mrs. Clinton said a single thing about a pressing national issue or even about the simmering (real) scandal over the Clinton Foundation’s finances that surprised you or that you would find more interesting (or more comprehensible) than a rerun of Deal or No Deal? Even her “the dog ate my server” excuse for bad judgment bordering on criminality was boringly Clintonesque.
Indeed, of all of the likely Democratic presidential candidates, Mrs. Clinton is the most sententious, predictable, and soporific — which is saying something in a field that includes Martin O’Malley. At least Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee have a few instincts outside of boilerplate liberal dogma. And at least Bernie Sanders is briefly amusing in his economic idiocy and with hair as crazy and unruly as his thought process. (Interestingly, the exact same sentence could be used to describe possible candidate and current vice president Joe Biden.)
Which is not to say that those gentlemen are actually interesting; they’re just slightly less sleep-inducing than the presumptive nominee.
The current and likely Republican field may be many things. But “dull” applies to few of them individually and not at all to the group as a whole.
Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, it’s difficult not to find 43-year-old Marco Rubio appealing; he is the best communicator and probably the best-looking person in the race regardless of party.
Whether you’re a social conservative or a libertarian, it’s hard not to like Mike Huckabee’s folksy style. (The same can’t be said of the other social issues candidate, Rick Santorum, whose most interesting aspect is his sweater vest, and he might ditch that.)
Whether you think he’s part of the solution or part of the problem when it comes to the intense partisanship in the Capitol, you usually want to listen when Ted Cruz speaks, wondering what bomb he’ll throw next.
And Rand Paul is so unpredictable, at least for those trapped within the dominant left-right paradigm of the last generation, that you’ll pay attention just to hear him surprise you.
Carly Fiorina may not have tremendous political experience, but she’s aggressively going after Hillary in a way that other Republicans aren’t; perhaps they fear being called sexist. It’s not just good politics for Fiorina, it’s also darned entertaining.
OK, Scott Walker isn’t the most exciting guy but he’s affable and can play the folksy “I shop at Kohl’s” card and have it sound real, unlike Hillary’s ridiculous attempts to be plebian. And anybody whom unions hate as much as they hate Walker is automatically interesting.
Jeb Bush isn’t a particularly rousing character, but unlike Hillary he has a real record of success (as well as a willingness to challenge some strongly held GOP positions), which make him worth hearing and no other Republican has his fund-raising ability.
Dr. Ben Carson may have the dullest delivery in the Republican field and perhaps doesn’t have enough experience in the rough-and-tumble world of politics to be a viable candidate, but he’s an obviously intelligent, often wise, and frequently inspiring figure.
And those are just the Republicans who have already announced (except for Walker and Bush about whom I’m willing to assume their candidacies, and Santorum whose website is collecting presidential campaign contributions though I don’t recall an official entry into the race).
We may still get a few successful current governors throwing their hats in: Chris Christie (NJ) — a guy who is anything but dull but whose star is nevertheless much faded in the past two years; John Kasich (OH) — a Republican with wide experience and an unusual approach who won re-election in Ohio by 31 points after starting his first term with low approval ratings; and Bobby Jindal (LA) — who has made a solid recovery after famously flubbing the Republican response to President Obama’s 2009 State of the Union Speech. Jindal is one of the few governors standing up uncompromisingly for religious freedom.
Former governors George Pataki (NY), Jim Gilmore (VA), and Rick Perry (TX) might jump in, as could Senator Lindsey Graham (SC), though why anyone would think that Graham is an interesting candidate is beyond me. (Sorry, Ben!) None of these guys is particularly exciting although one never knows what will come out of Perry’s mouth. But any of them is like a Jolt Cola compared do the droning pabulum of Mrs. Clinton.
Beyond the head-to-head comparison between Hillary and any Republican candidate, the GOP field’s size and scope is itself interesting. It will capture the attention of the media, even of “mainstream” networks whose employees prefer the idea of a Clinton presidency, if only out of a desire to avoid nodding off during the evening news.
Yes, there will be some debate among Democrats, but other than with a few of Sen. Sanders’ wackiest ideas, it will go something like this:
Hillary: I want to raise the minimum wage.
A different Democrat: I want to raise it more.
Hillary: I believe in gay marriage.
A different Democrat: I believed in it before you did.
Hillary: The rich have too much money.
A different Democrat: Does that include you?
Hillary: I’m tougher than Obama when it comes to Iran.
A different Democrat: Who isn’t?
Hillary knows that almost nobody will watch a Democratic primary debate since short of a “smoking gun” regarding her corrupting the State Department no other Democrat stands a chance at the nomination. If she were the slightest bit self-aware, she’d also realize that few of the poor saps who do watch her debate will believe her answers. But then Hillary is likely no more honest with herself than she is with the American public.
All of this means she will agree to a bare minimum number of debates, none of which any sane American will watch in its entirety unless suffering from acute insomnia.
For the same reasons, and knowing that among her party’s candidates even a weakened Hillary has a better chance than any of the others of beating a Republican in 2016, Democrat-loving reporters will ask very few probing questions.
Mrs. Clinton will not offer a single new or interesting idea.
And the Hillary yawn-fest will continue.
Republican debates, on the other hand, will be spirited affairs with voters likely to learn not just about differences among candidates but that the party long demonized by Democrats and their pawns in the press as being monolithic, regressive, and nothing more than the “Party of No” is in fact a place of dynamism and debate, a place where a wide range of policy positions can exist on topics as important and varied as immigration, the tax code, the drug war, and national security.
(For those who would point out that there is not much diversity among the candidates regarding social issues, I would suggest that there is a broader gamut on abortion and gay marriage — albeit with a very different overall bias — than exists within the Democratic Party.)
For the first time in recent memory, the Democratic candidate will be old and dull, with her rhetoric and policy positions equally so, boring us to tears while the GOP field is full of fresh (and a few not so fresh) faces, Hispanics, a black neurosurgeon, a female Fortune 500 CEO, and a level of energy which the GOP hasn’t seen — and probably hasn’t deserved — since the nomination of Ronald Reagan.
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