What is it like in the Clinton household now that the last prototypical liberal presidential candidate has lost her run for the White House? Hillary the Inevitable? I attempted to correct that media-wide delusion months ago, as I did in 2008, which would have been years ago. Where is my Pulitzer?
Close students of presidential politics such as the eminent Michael Barone and Charles Krauthammer know that liberals go to painful lengths to live up to their prototypical image. They have studied it assiduously and made occasional alterations as the prototype changes with the times, adding attributes and subtracting attributes, always subject to public tastes. Inevitably, the goal is the same, to create a candidate who is fundamentally irresistible.
At first, the prototypical liberal candidate was an intellectual who cared enormously for the poor. Recall, if you will, the late Woodrow Wilson, Professor Woodrow Wilson, and the late Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Being an intellectual presented no problem for Prof. Wilson, but it did for the philistine Franklin. He overcame his lack of intellectual heft with a nocturnal resort to martinis and several fine speechwriters plus an in-house poet or playwright.
Another ingredient of the prototypical liberal presidential candidate was boldness and being eternally youthful regardless of age. Think of John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton. Also being highly cultured seemed to matter, which presented no problem for President Kennedy, thanks to his wife who spoke French and even ate French, but cultural interests tripped up Clinton. So he and his wife confused the issue by conflating cultural interests with nerdiness.
Then there was athleticism, which was a late arrival to the prototypical liberal presidency. Athleticism almost killed Jimmy Carter. Remember his ill-fated 10K run and the time he foolishly jogged around the top deck of a riverboat? Flap, flap went his shoes. It was 6 a.m., and the rest of the boat was asleep! Then there were Bill Clinton and his sidekick Al Gore who were rendered absurd when they snarled traffic in the nation’s capital by running through rush-hour traffic in what appeared to be their underpants. Even the war hero Jean-François Kerry looked stupid windsurfing and skateboarding, and there was that dreadful mishap on his bicycle.
Bill Clinton, of course, was the ultimate prototypical liberal presidential candidate. He cared for the down and out, was an intellectual, was bold, athletic, and played a musical instrument. If I recall, it was a saxophone or a banjo. He had it all. Bill was charismatic and then some. The girls loved him, even after his impeachment.
But now his oafish wife has brought liberalism — actually crude left-wintery — to a pretty low ebb. The Clinton machine is challenging the vote in Wisconsin, but I doubt it will do more than demonstrate what a botch she has proven to be for the present-day inheritors of liberalism. Though my agents who have utterly infiltrated the Clinton camp tell me that the Clintons are going to give it one more try.
Even now, she is resurrecting her profound concern for the nation’s urchins. She has spoken to the Children’s Defense Fund and is, again, contemplating a late-in-life pregnancy as she did back in her White House days. Bill comes into their Chappaqua home, after a well-received morning latte, with his arms full of books, and he warms up the family chessboard. Hillary reads stuff like Camus (she adores his sense of humor), e.e. cummings, and the complete Norman Mailer. Also, she is reading books on how to avoid prosecution for foundation fraud and mishandling intelligence documents, though these last tomes she does not read in public. Mozart sounds throughout the house, and, in the evening, the Clintons invite Huma Abedin over to hear recordings by John Cage, after they have said their vespertime prayers to NPR’s All Things Considered.
They are trying out all the elements of the prototypical liberal presidential candidacy — the intellectual stuff, the athleticism: yoga for her, Pilates for him. And occasionally, she limbers up her right arm by heaving a lamp or a vase. Yet I do believe it is all quite hopeless. The only thing “inevitable” about her is retirement.