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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why Hillary Won't Be President


Way back in 2006, I wrote about the political brand strategies of Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards and Barack Obama.  It wasn't pretty, but it was pretty accurate.  To me, political candidates are no different than boxes of laundry detergent.  If you can't perceive any difference among them, you'll never really know why you're choosing one over the other.  It's only what you know that makes the difference.

To a certain extent, branding is about differentiation.  Beyond that, it's about the credibility of that differentiation and how it's presented to the public.  And that, in my view, is why Hillary Clinton has no chance of ever becoming president of the United States.  In fact, there's a better than even shot she won't even clinch the Democratic nomination -- but how John Kerry could.

Now before you get all sexist on me, let me say that Hillary Clinton may be capable.  She may be qualified. She might be a really nice person.  Personally, I'm about as egalitarian as it gets, to the point that I'd love to see women in combat and maybe picking up a dinner check.  Nothing wrong with any of that in my book.  But Hillary's deficiencies are far more serious than her gender.

Here's a brief list:

Most lacking in Hillary's political arsenal is her (or her ill-advising staff's) inability to showcase her positive accomplishments.  Say what you will about her politics, the odd fact hounding Hillary Clinton is that hardly anyone, anywhere, can recall even one of her major positive accomplishments as either a Senator from New York or as Obama's first Secretary of State.  Can you? Sure, her public relations team cites the many thousands of miles she traveled as Secretary, but nobody can cite the fruits of those travels.

In fact, ask the average American what they know about Hillary Clinton, and they'll most likely recite her failures as their answers, most notably the disaster in the U.S. embassy at Benghazi and her National Health Card program from 1993. Think about it.  In her years of public service, she may have done some wonderful, admirable things, but nobody knows about them.  And if the public doesn't know about it, they assume it doesn't exist.

Contrast Clinton's four years as Secretary of State with John Kerry's, who doesn't fart unless there's a team of photographers nearby.  At the time of this writing, Kerry's been Secretary of State for less than twelve months and he's already taken a very public lead on nuclear negotiations with Iran, as well as his clumsy-yet-somewhat-successful program to destroy Syria's chemical warfare capabilities.

Both Clinton and Kerry have run national campaigns for the office of President.  Clinton never clinched the nomination, but Kerry -- in one of the worst campaigns ever -- actually did.  Kerry survived "swift-boating" and John Edwards, neither of which was an easy trick.  And while the American public may not be able to list all of his accomplishments as a United States Senator, at least the American voter doesn't list Kerry's major national and international failures at the top of his mind.

There are more reasons why Hillary Clinton isn't looking like a healthy presidential candidate, not the least of which is that she is, in all respects, pretty much and old boy Democrat in a dress.  Yes, she's a woman.  Yes, that's a difference.  But when you distill her policies, connections and interests down to the core, she's an old school Democrat with old school philosophies dating back to the administration of Lyndon Johnson and his Great Society program from 1964.  It's one of the major reasons she lost to Obama in 2008:  In tactics and theory, he was new and current, she was old and rehash.

That was then, this is now:  We're still in a recessionary economy under a Democratic administration which has been painted as ineffective on everything from foreign policy to national health care.  Historically, that condition hasn't been terribly kind to political candidates: In 1976, Gerald Ford was toppled by one of the worst Presidents in history, Jimmy Carter, simply because Ford was tattooed with the legacy of his predecessor, Richard Nixon.  Even before Obama, being a solid, old school Democrat was not what people wanted and they sure don't want it now.  They want their quality of life back first.  They'll consider all the wealth-sharing after that part gets fixed -- and that's not exactly the kind of agenda Hillary's known for.

If you know your history, you may also appreciate the fact that in 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama was elected less for being Barack Obama than for not being George W. Bush or John McCain or Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney.  In 2008, Obama was thrust into office because the American public figured that old white men weren't fixing things, so it was time to try something, someone completely different.  Now that they've had two terms of something different -- and they haven't seen any real improvement in their lives -- I suspect the American public is beginning to think that maybe we should go back to the original game plan, which would mean a woman would have a much tougher time getting elected today than in 2008.

So from where I sit, Americans wants change, but they don't want too much change.  They're tired of a polarized, paralyzed Congress and want someone who can reach across the aisle.  They want their great white father figure back.  They want a voice of reason. Someone they can admire, whose track record indicates a positive, affable manner of getting real things done.  Which likely means the next President won't be female. Or a Democrat. Or have a 32 inch waist, for that matter.

Does the name Chris Christie ring a bell?

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