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January 26, 2007
Hillary As The New Kerry, Take 2

Two weeks ago, I asked whether Hillary Clinton will be 2008's John Kerry. With polls showing Hillary starting to sink in Iowa and New Hampshire and populists Barack Obama and John Edwards taking advantage, her front-runner status looks suddenly shaky, just as John Kerry's did after Howard Dean caught fire in 2003. Now one of the dextrosphere's most prominent bloggers also draws uncomfortable, and unflattering comparisons between the 2004 nominee and the presumptive favorite for 2008. Arianna Huffington told Der Spiegel that Hillary risks the same fate as Kerry from their shared trait -- disingenuity:

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Right now, Sen. Obama appears to be faring better in the blogosphere than Hillary Clinton -- he's getting more mentions in blogs. Why? And how much influence does that blogging have on the general public?

Huffington: Primary elections are always influenced by those who are the most politically engaged. Blogs are just another element of this. To most bloggers, authenticity is an important criterion. There is an allergic reaction to hyper-cautious politicians. Hillary Clinton's problem with the blogosphere is that she has been so calculating that you can smell it. Every thought has been processed through multiple channels in her and her consultants' brains. It's so fabricated!

SPIEGEL ONLINE: In 2004, you and many others did everything you could on the Internet to fiercely campaign against Bush's re-election. But in the end he won.

Huffington: This was partly a problem of our candidate. John Kerry was not authentic. Hillary Clinton has exactly the same problem.

Gerard Baker made much the same point in today's Times of London. Calling her "America's Lady Macbeth", Baker excoriates Clinton for creating perhaps the most complete mask of any mainstream politician in recent memory:

Fifteen years ago there was once a principled, if somewhat rebarbative and unelectable politician called Hillary Rodham Clinton. A woman who aggressively preached abortion on demand and the right of children to sue their own parents, a committed believer in the power of government who tried to create a healthcare system of such bureaucratic complexity it would have made the Soviets blush; a militant feminist who scorned mothers who take time out from work to rear their children as “women who stay home and bake cookies”.

Today we have a different Hillary Rodham Clinton, all soft focus and expensively coiffed, exuding moderation and tolerance.

To grasp the scale of the transfiguration, it is necessary only to consider the very moment it began. The turning point in her political fortunes was the day her husband soiled his office and a certain blue dress. In that Monica Lewinsky moment, all the public outrage and contempt for the sheer tawdriness of it all was brilliantly rerouted and channelled to the direct benefit of Mrs Clinton, who immediately began a campaign for the Senate.

And so you had this irony, a woman who had carved out for herself a role as an icon of the feminist movement, launching her own political career, riding a wave of public sympathy over the fact that she had been treated horridly by her husband.

It seems as though Clinton carries plenty of negatives even among her supposed base. Arianna Huffington may not represent the center, but she has plenty of influence among Democratic Party activists, and her dismissal of Hillary reflects the general unease with her dash to the median among the Left. Taking broadsides from the centrist Times of London and the doyenne of liberal bloggers at the same time portends difficult times ahead for the former First Lady.

And they have a point. Perhaps we've watched it for so long that we've become somewhat inured to Hillary's lack of authenticity, but her reinvention could almost be called epic. Baker has more specifics than Huffington, but most of us could name at least two or three major issues on which she's reversed herself since her initial campaign for the Senate. She has tried to make herself into the same kind of triangulator as her husband, but it comes much less naturally to her -- and the effect is to make her appear phony where Bill seemed genuine.

It's this same quality, a lack of genuineness, that sunk John Kerry in 2004. The Democrats may want to avoid a similar train wreck in 2008.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 26, 2007 9:25 PM

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