Tim Stanley: Hillary Clinton is back in public eye, making speeches, statements. It's too soon, especially after her surprising failure to beat Trump
He says her party needs a period in which to separate from her memory -- to find new candidates, reestablish identity. And she needs to reflect
Editor’s Note: Timothy Stanley is a historian and columnist for Britain’s Daily Telegraph. He is the author of “Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between LA and DC Revolutionized American Politics.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
Hillary Clinton is back.
Of course, Hillary Clinton is back. I am convinced she will run for the presidency as many times as it takes to win – even if she is still being wheeled through the streets of Iowa at 108, kept alive by robotics and a refusal to surrender.
She came to Georgetown University on Friday to give a speech to some fans, and delivered a stinging attack on Donald Trump’s budget. Clinton is great at attacking others, dreadful at selling herself. This is a presidential candidate who was beaten first by a man who they said couldn’t win – because he was black – and then by a man who they said shouldn’t win – because he was Donald Trump.
And even though the shock of Trump’s election victory is receding as we become more involved in just how bad he is at governing, for Clinton it will never ebb as the most stunning rebuke possible. Hillary Clinton was beaten by Donald J Trump. That is like losing the Oscar for best picture to “Police Academy VI.” After that kind of humiliation, most people would quit politics and go live in a cabin. Not Hillary. She still needs us to remember who she is.
This is typical of politicians. To succeed in this game you need to be sensitive enough to need to be loved but shallow enough to weather the hate. Trump is an extreme version of this. He appears to feel criticism deeply and yet he also invites it. Perhaps it’s better to be talked about horribly than not at all.
A few presidents and presidential candidates have walked away from the office into the sunset, but most try to find a second life. Nixon was rarely out of the public eye. Bill Clinton started a foundation and amassed a fortune in speaker’s fees. Bob Dole did an ad for Viagra.
And, really, what’s wrong with this? Like Hillary, these statesmen all have experience to share, wisdom to impart. As the country sails into uncertain waters under Captain Trump, doesn’t it make sense to stop and listen to the views of Hillary Clinton – an intellectually gifted former secretary of state, no less?
No. In this instance, no. And the reason is quite simply that it’s too soon. Too soon since Hillary Clinton lost the election and gave the White House to Trump – because, regardless of what strengths Trump might have had, 2016 was ultimately an election for the Democrats to lose.
I have no doubt that almost any other candidate could have beaten Trump. Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Alec Baldwin, Big Bird. It turns out that the one candidate who could lose was Hillary.
Yet she insisted on running. Insisted that the party machine back her. Insisted on mounting a grimly negative campaign against her opponent that most probably backfired. Now she has reportedly signed back on with the speaker’s bureau that handled her richly compensated appearances before the election. My question is: Why would anyone pay to see a speech given by her?! It would be as perverse as paying Trump to give a lecture on university governance.
There is a post-politics role for Clinton, but it cannot be just yet. Her party needs a period in which to separate from her memory – to rebuild, find new candidates, reestablish its identity and delink itself from the entire Clinton philosophy.
She might go the route of championing clean politics or could pick up the mantle of class war, for it can’t be long before Trump’s voters notice that his proposed tax cuts are so generous to the rich. Whatever the Democrats look like in the future, Hillary Clinton cannot be permitted to capture the conversation and distract the press. America needs to move on. She needs to pause and reflect.