Something propelled Hillary Clinton along all this time, something that doesn’t translate on television and isn’t documented in history, something more than cunning and Bill Clinton, some genuine ability. Other pols and media hacks have often claimed to come away impressed with her intelligence.
It could be that the Real Hillary is wise and farsighted, and this shows through. I suspect it’s really because Hillary’s real knack is for backroom politics despite being an awful candidate for all the technical reasons: voice, appearance, vibe. I imagine Hillary Clinton is really good in the room (as I like to think of it), that is in small groups formulating strategy. This impression is likely magnified in the minds of her peers and toadies, dutifully as feminists, genuinely as fellow political hacks, hopefully as opportunists: “yes, she’s brilliant!”
This is the impression I had watching her corner Trump on the tax return issue in the first debate:
CLINTON: Third, we don’t know all of his business dealings, but we have been told through investigative reporting that he owes about $650 million to Wall Street and foreign banks. Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes, because the only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax.
TRUMP: That makes me smart.
CLINTON: So if he’s paid zero, that means zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for schools or health. And I think probably he’s not all that enthusiastic about having the rest of our country see what the real reasons are, because it must be something really important, even terrible, that he’s trying to hide. And the financial disclosure statements, they don’t give you the tax rate. They don’t give you all the details that tax returns would. And it just seems to me that this is something that the American people deserve to see. And I have no reason to believe that he’s ever going to release his tax returns, because there’s something he’s hiding.
Watching this I was impressed at how Hillary seemed to relax into this line of attack, growing perceptibly less stiff, less shrill, relishing the play and enjoying the game. This is Hillary Clinton, I thought. Hillary revisited this mode in her bizarre defeat lap the other day (repeating a genuinely fake news item):
“Who is behind driving up Trump’s Twitter followers by the millions?” she said. “We know they’re bots. Why? I assume there’s a reason for everything. Is it to make him look more popular than he is? Is it to try to influence others on Twitter about what the messaging is?”
But she can’t be that good. As an anti-feminist, I delight in the thought that Hillary’s campaign failed in large part because she led it, and the errors in judgement she made were female errors–most comically, the promotion of Alicia Machado, an outrage only women of a certain age and diminishing number seemed able to feel. Add the sexually ambiguous sidekick with the caddish husband and–well, Hollywood’s Soviet-caliber ideological discipline is unfortunate. What a great story to write, cast, shoot. That they leave it on the table shows you it’s not all money–and it’s not even all fame. Maybe it’s not even all power. But not for Hillary.
Of course if I’m right about her in the room skills, I suspect the real tragedy of Hillary is that she leveraged that relatively modest level of political skill and, more importantly, understanding, through cunning, the brand her husband created and her elite coterie into just-missing capturing the White House. And here I fear we see not the convulsions of a corpse but the slasher film monster rising from the flames, plodding toward us, armed with its inextinguishable will-to-power:
“I take responsibility for every decision I made but that’s not why I lost. I think it’s important we learn the real lessons of this campaign. So I think it’s important we learn the real lessons of this campaign. The forces we are up against are not just interested in influencing our elections and our politics, they are going after our economy, and they are going after our unity as a nation, so, yes, back in 98…I have been watching this and I have been the target for a number of years…
But even in the field of crazy videos, Hillary is bested yet again by a flamboyant, charismatic guy: