Yesterday Hillary Clinton stumbled badly with not one but two gaffes, one off-the-cuff and another she had months to avoid. It was just about the worst imaginable start to a campaign book tour. Fortunately, the Washington Post is ready and eager to dismiss the whole thing as insignificant and “silly.”
Paul Waldman starts with the requisite shrug that it’s absurd to even talk about a campaign that hasn’t started yet. This is, of course, utter nonsense. Hillary is rolling out her new book “Hard Choices” this week. Like every candidate biography, it’s purpose is to put the best spin on the candidate’s story in preparation for the media battle to come. The fact that Hillary seems to have immediately fallen on her face is a real problem. There is no one waiting in the wings who comes close to Hillary’s stature. Should she fail, Democrats are in trouble.
The first gaffe should have been caught months ago. Jake Tapper found a clear instance of Hillary either not knowing what she is talking about or, perhaps, intentionally trying to mislead her readers. The fact that the topic was Benghazi is surely noteworthy as this will undoubtedly be one of the issues she’ll face in the campaign. How did she (and her editors) get this wrong with months to prepare?
There’s really nothing “silly” about this gaffe. It suggests that Hillary can’t give a straight answer on a topic she knows she’ll be asked about. That’s something the public might want to take into account. No one would say it’s determinative but it might be the first of many such mistakes. After half a dozen more, people might get the idea she’s not honest about her history.
Hillary’s other gaffe plays into the same issue of self-perception. In an off-the-cuff statement she claimed she and Bill had “struggled” to put together resources for their two homes after leaving the White House. Again, the problem here isn’t just a “silly” verbal slip. The problem is that a woman who has a fortune of over $100 million would think she could cry poverty. And also that she would do so when a Google search shows she earned an $8 million book advance before she left the White House. That’s almost delusional.
It’s also the kind of thing which, if Mitt Romney had said it, would be proof that he is completely out of touch with most people’s experience. One might think it would be especially problematic for a Democrat who intends to run a campaign about the middle class. But the rules are always different for Democrats. So instead of any actual analysis of what her gaffes mean, we get this paragraph about why gaffes are too low-brow for serious wonks to notice.
It’s disheartening, if inevitable, that we would be talking about
absence of “gaffes,” some in the political press have no idea what to
write about. The handy thing about them is that not only do they absolve
you of the need to understand policy (booooor-ing!), they also
require virtually no reporting. Write a story about a gaffe, and you’re
free to spend all your time in mindless speculation about what effect
the latest slip of the tongue might have.
This may be the left’s most deeply held delusion. The idea that they are winning elections because they are connecting with their clever policy statements. It’s not true. People voted for Barack Obama because they thought he really cared about them. People didn’t like Mitt Romney because Democrats ran a negative campaign portraying him as, you guessed it, rich and out of touch. They did the same to John McCain four years earlier. (He owns how many houses?!)
If you want to know why real people will decide to vote for Hillary Clinton, watch this video by PJTV. Unless the fact that she’s a woman is now considered a policy statement (no doubt someone will claim it is) this isn’t really about policy papers. In fact, there was vanishingly little difference between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in 2008. One of them was a better campaigner. Hillary of all people should know it’s often charisma, or lack of it, that matters most in a campaign.
This week’s book tour means the part of the 2016 campaign that actually matters to most people has already begun. So far, Hillary isn’t looking so good. The Post can ignore that if it wants but, like it or not, these are the kind of things which, added up over time, actually decide elections.