WASHINGTON – It is a sign of Barack Obama’s receding presidency that Hillary Clinton is drawing more attention from the national news media and political power brokers.
As the president goes through the speech-making and ceremonial motions of what is left in his second term, most of the talk here is about her carefully-calculated, emerging bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
The Washington press corps can become quickly bored by a presidency that seldom makes news anymore, and Obama now rarely makes the front pages of our big city daily newspapers. At least not lately.
The Washington Post’s front page, lead story Thursday is a case in point. The headline: “Clintons take on critics in GOP,” followed by two subheads about the larger story at play here: “Clearer Signs of a Candidacy,” and “Next, a book tour that could be a rehearsal.”
Obama was trying to make news of his own Wednesday, but not the kind that lands on the front page, or leads the nightly news.
He was in Tarrytown, N.Y., talking about spending more money on the nation’s infrastructure and creating jobs that are in short supply nowadays. He’s talked about it before, with little effect. The Post buried the story on page 2.
Hillary’s politically hot right now and clearly getting more attention — from Democrats, who see her as the only hope of holding the White House, and from Republicans who say we can’t afford eight more years of Democratic rule.
The former secretary of State, who stepped down from her post in February, 2013, has been on a whirlwind tour ever since, hitting her party’s key special interest groups. Womens’ organizations one day, and the Israeli lobby the next.
Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, has been making the rounds, too, talking up her credentials and defending her from Republican attacks, like the one GOP strategist Karl Rove fired this week that raised questions about the state of her health.
While Obama was out of town for a couple of days, the Clintons were speaking to major venues, and well, clearly campaigning for Obama’s job.
Bill Clinton was here touting Hillary’s work on boosting educational opportunities for low-income children. And talking up his own job-growth record in his second term — a not so veiled reminder of Obama’s failure to strengthen economic growth.
Hillary was addressing the pro-Israel American Jewish Committee, struggling to make the case that as secretary of State, she worked to slow Iran’s nuclear development.
But her record or accomplishments on that score, and as the nation’s chief diplomat, is pretty thin.
“When I left as secretary and passed the baton on to Secretary [John] Kerry, we were positioned to explore whether we had set the table well enough to see changes that were sufficient to meet out legitimate objections to Iran’s behavior,” she said.
Israel may beg to differ with her recollections on this. We are nowhere near meeting our or Israel’s key objections to nuclear threat that Iran still poses.
This week, Rove was the first high profile GOP critic to raise questions about what he termed “a serious health episode” — he never used the term “rain damage” — in December 2012 when Clinton suffered a concussion after a fainting spell.
She was hospitalized for three days, but details of her illness have remained a mystery. She will be 69 years old in 2016, and 70 if she were to become president in 2017.
But she faces bigger obstacles in her quest to become the nation’s first woman president that go to the heart of her meager experience, flawed by a history of multiple public policy failures.
She cannot point to any major achievements during the four years she spent as secretary of State. She traveled widely, gave many speeches, but her record is a limited one.
If her years at State are remembered for anything, it will be the deadly and preventable terrorist attack in the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, when U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
There have been numerous investigations and hearings by House Republicans who have charged that the State Department tried to coverup the fact this was a terrorist attack. Their initial explanation was that it started as a spontaneous Islamist “protest”
against a YouTube video.
Not true. But Obama was seeking re-election at this time, on a platform that he had al-Qaeda terrorists “on the run” and that their ranks were “decimated.”
Stevens sent repeated requests to the State Department for added security but they were denied or ignored on her watch.
House Republicans formed a select committee just last week to dig further into the scandal and Clinton will be a major target of their inquiry.
Clinton has had a checkered past here, starting with her role as First Lady in designing a national federal health care program that was bitterly branded by GOP leaders as “Hillarycare.”
It was so complex that even some of her allies said they didn’t fully understand how it worked. And in the end, was so unpopular, Democratic congressional leaders refused to bring it up for a vote.
She served for eight years as the senator from New York, with no significant accomplishments to speak of. She left behind a record of voting for every big tax and spend Democratic bill that came before the chamber.
But there’s another bigger issue that may well prevent Hillary from moving back into the White House. After eight years of Obama’s failed, leftist, jobless policies, will voters want another eight under Hillary?