I expected nothing but effusive praise from major media for Hillary Clinton’s new book, “Hard Choices,” much like the mass exaltation it showered on Barack Obama, America’s first African-American president.
Initially that seemed where the reviews were headed.
Prior to the book’s official release Tuesday, the “journalists” on CBS “This Morning” spent nine minutes of barely restrained excitement promoting Clinton’s book. Host Charlie Rose called it “a portrait of doggedness.” CBS News political director John Dickerson said the book portrays “a hardworking person who flew all around the world grinding it out.”
The same might be said of Miley Cyrus.
Dickerson added, “The volume of this book is meant in a political context to suggest that the voters can put the world in her hands. She sees the complexity and understands it.”
This suggests a possible campaign theme song: “She’s got the whole world in her hands.”
For reasons yet to be determined — maybe they read the book; I admit I’ve only read excerpts at this point — the liberal worms began to turn. Dickerson subsequently reversed himself, calling the book “a risk-free telling of Clinton’s world travels” and a “low-salt, low-fat, low-calorie offering with vanilla pudding as the dessert. She goes on at great length, but not great depth.”
David Ignatius, a foreign policy writer for The Washington Post, said Mrs. Clinton “is seen as hesitant to take big risks,” and “There are times when the reader feels he is being spun, rather than enlightened,” and “In these many hundreds of pages, there are very few deals concluded, agreements signed, policies brought to fruition.” Ignatius added that Mrs. Clinton is “well-stocked with campaign bromides.”
Last Sunday’s Washington Post published a poll that showed 59 percent of those interviewed have a favorable view of Clinton’s leadership as secretary of state. Yet no one seems able to cite any real accomplishments. When asked a few weeks ago in a news conference about Clinton’s accomplishments, Jen Psaki, the State Department’s chief spokesperson, couldn’t answer. Psaki returned the next day loaded with “examples,” which seemed to have been prepared for her by a Clinton operative. Still, the examples did not impress.
The Republican National Committee has provided a counterpoint to Hillary Clinton’s book, giving it the cheeky title “Bad Choices.” It compiles what diplomats, commentators and even a few media people have said about her. Surprisingly, NBC political director Chuck Todd (a former aide to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa) said: “Frankly, many of the issues from her time at the department have either stayed bad, or gotten worse.”
Former Bill Clinton adviser Douglas Schoen wrote in The Wall Street Journal last December: “Another major obstacle is Mrs. Clinton’s foreign policy record: She can point to no significant accomplishments as secretary of state.”
Curiously, writes Byron York, columnist for the Washington Examiner, the book ignores Hillary’s brief Senate career, perhaps because its one distinguishing mark was her vote in favor of George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. She now says that vote was a “mistake.” Senators have a bigger margin for error than presidents.
If she runs, it will be difficult, but not impossible, for a male Republican candidate to debate and defeat her. In addition to being supported by much of the media (trust me, they'll come around), she will have the support of a substantial number of women just because of the historical factor. A too-aggressive approach by a male opponent might inflame those women who think she is a martyr for putting up with her philandering husband.
Still, a Republican male candidate might gain traction if he points out that we will be finishing two terms of a president who has mastered style over substance. Can we really afford another when we face so many problems, not to mention Hillary’s poor track record as first lady (health care defeated), secretary of state (a frequent flyer but little else) and senator (nothing)?
“Ready for Hillary” is the name of an “unauthorized” super PAC formed by Clinton supporters last January. The assumption is that we'll answer in the affirmative. But given her abysmal record, if that is what she’s being judged on, we’re definitely not ready.
Mr. Thomas’ latest book is “What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America” is available in bookstores now. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.