David Hoppe

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:: Hillary, really?

Democrats’ failure of imagination

by David Hoppe

If Rand Paul were a little smarter, funnier, or a tad more worldly, he’d be formidable. As is, the Kentucky senator’s penchant for saying out loud some variant of what many people are thinking, but unwilling to say themselves, often comes across as mean-spirited or merely silly.

Like, for example, calling Bill Clinton a sexual predator. Even Karl Rove, George Bush, Jr’s master of the cheap shot, took Paul to task for that one.

Most corporate media pundits expressed incredulity. Bill Clinton, they seemed to say, was ancient history. I mean that was two presidents ago!

As usual, Paul sounded more like a teenage know-it-all than a potential leader of the free world. His aim was a couple of counties wide of the mark. Even so, he still managed to raise the only political question that matters at the moment:

Hillary, really?

Until she says otherwise, Hillary Clinton is the runaway favorite to be the next Democratic nominee for president. She has the money, the organization and an almost hyperbolic level of name recognition. I mean, we’re already on a first name basis.

Hillary’s qualities are the stuff of legend. And, from a certain angle, you could say her timing couldn’t be better. The country seems more ready than ever for a female POTUS.

But this begs the question underlying Rand Paul’s wrong-footed attack on Hillary’s equally legendary spouse. Bill Clinton may be ancient history for the bright young things chatting each other up on TV news, but the scar tissue from the Clinton years is still fresh for many of us.

Bill has done a fabulous job of reconstructing the image of his presidency in the years since 2000. For this he owes a debt to GW Bush, whose recklessness helped obscure the ways in which Clinton policies (NAFTA, the repeal of banking regulations) set the stage for the country’s economic collapse eight years later. It was Clinton’s “Third Way” strategy that outflanked conservatives and made the Democrats safe for the corporate take-over we see today.

The Republican right was infuriated by Clinton’s appropriation of their best talking points. They made the Clinton years a toxic stew of slanders, smears and endless investigations at taxpayers’ expense. Little did they know Bill would make their craziest dreams come true himself — with Monica Lewinsky.

Enter Rand Paul. Being the son of a successful politician (and chronic presidential candidate) has perhaps kept even the impertinent Paul from raising what might be the biggest question about Hillary’s potential run. As super-qualified as she is to be president, are the rest of us ready for Clinton.2?

When the Clintons first ran in 1992, they made a selling point of their marriage, that voters were getting a twofer. This seemed like an inspired idea — until Hillary ran healthcare reform on to the rocks.

Today, the prospect of a Clinton repeat, only with roles reversed, seems more a failure of imagination on the part of Democrats than inspiration. It shouldn’t take Rand Paul to point this out.