Hillary Clinton Finally Announces Her Campaign Message: She’ll Run as Sarah Palin.
After Republican 2016 hopefuls spent a day struggling to finesse the vaccination debate, the 67-year-old Clinton weighed in roughly an hour before midnight: “The science is clear,” she tweeted late Monday. “The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let’s protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest.”
— Hillary Clinton, grandma-in-chief, Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico, yesterday
That’s right, folks. Hillary Clinton thinks that the debate (such as it is) about childhood vaccines concerns whether or not the vaccines are effective in preventing the targeted diseases, rather than whether the vaccines can have the side effect of causing autism.
Most people, I’m pretty sure, know that the controversy actually concerns a research paper (published in 1998) that suggested a causal relationship between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and the increase in the rates of diagnosed autism in recent decades, a research paper that has long been discredited. But apparently Clinton is unaware of the nature of the controversy and thinks it’s about the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing measles, mumps and rubella.
Or else she thinks that a cutesy social-media sound bite announcing which side she’s on in this current, high-profile controversy—even a sound bite that misleads about the very nature of the controversy—is a good idea because the subject provides a tie-in with her new status as a grandmother. Discussing the actual nature of the issue would require more than 140 characters and some intellectual input, especially if the statement would provide facts such as that the research study at the heart of the debate has been debunked. So that’s out-of-the-question. The purpose isn’t to persuade about an important and imminent matter; it’s to make a statement about her campaign.
The Politico article focuses mainly on her hashtag, #GrandmothersKnowBest. After all, it is not a surprise that Hillary Clinton supports vaccinating young children, and so the real purpose of the tweet must be to announce that she plans to run as a grandmother, right? As opposed, I guess, to Jeb Bush’s running as a grandfather and who therefore doesn’t care about his grandchildren’s future. Or as opposed to Scott Walker’s running as father (he may not yet be a grandfather) and who therefore doesn’t care about his kids. Which is a sure bet to win Clinton the general election, since what really matters to voters is not a candidate’s proposed policies and their expected effects upon the voter’s grandchildren or children but instead that Clinton, by virtue of being a woman, is a grandmother who really, really loves her grandchild.
Just as Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election because the voters weren’t aware that he adores his family and that he also had assisted fellow members of his Boston parish who faced severe financial or medical adversity, rather than because of his bizarre policy proposals and his denigration of and revulsion toward huge swaths of Americans, Clinton lost the 2008 nomination contest because Chelsea hadn’t yet had a child. Shucks!
I myself don’t think that her hashtag invocation of her new identity as a grandmother itself necessarily indicates a decision to campaign on the theme that she’s a grandmother; the tweet was, after all, about vaccinating young children. But that may be wishful thinking on my part. The woman/grandmother campaign theme choice has been telegraphed for months now. It may have to suffice in lieu of an economic-policy theme that isn’t limited to clichés and sound bites.
What strikes me is Clinton’s utter unawareness that this message—which is that women, or at least grandmothers who love their grandkids, are fungible, and that female political candidates’ actual policy proposal, and the depth of their policy-related knowledge, are unimportant—is deeply demeaning of her target demographic: women. But it does seem to be what she believes, because she keeps saying it, mantra-like. (If you’re not a grandmother, how can you possibly understand economic issues, right? And if you are a grandmother, how can you possibly not be qualified to be president? Being a grandmother itself qualifies you, because of all that knowledge you have about the effects of different economic-policy proposals. Some grandmothers support Keynesian economic policies and higher taxes on the wealthy; other grandmothers support supply-side fiscal policy and evisceration of regulation on the banking and energy industries; but which side of that policy divide the grandmother supports doesn’t matter, because the grandmother is a grandmother.)
The Politico article quotes a tweet by Weekly Standard editor William Kristol yesterday: “Am I the only one who finds Hillary’s #GrandmothersKnowBest hashtag not just cloying but creepy? Welcome to the grand-nanny state.” No, he’s not the only one who finds Hillary’s #GrandmothersKnowBest hashtag cloying; I can attest to that. But he misses the mark by thinking that the hashtag suggests a grand-nanny state. The hashtag is utterly devoid of content, other than that Clinton is a grandmother.
What is creepy is that in this era in which, finally, after three-and-a-half decades of rightwing-economic-policy dominance, those policies are thoroughly discredited, their results clearly disastrous, and the American public knows it—yet the Democrats are about to nominate as their presidential candidate someone who thinks that an anodyne campaign run in Twitter-size clichés is the sure ticket to victory in November 2016. Equal pay for equal work, a longtime staple of progressive politics, is most certainly important, and along with raising the minimum wage (very important) is the most (the only) substantive part of her sound bite campaign. But these are not at the heart of the economic/fiscal and regulatory policies needed to cause critical fundamental changes in the particulars of this country’s economic trajectory; they don’t get the fundamentals. Nor are glass-ceiling limitations, that dearest-to-her-heart of issues.*
This whole idea of a puppet-puppeteer candidacy, in which the candidate herself brings to her candidacy no particular policy message about the seminal economic issues of this era, and instead has some behind-the-scenes committee devising ones for her to choose among and recite on the campaign trail, seems to me absurd. When it was revealed a week or two ago that Clinton has decided to delay yet again the formal announcement of her candidacy, I hoped against hope that she’d decided to put off her announcement that she will run in the November 2016 election until, say, December 2016.
But since she will instead, apparently, deign to formally announce sometime before that, I hope she at least closes her Twitter account. Soon. Her eventual opponent is unlikely to be Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul or Sarah Palin. And Jeb Bush and the current panoply of governors who are about to be presidential candidates do not, at least thus far, appear to confuse nursery-rhyme-like Twitter inanities with policy statements. And unfortunately, John Boehner does not appear to be interested in running. So Clinton might have to discuss policy. In at least 150 characters.
Two or three weeks ago, Bill Clinton was quoted in an article I read discussing some economic policy issue. I can’t recall the specifics, but I think he made his comment in a formal interview, although it might have been just an offhand comment to a reporter covering a conference that Clinton was attending. His comment was three or four sentences long, and entailed tying together two or three complexities to make a policy argument, which he made well, in clear informal language. I remember playing a little mental game with myself. I tried to imagine his wife saying what he said, or even knowing what he knew about the subject. Then I just chuckled. But it’s not very funny.
Rather than tweeting an inanity in order to signal her support for inoculating children against measles, mumps and rubella, she could have released a statement explaining that the 1998 study that suggested a connection between the vaccine and autism has been discredited. I mean, theoretically, she could have.
Clinton’s not quite George W. Bush. But, on the steeped-in-domestic-policy-specifics front, neither will anyone mistake her for Golda Meir, or Margaret Thatcher, or Angela Merkel. All of whom, at the time they ascended to the pinnacle of their respective governments, were parents of adult children and were, or were soon to become, grandmothers. Nor will anyone mistake her for Elizabeth Warren, who also is a grandmother but who (to my knowledge) doesn’t tweet at all but does engage in in-depth discourse about economic, fiscal and regulatory policy. Sometimes even in public!
The Politico article suggests that Clinton’s strategists think the grandmother tack lessens her vulnerability about her age—she’ll be 69 by the election date—by turning her age somewhat to her advantage. It hasn’t occurred to them, or, I guess, to her, that since what the public actually cares about is policy—especially economic policy—the way to lessen her vulnerability about her age is for her to understand the nature of current economic problems, and to address them with specifics. Most people don’t mistake being a loving grandmother for a set of economic policy proposals. Then again, most people aren’t members of Clinton’s inner circle.
Sarah Palin, a grandmother, clearly loves her family, but also clearly would not make a very good president. She does, however, tweet a lot. Maybe the Democrats should nominate her. She’ll be only 52 on election day.
*Paragraph edited slightly. 2/5 at 12:37 p.m.
Are you kidding? It’s a brief statement. By saying, “The earth is round. The sky is blue”, she’s attacking the anti-science morons who think there’s a problem with vaccines, whether they believe they cause autism or they “put too many toxins in kids’ bodies” or whatever other loony idea. She isn’t ignoring that or obfuscating the controversy. She’s just addressing it in what’s apparently too subtle a way for you to pick up on.
I think you’re over analyzing her comment. Most of the comments I’ve read by progressive bloggers go into detail how successful vaccines are and the effects of not getting vaccinated. As well as talking about the discredited anti-vaxxers. Seems fine to me.
Comparing her to Sarah Palin? Your many paragraphs here say more about you than her (less than 140 character tweet).
I think you have to get over that Elizabeth Warren is not going to run for president in 2016. Hillary is better than any Republican and so far the only person who has shown any willingness to battle her for the Democratic nomination is Bernie Sanders and he is not going to beat her. Is there another Obama figure out there? Maybe, but at this point I really wish that Hillary had won in 2008.
I don’t know why so many people think it’s Elizabeth Warren or bust, Terry. Warren herself doesn’t think that. It seemed pretty clear to me that what she was trying to do late last year was prod someone else—Sherrod Brown, for example—to run. Someone who is a genuine longtime progressive and who has been in public office for a while and has really fought for, and really fought against, some pretty important economics/fiscal and regulatory policies, but who also is very mainstream in persona.
A few weeks ago, Sherrod Brown was quoted in an article I read about whether this country finally had reached a real turning point on economic/fiscal issues, finally entering an aggressive political era on spiraling income inequality, the diminishing financial returns on labor vis-à-vis income from capital, and the resulting lack of upward economic mobility. Brown said he thought we were moving toward that but “aren’t there yet.” Which I interpreted to mean that, while he has been strongly urged to run against Clinton, he’s not will to do that, because Clinton has the entire Democratic Party apparatus locked up—much of it because, well, everyone is just afraid to challenge the Clintons. Brown was wrong about it when he said it several weeks ago, but now that it’s clear that no one who could win the nomination will run, it’s true.
I’m not sure what you mean, Terry, by “another Obama figure.” We need a true progressive who has been in Congress a long time and has been aggressive in proposing and fighting for certain legislation. Which doesn’t exactly describe Obama, circa 2007-8. I think most Democrats know very well that very last thing we need is another Obama—although I think that’s what we are about to get. What exactly did Clinton do during her eight years in the Senate?
My favorite senator is Dick Durbin, who would make an awesome president and an awesome candidate. But he will be 72 years old by Jan. 2017, and (to my knowledge) he’s never shown any interest in running for president. He has a low-key personality, which I love, and has really been about pushing really good, important policy and trying to stop really bad policy. He’s my ideal of a public officeholder. But Brown has been much the same and is on the Banking Committee along with Warren. He could have won the nomination. Sad that he’s not running.
My reference to another Obama figure was someone who could come out of the woodwork with the political skills–in Obama’s case the rhetorical skills combined with getting almost 100% of the African American vote with almost 100% turnout–to upset–barely–Hillary who you may recall was the odds on favorite in 2006 and early 2007. That Hillary is not ideal is the reason Obama was able to pull it off. I do not think Brown or Durbin would have any chance at all. I actually doubt that Warren could do it but she would at least generate some buzz. Unless Hillary decides not to run she is almost certain to be the Democratic candidate for president in 2016 and while she does not thrill me, I would certainly vote for her rather than any GOP candidate. I see little reason to knock her unless a viable alternative appears. As noted I love Bernie Sanders but I do not think he is viable. I would even prefer Biden over Hillary but he is not viable either. The best we can do is hope that Hillary has more compassion for the middle class than her husband.
Why wouldn’t Brown have a chance, Terry? Because he’s unknown outside of Ohio? At this point in the 2012 election cycle, who had ever heard of Herman Cain? Yet, after a couple of televised debates, pretty much everyone had heard of him and he was all the rage among non-Establishment Republicans. His campaign collapsed because of revelations of a sex scandal, and if there had been no sex scandal it would have collapsed soon enough because he’s crazy. But Brown isn’t crazy, nor outside of mainstream Democratic politics. He could have won the nomination.
The reason to knock Clinton is that she monopolized the nomination process and now has a real obligation to start running a substantive campaign, whether or not she formally announces. If she thinks that her current posture as some combination of Eva Peron and a teenager will be tenable much longer, she’s delusional. This campaign isn’t all about her; it’s about some very, very important and specific issues. The curtain needs to be opened, and soon.
The good news is that two of Obama’s top aides, both of them communications gurus, will be joining her campaign soon. One, Jennifer Palmieri, announced this yesterday. The other, Dan Pfeiffer, announces that he will be leaving the White House but didn’t announce further intentions, but it’s a safe bet what those are. Both of these people combine substance with communications savvy, and I assume that they will suggest to her, really soon, that when she has something important to say about a current issue, she say it in some thoughtful manner and in a series venue like releasing a statement. She’s coming off as childish, as someone who’s not serious about serious matters or who can’t distinguish between a serious and a trivial matter.
You got one thing right, Sixpack: It’s a brief statement. Which apparently is all she thinks the subject merited.
Hmmm, Bear. Seems that most progressive bloggers think the issue merits more than a tweet that suggests that the issue is the effectiveness of the vaccine rather than fears that the vaccine might cause autism.
Besides the usual anti-populist fears about Hill, well described here, I have to add my own odd take: In a world so full of troubles and problems, why is Hill in perpetual giant smile mode? Just an odd thought.
I also think the post is reading too much into a short comment. I’m aware of the autism fallacy and I might have made the same quick remark to someone who asked my opinion on whether or not to vaccinate.
However, I also see Secretary Clinton as much less confident and forthright in her statements than her husband. My own arm-chair psychological analysis is that the “HillaryCare” and White Water attacks had something to do with that.
It’s not an odd take at all, Denis. It’s really good question, and I think I know the answers: First, she’s regularly shown with that wide-eyed big, big smile as she suddenly spies one of the Clintons’ ole pals/hangers-on/campaign folks approaching her at some speaking event or such. Since there are many, many, many ole Clinton pals/hangers-on/campaign folks who want to be part of the upcoming campaign, this happens often. Second, some strategist has told her that she needs to come off as warmer and more approachable—including, presumably, more approachable by people who aren’t an ole Clinton pal/hanger-on/campaign folk.
Yeah, it works great, doesn’t it? Makes her much more appealing, right?
You know what, Jim? The lesson she SHOULD have taken from “HillaryCare” is that she badly needs to work with actual experts in fields in which actual expertise is required, rather than appointing members of her and her husband’s inner circle to devise policy on things that they actually have no expertise in.
Had Bill Clinton not appointed her to head up his healthcare-initiative committee, and instead appointed, say, the dean of Harvard’s School of Public Health or a major-name healthcare economist like Princeton’s Ewe Reinhardt to organize and head a small committee of experts, or had Hillary herself done that rather than appoint her and her husband’s friends to devise the proposal, the outcome would have been vastly different.
A huge concern about her, for me, is her belief that her own comfort level is what really matters and that therefore no one but longtime buddies and aides need apply for, like, anything.
Hillary RUN for president!!!! Who cares @ personal E-mails, that’s like saying you need permission to pee. Republicans r just tryin to scare u out of running for President, which u deserve.!!!!!!!