Thursday, March 20, 2014

Living with Clinton, Bush fatigue -- March 20, 2014 column


The Ready for Hillary super PAC has raised $4 million to encourage Hillary Clinton to get in the 2016 presidential race.

Priorities USA Action, a super PAC that helped elect Barack Obama, has also thrown its considerable muscle behind Clinton’s expected candidacy. It plans to raise and spend far more than the $67 million it dropped on attack ads against Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 campaign.

Clinton probably won’t announce her plans until the end of the year, but you don’t have to wait to buy Hillary gear -- a Ready for Hillary mug goes for $20.16 – or to glimpse what’s likely ahead. We already know.    

“Is Hillary Clinton too old to run?” the headline teased on a column by Charlie Cook in National Journal last month. Cook is the publisher of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report and a respected campaign and elections analyst. He wrote:   

“Clinton turns 67 this October. At that age, she will likely be making her candidacy decision, and if nominated Clinton would turn 69 two weeks before the 2016 general election, notably the same age Ronald Reagan was when he was first elected in 1980. The choice to run for president is effectively a nine-year commitment: one year to run, another four years if she wins a first term – finishing up that term at age 73 – and then, assuming she runs for re-election and wins, serving four more years to end a second term at 77 years of age.”

Cook stirred a hornet’s nest. More than 4,200 comments flooded, and the vast majority were anti-Clinton, “among the most vitriolic that I have encountered in 28 years of column writing,” Cook wrote.

The Clintons are our Rorshach political couple. Americans adore and abhor them, see them as devils and divinity. Hillary Clinton’s fans saw the age question as sexist. Who asks if Vice President Joe Biden is too old to run? He’s five years older than Clinton. 

Many voters in 2016 will be too young to remember – and some weren’t yet born – when the Clintons occupied the White House. Others won’t remember much about Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign. People who were just 10 years old when she ran last time will be voting in 2016. Having a fresh message and appeal is a challenge for boomer candidates. 

Some of Clinton’s friends reportedly are hoping she won’t run; they worry that the commitment is too much for someone in her late 60s.

Just reading about her possible nine-year commitment makes me tired – not for her but the rest of us.
Democratic and Republican partisans will man (and woman) the barricades again, of course, but my guess is that many of us have a nagging case of Clinton fatigue – and Bush fatigue. Does anybody really want nine more years of daily, hand-to-hand, political warfare such as we’ve endured since 1993?   
I’m with former first lady Barbara Bush. When she said last year that “we’ve had enough Bushes” in the White House, I cheered. She enlarged on that theme in January.

“If we can’t find more than two or three families to run for high office, that’s silly,” she said on C-SPAN. “And I think that the Kennedys, Clintons, Bushes – there are just more families than that.”

Even if Hillary Clinton does not run, another Clinton may yet appear on a national ballot, just as the Bushes have potential candidates of their own.

A couple of weeks ago, Barbara Bush told an interviewer on Fox & Friends that “maybe it’s OK” for two or three families to dominate American politics, as has happened before. Say it isn’t so.

Her son Jeb, 61, the former governor of Florida and the son and brother of presidents, is showing up more often at political events, raising his profile and buzz.

And if Jeb says no, the Bush dynasty doesn’t end there. George P. Bush, Jeb’s son and George W.’s nephew, just won the Republican primary for Texas Land Commissioner and is expected to win again in November. George P. Bush speaks Spanish fluently and should connect with Latinos, something few Republicans can claim. His mother was born in Mexico. He’s 37.

And speaking of dynasties, Chelsea Clinton must have inherited political genes. What’s in her future? She’s 34.

Like it or not, we just may have to live with Clinton and Bush fatigue.

© 2014 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.


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