Jun 09 2014

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Hillary Clinton’s Sit-Com Dilemma

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Airbrushed for Perfection - but Reality is on the Way...

Airbrushed for Perfection – but Reality is on the Way…

 Maddy and David (look it up), Sam and Diane, Ross and Rachel.

Almost every successful TV sitcom has incorporated a “will they or won’t they” subplot woven into the story line. As it grows, the obvious but unrequited romance connects with the audience and eventually drives viewership as fans watch to see their favorite characters inch closer, despite doubt and disappointment, until the moment when the truth is finally revealed and the couple are officially paired.

And then the ratings tank.

“Moonlighting,” a critically acclaimed series from the late 80s, starring Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepard, ran up Nielsen ratings rooted in there on-air chemistry until the eventual, steamy tryst ended the pretense of whether they would be a couple afterall.  The ratings tanked right after the episode.

The same holds true, in differing degrees, for “Cheers” and “Friends,” beloved sitcoms where the possibilities of romance compete against real life obstacles that often times  prevent the perfect union. But once consummated, there is nothing to look forward to. The far flung possibilities expire with the question.

And so it is with Hillary Clinton.

This week, it will be Hillary on every network, newspaper and blog as Mrs. Clinton’s book debuts and the former SECSTATE begins a promotion tour. The “will she or won’t she” meme has obsessed the press since the Former First lady exited the State Department. The Washington Post manages at least one Hillary story a day in the past month, trumpeting Mrs. Clinton’s dominance in the Democratic Party, or the movements of key associates, and parsing every word Hillary says for hints about intentions.

The fact that Mrs. Clinton states in new book “Hard Choices” that she has left the door open to addition public service but has not decided on a presidential run is covered as if it is consequential news.

As I have stated previously, of course she’s going to run. It begs incredulity to believe otherwise.

Chris Cillizza of the aforementioned Washington Post began his column today by saying, “Hillary Clinton is running for president.” He then goes on to chastise the media by saying,

“That simple sentence is one that the political-media complex seems incapable of uttering though evidence is sprinkled absolutely everywhere — including in comments from Clinton herself — that she will be a candidate in 2016.”

Cillizza mentions the obvious signs of a Clinton run.

The “Ready for Hillary PAC which is not only raising money, but has also become a home for Clinton political intimates who would play a role in any candidacy, the depth and breadth of endorsements from sitting politicians, and of course her new book, which is not a reflection of Clinton’s time as SECSTATE as much as a political primer to defend against anticipated attacks on Hillary’s “do nothing” State Department stewardship.  Mrs. Clinton has begun to weigh in on policy issues in her paid speeches, positioning herself with different constituencies within the Democratic Party, and keeping the “will she/won’t she” chatter humming.

You cannot fault Clinton for her approach. Indeed there is something to be admired in the very sophisticated way that Hillaryland has packaged and presented Clinton, keeping her above the fray, but constantly in the news and, by all polling accounts, the inevitable candidate and nominee who will clean Republican clocks.

Everything is a matter of calculation – her travel, her speaking engagements, and particularly her book. The excerpt leaking was particularly masterful, building buzz and keeping what is mostly likely an unenlightening tome, in the news for two weeks before the book’s actual release and this week’s media blitz.

And clearly President Obama has Mrs. Clinton’s back.

Remember the buzz about Clinton’s unscheduled lunch with POTUS on May 29th?  A meeting that was not on Obama’s public events for the day, and was leaked accidentally by People magazine? Bowe Bergdahl was swapped out for five senior terrorists only two days later, on May 31st. Why else would the White House go to such extremes to keep a meeting secret unless it was to brief the SECSTATE on the exchange and the potential fallout.

For as long as she remains an undeclared candidate, Clinton gets to navigate the protected waters where she controls her image and position, above the fray. The challenge for Clinton is that running for president requires her to come down from her lofty perch and actually get into the ring. At that point, she loses control of the agenda. Instead of an exalted status as the nation’s former top diplomat, and member in good standing with the American political elite, Hillary will become a candidate, and fair game for media probing regarding her agenda, intentions and ability.

Hillary-mania is reaching an apex now because the collective “we” have imbued a Clinton candidacy with hopes and possibilities gathered from the wreckage of  our current politics and leaders have left us disappointed and cynical. The lack of any honest critique of Clinton, and her carefully crafted image, have sustained this gauzy “feel-goodism.”

But like the sitcoms, Mrs. Clinton will have to consummate her candidacy. Once the “will she/won’t she” question has been finally answered and Hillary descends to earth, the political class will be subject to something like the letdown after Christmas Day. The magic will be gone, only the politics will be left – and the real contest will begin in earnest.

For those bewailing a Clinton candidacy as the precursor to a Clinton presidency, take heart.  No matter what the effort, Mrs. Clinton will never be more popular or admired as the day before she declares.

It’s all downhill from there. You can count on it.


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