Sunday, August 18, 2013

Why Hillary Clinton is NOT Running for President

Those who follow my tweets know that I have strong feelings about a Hillary Clinton presidential run. Not about whether I support or oppose her, mind you—but rather that I am convinced that the former first lady and secretary of state is not going to run. Recently, it's become clear that I am the only person left in the world who thinks this. Any rational person would, of course, take this as a sign that he's wrong and would accept the clear conventional wisdom. So naturally, instead, I've decided to take the time to explain my reasoning in more than 140 characters and argue that Hillarymania has blinded the rest of you to what I continue to see as some pretty obvious realities.

My view boils down to this: there is simply no evidence—not a shred—that Hillary Clinton is even considering running for president—so why assume she is? That seems silly to say, but think about it. Where does your assumption that she'll run in 2016 come from? There can be no answer other than the media. The press can hardly be blamed for seeing a hugely popular public figure in Clinton and pondering whether she might be a fit for the popularity contest that is a US presidential election—but at this point it has become more like groupthink than speculation. It's like a game of telephone: one media outlet begins by reporting that Clinton would be a formidable candidate, another outlet uses that as a springboard for a panel discussion about "will she or won't she?", and then another outlet takes that as license to talk about her in the same breath as more publicly interested candidates like Rand Paul or Martin O'Malley. The media can often be an echo chamber, to the point where a few whispers become accepted as the universal conventional wisdom without ever really being challenged. Then, of course, the media's conventional wisdom becomes the conventional wisdom of the public that watches and reads it.

But it's critical for the public to be smart enough to distinguish between the multitude of "if Hillary runs..." stories and the one thing we have not heard reported: "Clinton Considering Presidential Bid." In fact, the illuminati continue their speculation despite reports to the direct contrary. In 2009, she said three times in one interview that she would not run again, saying "I am looking forward to retirement at some point." In 2010, when asked if she would rule out a 2016 bid, she said, "Oh yes, yes." And as recently as December 2012, she said, "I really don't believe that that’s something I will do again...I think there are lots of ways to serve." People can change their minds, of course, but this can't count as anything less than several strikes against the thought that she's running.

More non-evidence: Clinton hasn't done anything that traditional candidates do to lay the groundwork for a run. While politicians from Bobby Jindal to Joe Biden to Rick Santorum to Ted Cruz flock to Iowa, Hillary is undertaking a Mariano Rivera–esque nostalgia tour, getting airports named after her and receiving lifetime-achievement awards. The "Ready for Hillary" super PAC that has gotten so much attention recently? By definition, it cannot coordinate with her and must legally have nothing to do with a hypothetical Clinton campaign. And instead of branding herself as a voice on the most imminent and meaningful-to-voters issues of the day, Hillary is focusing on obscure niche issues more characteristic of retired politicians.

Some people take as their evidence that she's running the fact that she's run for president before, in 2008. Therefore, she has interest in the job; she must be interested in running again. This is, of course, a massive fallacy. There are hundreds of politicians who have run for president, lost, and then never did it again. Why should Hillary Clinton be any different? There is certainly a tendency to think of her as somehow different, larger than life. Without taking anything away from her, may I just point out that similar things were thought of Mike Huckabee, Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, and others once upon a time; every era thinks that their guy is the guy. The fact that Clinton has run for president once before is no indication whatsoever of her future plans—and I'm much more inclined to believe the Sherman statements right out of her own mouth than some pop psychology about the mindsets of wannabe presidents.

Clinton's behavior since 2008 is also not at all consistent with someone concerned about her public image for a possible presidential bid. To her credit, Clinton has let loose in recent years in a way that politicians simply do not do. Candidates like to down a brew at the local pub on Main Street, USA, to show they're regular people too, but a staged event was obviously not Hillary's intention when she was spotted having a round of beers in Colombia last year. Her moves on the dance floor in South Africa were another glimpse of a public figure who was just glad she didn't have to put on an act anymore. She even caused a minor stir when she dared to venture outside without makeup—then laughed it off. I think it's praiseworthy that she no longer thought it necessary to powder up before doing her job—because it indicated that she no longer cared what anyone else thought or said about her. That's an attitude I'd recommend to just about everyone—except people planning to run for public office.

Speaking of not caring what anyone else thinks, since leaving the State Department, Clinton has also proven unafraid to do things that would be politically unpopular. No, she's never struck me as a panderer to the voters either, but there are certain precautions you take if you're running for president—and certain ones that you don't if you're not. For example, the speaking fees she is running up as possibly the world's most in-demand orator right now are through the roof—as much as $200,000 per speech. That's a significantly higher figure than other paid speakers, like Mitt Romney from 2009 to 2011, accepted when they were more serious about seeking the White House. (She's also giving many more of said speeches than active politicians do; her busy schedule is more reminiscent of retirees like her husband and Condi Rice.) A sum of $200,000 is likely to raise some eyebrows if Clinton does throw her hat in the ring. Then there is the latest report, which has her mulling offers of academic positions at various top colleges. Remind me, again—is being a Harvard professor generally considered a positive or a negative for a presidential candidate?

An easy rebuttal to all this—and one I've heard frequently—is, "Well, if she's not running, how come she's doing nothing to dampen the speculation?" Well, other than the fact that she has (see above), a much more relevant question to ask is this: why would anyone try to dampen speculation that they're going to run for president, even if they're not running? Clinton is making those big bucks on the speaking circuit, and she makes everything she touches high-profile, just by virtue of the possibility that she's running. Kill the presidential buzz, and much of her public influence rapidly diminishes. No one should be surprised that she's basking in the speculation, let alone use it as evidence that she will definitely be a candidate. It's a strategy that has been used numerous times by public figures to maintain their relevance. If you've been paying attention, you've watched Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, and others do it just in the past few months.

Finally, there is Clinton's health. This comes last because, in my opinion, it's the worst reason to think she's not running for president—but it is still a reason. Recall that, not too long ago, Clinton fainted and suffered a concussion, which later led to her hospitalization from a blood clot. It sounds, hopefully, like an isolated incident, but the 65-year-old is not as hale and hearty as she used to be. If she runs and is elected, she'd be 69 years old on Inauguration Day—the second-oldest president behind Ronald Reagan. It's hardly disqualifying—see McCain, John—but it's a consideration. For someone who has been public about her anticipation of retirement, I guarantee that she knows well that a Hillary Clinton presidency would deprive her of a big chunk of it.

Taken together, all of these indications point in one direction for me: Clinton isn't running in 2016. Sure, none of this is conclusive. We on the outside can dissect and probe every seeming sign and non-sign all we want, but we really don't have a clue what's going on inside a would-be candidate's head. I could be wrong—but so could everyone else. Nothing I've presented above is truly rock-solid evidence. But, again, my main point is that there's no evidence she is running either—simply the inventions of a frenzied media and a wishful public.

There's as much reason to think Hillary Clinton is running for president as there is to think I'm running for president—neither of us has given a single public indication that we're interested. For now, I remain convinced that she's a "no"—and I suggest that everyone else at least temper their expectations a bit... Because if she does announce in 2015 that she is definitely, positively not running, don't pretend like there wasn't plenty of warning.