Like it Or Not, Being a Likable Candidate is Likely Important
Observing the mini-brouhaha that surrounded Hillary Clinton’s interview with Terry Gross, it occurs to me that the Democrats had best be careful what they wish for.
The June 12 Fresh Air interview was largely a puff piece, your standard book-tour bit. The questions asked begged for little past real-time excerpts from Clinton’s upcoming book. This being not being Fox News, Clinton wasn’t once asked about Benghazi. Nor was she asked about her two-day-old tone-deaf, Romney-esque comments to Diane Sawyer insinuating that, financially, she and her husband are really like just like you, Joe Sixpack and Rosie Riveter. Though the questions were (at least to me) somewhat interesting, they were largely friendly when not being outright softballs:
“Was it good at some level that [Snowoden] started a conversation? … Can you talk a little bit about the experience of dealing with world leaders in countries where women basically have no rights? … So you’ve said, you know, that you’re not going to decide whether you’re going to run for president or not until the end of the year. And like a lot of people, I’m wondering, why would you even think about putting yourself through this? … Does the world look really different as secretary of state than it did as senator?”
The bit that got a bit of play, however, was the seven-minutes that dealt with Clinton’s “evolution” on gay marriage — and more specifically, her obvious annoyance that Gross would follow up non-answers with requests for clarification:
For those who do not have streaming capabilities, you can read why some people so many thought Clinton’s tone “testy” here — or, if you prefer, why Gross had no business not just nodding and agreeing with the nice woman who’d agreed to be her guest here. For the purposes of this post, I’m not terribly interested in what Clinton believed when. But I am interested in her electability, and so I’ll just say this: In one very important way, Clinton reminds me less of her husband than she does Newt Gingrich.
When you watch Bill talking to people one-on-one or in groups, you have a sense that he genuinely likes them — and that tends to make people genuinely like him right back. When you watch Gingrich in interviews, however, you always have a sense that he’s barely holding back palpable contempt for whatever rube his handlers have forced him to have to deal with for 10 minutes — even when those people are his supporters. There are a small percentage of people who so crave predictable red meat that they lap up everything Newt says with gusto, but most everybody else — even most of his colleagues on the right — thinks he’s a complete asshole. He’s a national landslide loss waiting to happen, should anyone ever be foolish enough to nominate him in the first place.
Unfortunately, Secretary Clinton comes off far closer to Gingrich than Bill. If she can’t be bothered to reel in the “why must I suffer the plebes” attitude with Terry fishing Gross, that will spell trouble should she win the Dem’s nod. There’s no question that with her connections, she’s likely to out-money anyone in her path in the primary. But after that, I really do think she could join the ranks of Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry — those three Democrats that lost winnable elections because the party was so sure any Democrat could beat such weak competition. And when I think of who might come out f the GOP, I’m not sure that’s the kind of thing with which we should be screwing around.