How Hillary Clinton Went from Working-Class Hero to Elite Loser, in Two Bill Kristol Columns

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 9 2014 2:07 PM

How Hillary Clinton Went from Working-Class Hero to Elite Loser, in Two Bill Kristol Columns

Popular with the middle class or not?

Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images

One of the great joys of political reporting circa 2014 is how quickly you can crowd-source a question. After skimming a column about how Hillary Clinton's book tour might have happened too early (this, after how many months of coverage of when Clinton would climb back on the horse?), I flashed back to all the punditry from 2011 and 2012 about Clinton's political might. Hadn't pundits argued for Joe Biden to leave the ticket and the popular, adroit Hillary Clinton to replace him? Had any pundits argued both for a Hillary-veep switch and argued that Hillary 2016 was falling apart?

Within five minutes of my ask, Reuters reporter Gabriel Debenedetti produced two Bill Kristol columns that did exactly this. On May 28, 2012, Kristol trolled the Obama campaign by suggesting an obvious face-saving/election-winning switcheroo. Joe Biden had to go. (My emphasis.)

Who should replace Biden? Everyone knows the answer. Hillary Clinton received nearly 18 million votes in the race for the 2008 Democratic nomination. Her rating in a Washington Post survey a couple of weeks ago was 65 percent favorable, 27 percent unfavorable. Biden hurts Obama. She would help him. What’s more, she’d help with precisely the undecided voters Obama needs in November. Many of them are white, working- and middle-class Americans who supported her in the 2008 primaries. They overcame their disappointment at Clinton’s defeat to vote for Obama that November. But many became disillusioned and voted Republican in 2010, producing that year’s GOP landslide. Barack Obama needs to win back as many of them as possible in 2012. They voted for Hillary Clinton once. Surely they’d be more likely to return to Obama if given the opportunity to vote for her again as part of the ticket.

Just two years and one month later, Kristol reacted to Hillary Clinton's book tour—specifically, her inartful answer to Diane Sawyer's question about how rich she'd become post-Foggy Bottom. In "Our 'Dead Broke' Leaders," he suggested that the Republican party could easily outcampaign this royalist.

Republicans, for a change, aren’t saddled with the prospect of an out-of-touch insider as their presidential nominee. (Is it conceivable that no populist Democrat will see Hillary Clinton’s glaring weaknesses and take her on?) The populist mantle, the reformist mantle, the Main Street and Middle America mantles, are there for the Republican taking.

To be fair, perhaps the white, working-, and middle-class Americans who supported Hillary before do not technically live in middle America, or on Main Street. They might live on State Street, or Locust Street, or Electric Avenue. Thanks anyway to Debenedetti for coming up with the columns. It's nice when someone covers politics with consistency.

UPDATE: Other Twitter users suggests a fine runner up. Brett Budowsky in 2012:

If President Obama makes the bold and historic decision to run with Hillary Clinton in 2012, an Obama-Clinton ticket would launch a rocket of enthusiasm throughout a rejuvenated and mobilized Democratic base. He would send a powerful message of reassurance and confidence to political independents, seniors, blue-collar workers and all women who deserve and should win equal pay for honest work after an Obama-Clinton campaign that would champion this cause throughout every corner of the nation.
The most memorable aspect of Clinton's carefully orchestrated book tour for Hard Choices could be the discussion about whether she is fully in tune with the temper of our times on matters of wealth and opportunity in America... the mood of the electorate is anti-Washington, anti-establishment, anti-incumbent, anti-crony capitalism, anti-politics as usual and anti-status quo.

Recap: Obama won the White House again without dropping Biden from the ticket. And the Clintons were still rich in 2012.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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