The Poll That Will Make Democrats Panic About Hillary Clinton

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 21 2014 8:22 AM

The Poll That Will Make Democrats Panic About Hillary Clinton

114990848-secretary-of-state-hillary-clinton-answers-a-reporters
What difference did Madam Secretary make?

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

At the moment, I'm wrapping up a piece about progressive activists and Netroots Nation, having found (as most reporters found) young party activists pretty much satisfied by the promise of a Hillary 2016 campaign. Other candidates, like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, have their adherents who want to shift the party's stances on banks, on student loans, on inequality. But few doubt that Hillary is the most electable, most Republican-infuriating candidate on the horizon.

Advertisement

As Maggie Haberman writes in her summary of the poll, Clinton left Foggy Bottom with a favorable rating well above 60 percent. Profiles of her tenure took for granted that she was a "rock star," a historic figure, a success. The decline is undoubtedly, as Haberman writes, tied in part to 18 months of no-end-in-sight Benghazi investigations; I wish the Politico pollster had asked voters to think of a single word to describe Clinton, because surely "Benghazi" would have erupted from most Republicans and led the list.

What else might explain the swoon? Well, turn your eyes north from Libya, up to Russia. In a piece subtly titled "Is Hillary Clinton imploding?" Jonathan Last asked readers to look at what Hillary Clinton told the BBC about the administration's Russia stance. Was it untenable? Well, according to Hillary, the thoughtful observer had to look at the situation when she arrived at State.

Medvedev is President, Putin is Prime Minister, and there were jobs that we wanted to get done. We wanted to get Russia on board with tough sanctions against Iran. We wanted to have a new START Treaty to limit nuclear weapons. We wanted to get their help in transiting across through huge country to get things we needed into Afghanistan. We got all that done. Putin comes back. Look where we are now. He invaded another country, so yes, but while we had that moment, we seized it, we used it, and succeeded.

"He invaded another country, so ... " is, to my ears, a more face-palm-worthy quote than "we were dead broke" (which was basically true) and "what difference does it make?" (which was about the Republican focus on September 2012 talking points, not a callous dismissal of dead heroes). Is there some way for Hillary to run as the person who was at the wheel before the Obama administration's policy failures? Maybe. But her re-emergence happened to coincide with a run of major setbacks, and that's complicating the story line of Clinton as a "rock star" secretary. It follows months and months of Republicans chortling at the inability of Clinton allies to name a major accomplishment. (In this interview she cites START, but her allies are really lost at sea in discussing this stuff).

So it should be interesting to see if the criticism of Clinton is turned back by an aggressive left—by David Brock's groups like Correct the Record and Media Matters, for example—or if it emboldens one of the junior Democrats to criticize her and raise speculation about primary challenges. So far, there's a little of the former and none of the latter.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories on the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.