Entry from January 30, 2014

Oh-oh. This morning’s Washington Post tells us that “Hillary Rodham Clinton” — and since when, I wonder, has her maiden name once again become an obligatory part of her identification in the media when just “Hillary” would be quite enough? —

holds a commanding 6 to 1 lead over other Democrats heading into the 2016 presidential campaign, while the Republican field is deeply divided with no clear front-runner, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Clinton trounces her potential primary rivals with 73 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, reinforcing a narrative of inevitability around her nomination if she runs.

As usual, the media modestly leave out the detail that the “narrative of inevitability” is their narrative, assiduously promoted by polls like this as well as articles like that of David Kirkpatrick of The New York Times, mentioned in my last-but-one post here. But then their denial of any proprietary claim to the narrative is presumably all part of the inevitability of Hillary: it’s not just what somebody, or even lots of somebodies think, but what everybody already knows. Sometimes I think I know it myself.

But the Kirkpatrick article reminded us that if there remains any potential stumbling- block in the way of Hillary’s stately progress toward the nomination and, beyond it, the presidency, it is Benghazi — which must be why she has lately announced that what happened there is the “biggest regret” of her tenure as Secretary of State under President Obama.

“It was a terrible tragedy losing four Americans — two diplomats and now it is public so I can say two C.I.A. operatives,” Mrs. Clinton said during remarks at the National Auto Dealers Association convention in New Orleans. “You make these choices based on imperfect information.” Mrs. Clinton then added, “But that doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be unforeseen consequences, unpredictable twists and turns.”

Unpredictability being, however paradoxically, inevitable too. The New York Times takes this non-apology apology, so reminiscent of life as we knew it under Good King Bill, as the occasion to publicize David Brock’s whitewash, The Benghazi Hoax, thus seconding her implied claim that she’s sorry, but it’s not her fault.

I instantly flashed back to her husband’s announcement, a month after he took office, that the “middle class tax cut” he had promised voters throughout the recent campaign was, alas, not to be after all. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve ever worked in my life,” said a lugubrious Bill of his putative efforts to find some way, any way, of delivering on his promise — as if he knew he could rely on the sympathy of those who had been raised in the era of “self-esteem” and were inclined to give full credit for effort to overlook his lapse. And, indeed, it appears that a majority of people then as now have been willing to join him in seeing himself as the principal victim of his failure, not them — both because he had put all that work in for nothing and because he felt so bad about it.

Indeed, his feelings of pain and regret were even more meritorious because the failure was not his fault but that of “changing circumstances” — by which he meant his sudden realization on or shortly after inauguration day that the “structural debt” was too high. In retrospect, and in light of his support for the profligate President now in the White House, that seems like a good joke, but presumably he would claim that Mr Obama was also a victim of changing circumstances, since the debt was already rocketing before he decided to spend even more money on “stimulus.” The point is that Feelings First is the Clinton way and may to some represent a welcome change — or change back — to the ostensibly therapeutic outlook on political life after the Democratic interregnum of the Obama approach, once again evident in the State of the Union address, of simply blaming Republicans for everything. Ironically, Bill and Hill both plead for our indulgence on the grounds of narratives of inevitability. Fortunately for them, I guess, some kinds of inevitability are better than others.

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