Just when you thought the Democratic primary race could not get any nuttier (Bill de Blasio’s hapless quest sets a high bar), along comes Hillary Clinton accusing Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of being a Russian agent. Or, words to that effect.
More accurately, in a podcast hosted by former Obama apparatchik David Plouffe, Clinton said candidate Gabbard is “the favorite of the Russians” and suggested Moscow was supporting her bid through fake social media postings.
Since Gabbard is only polling at 1.2 percent, according to the Real Clear Politics average, Russia doesn’t seem to be helping much. More important, there is zero evidence that any such meddling has occurred.
What on earth could have prompted such an outlandish charge? We can start with Clinton’s enduring belief that the Russians were behind her 2016 defeat, in addition to James Comey, misogyny, Bernie Sanders, the Electoral College, the media and innumerable other villains. Hillary has never owned up to having been a widely distrusted, politically inept and arrogant candidate who simply lost an election.
It’s unfortunate, because her inability to take responsibility for the unexpected 2016 loss has helped divide the country and has also made her a laughing stock. Unlike most former candidates, Hillary has seen her approval ratings drop since her campaign, and especially among Democrats. In September 2018, two years after the election, Clinton’s approval stood at 36 percent, an all-time low, and seven points below her ratings on the cusp of the 2016 vote. Among Democrats, her approval was down 11 points.
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After 17 years of being voted the most admired woman in the country, Hillary has fallen behind Michelle Obama and is tied with Melania Trump. Boy, that must rankle.
Blame her interminable and whiny book, endless embarrassing speaking tours meant to keep her in the public eye and fluff up her already-copious bank account, and renewed scrutiny of the Clinton Foundation, which, not surprisingly, deflated as donors disappeared.
But mainly, blame her inability to move on, which has prompted her peculiar attack on Gabbard. The animus between the two is not new; in 2016, Gabbard committed the unforgivable sin of endorsing Bernie Sanders. At the time, Gabbard was vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee, which has been accused of tipping the primary contest to Hillary. Her apostasy, consequently, was profound.
Some have speculated that Hillary is itching to throw her hat in the ring, hopeful a third campaign proves the charm.
Gabbard has also challenged Hillary, and the Democratic establishment, on foreign policy. When the Iraq war veteran came out in favor of Bernie, Gabbard described Hillary as someone who “will lead us into more interventionist wars of regime change.”
Gabbard has fired back at Clinton’s Russia comments, calling her the “queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long….”
Gabbard claims her camp has detected a “concerted campaign to destroy my reputation” and now believes that Hillary, “through her proxies and powerful allies in the corporate media and war machine, afraid of the threat I pose” is behind that effort.
The assertion seems far-fetched; why would Hillary Clinton bother to take down a fellow Democrat who is so far behind the pack?
Maybe because in her bitterness Hillary cannot endure anyone else – and especially another female – campaigning and possibly winning in 2020.
Gabbard has suggested as much, tweeting “It’s now clear that this primary is between you and me… Join the race directly.”
Some have speculated that Hillary is itching to throw her hat in the ring, hopeful a third campaign proves the charm. Like many Democrats, she may consider Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is quickly becoming the favorite, too extreme to win a national election against Donald Trump.
In a recent interview with PBS’ Judy Woodruff, Clinton said, "So maybe there does need to be a re-match. I mean, obviously I can beat him again." She later said she was joking.
Recently, baited to jump in by President Trump on Twitter Hillary responded “Don’t tempt me. Do your job.”
Before she enters the race, Hillary should review what voters are saying about another run. A recent Rasmussen poll shows that fully 71 percent of voters say she should not run, including 58 percent of her own party. That’s not a great starting point.
Though Hillary is quite positive she would win, suggesting in a CBS interview that “there were many funny things that happened in my election that will not happen again,” the Rasmussen survey tells a different story.
In that poll, she ties Trump in a head-to-head match-up. But remember that on the eve of the 2016 election the polling was unequivocally in her favor. At that time The Daily Beast posted a jubilant column, “Hillary Clinton Leads All Final Polls,” noting a Monmouth poll had the former Secretary of State up by 6 points, while a tracking poll by ABC News and the Washington Post had her ahead by 4 points. It may be, given the apparent bias in Trump surveys, that running even is not good enough.
Three other findings should give her pause. The first is that in that imaginary contest, Clinton wins only 60 percent of the black vote. In 2016, she walked away with 88 percent of that vote. That possible leakage of black votes, which I’ve noted before, is a real danger sign for Hillary, and for Democrats.
Second, only 42 percent of those surveyed think the country would be better off today if Clinton had been elected. Fully 48 percent disagree. That’s an astonishing conclusion, given the daily battering the president receives from the media and his low job approval ratings.
Finally, only 54 percent of Democrats think Hillary won the nomination in 2016 fairly. Imagine the reaction is she was to jump in today, or if she were to be nominated by a deadlocked convention. The remaining dozen or so candidates, and their supporters, would erupt; most likely, a great many would stay home.
It’s time for Hillary to retire to the sidelines. Stop embarrassing Democrats, and herself.