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Bob Franken: Hillary: Yes or no?

Posted: July 1, 2014 - 3:18pm

I’m sure you, too, have been caught up in breathless speculation over whether Hillary Clinton will do the deed and actually run for president. That’s all we’re talking about here in D.C., and of course, Washington is so typical of Anytown, USA.

A lot of people are rooting for her to run again — certainly a lot of Democrats. And a lot of Republicans. Yes, Republicans. The GOP operatives are licking their chops after watching her performance during her “Hard Choices” book tour. Let’s put this as delicately as possible: She’s stepped in it a few times.

Her comment during one of her countless TV interviews that she and her husband left the White House “dead broke,” while certainly true, opened up a toxic torrent from the GOP about how she and hubby Bill managed to immediately overcome their own deficit and make millions of dollars the old-fashioned way, with sheer hard work and perseverance making speeches. It might not have occurred to her that some Americans can’t relate to getting paid a couple hundred thousand dollars for one lecture. Add to that the news that daughter Chelsea was picking up $600,000 a year for an occasional appearance on NBC news, and those on the right were only too glad to pounce. She was making it so easy for them.

And pounce they have. They have made it clear that they have every intention of clubbing her not just about Benghazi and her performance as secretary of state, but on her real or imagined personal vulnerabilities, particularly the impression she leaves that she has a robust sense of entitlement.

To her enemies, that would explain her tone deafness when it comes to discussing the recently accumulated family wealth. But, beyond that, she can sometimes make it very easy to form an impression she believes she was put on this earth with a mandate to save lesser humans. They point to that noninclusive tendency as the reason that she failed with health care when her husband, the president, appointed her to reform the system.

But back to the question, which is: Will she take the plunge into the cesspool one must swim in to get to the White House as chief executive? Count me among those few who think it’s quite possible she will NOT. I’m not convinced she will become a candidate. I think the current book tour has soured her on the idea of dealing with us unworthies in the media, to say nothing of the scoundrels on the other side. Even though millions of Americans are excited about the idea of a woman POTUS (including me, by the way), the Republicans obviously are gearing up for a campaign based on the question “Do you want it to be THAT woman?” Add to the mix that some will find it weird that an ex-president would be first gentleman, and you have the makings of a really ugly campaign.

On the other hand, what might persuade her to run is that the selection of GOP possibilities is not exactly awe-inspiring. A less-charitable person than I might describe the present roster as a freak show, so it might be tempting to enter the fray. Beyond that, Hillary will definitely get a lot of pressure from her party’s leaders that she has to run because after her, the Democratic lineup is not laden with heavy hitters. Obviously, Vice President Joe Biden is anxiously waiting, but the question is how inspired the country would be for an “Uncle Joe.” After Biden, it gets real thin, real fast.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that someone will pull a Barack Obama and suddenly explode onto the scene from obscurity, but at the moment, the entire focus is on “will she or won’t she” be the one. From a journalist’s point of view, I certainly hope so. No matter what, it would be a great story.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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