The real reason Hillary is hiding and keeping tight lipped about important issues – from ISIS to Keystone to Obama’s spending plans to the economy – is that she doesn’t have her message down yet. Unlike Bill, Hillary has never had an instinctive approach to public policy. Instead, she relies on polling and gurus to guide her to a poll- tested message. And she’s not there yet.
You might ask why she isn’t ready yet when she’s been planning to run for
for President again for the past eight years.
The answer is that she hasn’t found her 2016 guru to guide her through the election. Hillary is uncommonly in need of advice and guidance. Her style is to reach out to hundreds of experts before she fashions a position. But then she gets overwhelmed when she is inundated with torrents of data to process. She doesn’t trust her own instincts and she becomes paralyzed.
Remember her health care debacle. Her guru de jour at that time was Ira Magaziner, a classmate of Bill’s at Oxford. Together, they assembled a task force of over 500 (yes five hundred) experts and bureaucrats to develop a national health care poilcy. Hillary’s steadfast belief in Magaziner’s complicated and incomprehensible program, along with her own inflexibility, doomed the initiative.
In the 2008 campaign, she heeded the advice of her sprawling Washington-based campaign. Led by then guru Mark Penn, she slavishly followed his bad advice and based her campaign on her elite Washington experience. That didn’t play well against the young, fresh Obama, who was campaigning as the ultimate outsider. She never thought through the idiocy of her message, blindly following Penn. And it fit her image of herself – no longer an outsider from Arkansas, but someone who knew both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue” as she put it. Unfortunately for her, she was just the kind of elite insider that voters had come to despise.
Now, as the consensus Democratic nominee, she is deluged with economic and foreign policy advice as more than 200 economists provide advice and the foreign policy establishment jockey for position in a future Hillary presidency. Pulled one way and then the other, she does not have the either the uniformity of input or deeply held philosophy to allow her to shape a message.
Hillary always assumes the coloration of those who are giving her guidance. Like a chameleon, she changes her color to suit her environment. Now, pulled every which way by different advisors, she is, as Hoover said of FDR, a “chameleon on plaid.”
This chaos of advice is likely to dog her throughout the election. The factional infighting we are seeing in the Hillary campaign — such as the David Brock’s melodramatic resignation — is indicative of this kind of turmoil.
Its a problem for Hillary because although she is a great advocate, she needs a definite script and a carefully conceived strategy . And, it is very clear that she’s not getting one. She’s not good at ad libbing, as we’ve seen with her comments about being dead broke and insistence that corporations don’t create jobs.
The push and pull of campaign factions reflects the classic dilemma of the modern political figure. Should she focus on the swing voter by moving to the center or should she double down on the left and attempt to turnout her base? Should she emulate her husband in 1996 or Obama in 2008 and 2012?
Until Hillary makes up her mind about this fundamental proposition, she will not be able to wage an effective campaign. Bill can adjust to conflicting advisors. He appreciates their conflict and finds in the seams between their arguments the very decision points he needs to keep control. But Hillary wants it cut and dried and she’s not getting it right now. She’s paralyzed by analysis.