Obama strategist David Axelrod came out swinging against Hillary Clinton’s tendency to hide in what he called the “cocoon of inevitability.” Axelrod criticized Hillary for both a lack of any overall strategy and a failure to articulate a compelling reason for running for president.
Why is Axelrod going after Hillary?
What Axelrod is saying makes sense: Hillary is running because she is Hillary, is a woman, has huge name recognition, and believes that she can win with her 2008 backers and the Bill Clinton machine.
That’s not enough, though.
Axelrod accurately noted that her “candidacy is out in front of the rationale for it.” (meaning more people support her than can tell you why they do).
And he advised Hillary to “throw caution to the wind and essentially get out of the cocoon of inevitability and really compete for [the nomination].” Something he obviously thinks she is not doing now.
Noting that “tactics should follow strategy”, he points out that Hillary goes out each day on her programmed search for the nomination without any overall strategy to guide her candidacy. She addresses issues in broad terms, doesn’t answer specific questions, and basically limits her platform to “women and girls” issues. That’s not going to be enough and Axelrod is pointing that out.
His comments deserve scrutiny on two levels. First of all, he is, of course, right. Hillary and Bill have always had difficulty with message and strategy. They can’t make up their mind among competing advisors and advice and tend to split the difference and leave their options open.
But Hillary faces the overwhelming question of whether to run on Obama’s record or against it. Axelrod said it best when he noted that voters want a “remedy” for problems, not a “replica” of a past Administration. How can she disentangle herself from Obama’s failed foreign policy and failing health care system without admitting her parentage of both disasters?
But, on a deeper level, one wonders why Axelrod chose to say what he did when he did. On instructions from Obama? From Jarrett? Out of a desire to generate an anti-Hillary momentum?
The left has been frothing for a candidate to oppose Hillary. Former Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, running to Hillary’s left, might offer an alternative. The more Obama wades into a new Iraq War, the more the anti-war left will be aroused. Hillary, innately a hawk, is guided by the political proposition that a woman has to be a later day Margaret Thatcher to succeed — tough and ready to pull the trigger. Her need to move to the right on the war will alienate her own party and may well lead them to cast their lot with Webb or any substitute.
And, as Hillary’s fund raising needs lead to an ever closer tie with Wall Street, the Elizabeth Warren populist wing of the Party will roar in disapproval.
Obama himself cannot attack Hillary — though he’d like to — because he is compromised on her two biggest negatives: the war and Wall Street. Militarily, he may yet have to send tens of thousands of ground troops to Iraq and his record on crony capitalism is as bad as Hillary’s.
But that does leave outside Obama advisors free to snipe at Hillary and to lend implicit backing to efforts to challenge her. Is David Axelrod on such a path? He would make a potent addition to the ranks of those Democrats who find Hillary wanting.