Opinion: Columnists

Hillary Clinton is past her time

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Opinion,Noemie Emery,Columnists,Democratic Party,Hillary Clinton,2016 Elections,Magazine

Fate hasn't been kind to Hillary Clinton, at least not in its most recent phase.

In 2008, when the plate was set for the national Democrats, she lost the nomination to Barack Obama, of scant years and no gravitas, who soared out of nowhere to wrench destiny from her on the unspecified promise of "change."

Now, "change" has come, and people don't like it. Iraq changed from a safe, stable ally (just ask Obama) to a terrorist haven, one of the reasons why, though no fellow Democrats seem likely to edge her, her chances of winning the White House seem dim. Between 2008 and 2014, her prospects have worsened. Here are the main reasons why.

Three times is not the charm, unless you’re a Reagan or Roosevelt, the only three presidents in the 20th century who saw their party hold the White House for more than two terms. Franklin Roosevelt, of course, pulled off a third, and fourth, term for himself in the course of the greatest world war ever experienced, and Harry Truman made it five in a row for his party by drawing the line in the sand for the Soviet Union.

Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan were sufficiently popular to pull William Howard Taft and George Bush the elder over the line. But neither was able to win re-election, and the peace-and-prosperity of Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Clinton wasn't enough to elect their vice presidents (who claimed foul play was afoot).

Obama cannot claim either, and no candidate was ever elected dragging a record like his round her neck. Barring exceptional circumstances, the natural move is to the opposite party, at least to make sure the mistakes will be different. Could any one now say, "Let us continue?" Guess not.

When Hillary Clinton took on the job as the country's First Diplomat, she probably thought it was just what she needed, a non-political job at the highest of levels, to bolster the missing page in her dossier and give her some world-leader credibility. In fact, it tied her to the president's most conspicuous failures: the "reset" with Russia, Benghazi and Libya, and the deepening mess in Iraq. She may say she was against the withdrawal of all of our forces, but she was in place when the decision was taken, and the best reading is that she failed to have influence.

Having voted "yes" on the war in Iraq, "no" on the surge and "present" on some truly dreadful decisions, her record gives everyone something to rage at. She can’t say that Obama did well, as that would be madness, but she can’t critique him too much, or she’ll make his base angry. This is truly the worst of all worlds.

And then there is time, which, at least in this instance, can’t be said to be serving her well. If a political shelf-life is about 14 years — the span between the time Reagan and Kennedy won their first office, and their elections as president — Hillary has spent 22 years in the national spotlight. In 2016, it will be 24 — a very long time in the center of action, the target of love, fear and rage. Reagan was her age when he was running, but no one in the late 1970’s talked about "Reagan fatigue."

"Clinton fatigue" is all over this effort, in her stumbling replies, her slumping book sales, the report that people who read it on Kindle don’t get past page 33.

At long last, our Clinton fixation is over. Like Rhett Butler, we don't give a damn.

Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."
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