Presidents of the United Nations Security Council

Hillary Clinton's New Image: Cool Grandma. Can She Maintain It?

Her attitude—unabashedly feminist, casually in charge—was captured most effectively toward the end of her stint as secretary of state. Can she keep it as a candidate?

Illustration by Steve Brodner
Illustration by Steve Brodner W hen did Hillary Clinton become cool? Was it during her globe-trotting as secretary of state in caftans or with her hair pulled back in an ironically hip scrunchie? Was it when she traded funny letters with the actor Jason Segel? Or when she starred in her own Tumblr meme ? Whenever her ascent began, it reached a peak in March, when GQ published an interview with musician Pharrell Williams . In one of the most convoluted sentences ever recorded in the English language, he not only endorsed Clinton for president in 2016 but also predicted her win, one that would usher in purple-tinted national unity and a worldwide pro-choice matriarchy: “When we are a country and we are a species that has had a Martian Rover traveling up and down the crevices of this planet looking for water and ice, okay, and we’ve had a space station that’s been orbiting our planet for sixteen years—but we still got legislation trying to tell women what to do with their bodies? Hillary...

Annals of Hillary-Hating: What's Wrong With Ambition?

Flickr/Paxson Woelber
If I asked you to describe the things you dislike about a prominent politician from the other party, you could surely come up with a long list, and "I disagree with him on issues" would be only one. You'd doubtless be able to describe a series of character flaws and disturbing tendencies that could in theory could apply to even members of your own party. But certain traits that we sometimes associate with politicians generally—pathological ambition, dishonesty, ruthlessness—we almost always ascribe to the those in the other party, while forgiving them in those who seek the same goals we do. To a degree, that's natural and almost everyone does it. But it becomes analytically problematic when you convince yourself that everything a particular politician does or says is a lie, nothing they say can be taken at face value, and their every motivation is dark and sinister. For instance, here's something Charles Krauthammer, who gets more admiration for his intelligence and insight from his...

'Benghazi! The Musical': Dancing, Shouting, Not Much Plot

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. I f Republicans in Congress really want to get Americans to pay attention to the Benghazi scandalette, they're going to have to do some creative thinking. Since hearings and periodic expressions of outrage haven't worked so far, maybe a musical would do the trick. A soaring ballad or two, some hopping dance numbers, maybe a pair of star-crossed lovers. Naturally, it would be called Benghazi! , kind of like Oklahoma! , only rather more grim. But in the meantime, they're going to go with a select committee to investigate the matter, as House Speaker John Boehner announced on Friday . One does wonder whether they think that if they just do some more investigating, they'll uncover the real crime. No one knows what it is yet, but just you wait. Or, as is far more likely, they're just hoping to create a lot of bad news days for the administration, where the whiff of "...

Thinking Small

Flickr/Kevin Gebhardt
There's a discussion starting to bubble up in some corners, one that will grow in intensity as we approach 2016, asking where the left should go as Barack Obama heads for the exits a couple of years hence. In the latest issue of Harper's , Adolph Reed offers a critique from the left of not just Obama but the liberals who support him. Our own Harold Meyerson offered a typically thoughtful criticism , to which Reed responded , but I'll just add briefly that one of the many things I didn't like about Reed's piece was the way he poses a dichotomy for liberals between investing too much in winning presidential elections even if the Democrat is imperfect (not a complete waste of time, but close) and building a movement (much better), but doesn't say what, specifically, this movement-building should consist of. That's a common problem. Movements are great, but creating and sustaining them is hard work, work most of us would rather not do. It also takes skill, timing, and bit of luck. Most of...

If You're Tired of a Politician, It Just Means You Don't Like Them

OK, so she has been around for a while. But still.
In presidential politics, it never hurts to be the New Hotness. Who wants the old and tired, when you can get with the fresh, the happening, the now? But as in love, the intoxicating rush of discovery lasts only so long, and then you really have to bring the goods. Which is why exciting new candidates like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama became president, and exciting new candidates like Gary Hart and Howard Dean didn't. Which brings us to the bigfoot of the 2016 race, one Hillary Rodham Clinton, with whom you might have a passing familiarity. Seth Masket (responding to Kevin Drum ) makes a pretty strong case that the idea that we get tired of public figures is basically a myth. "Is there any evidence that voters 'get tired' of politicians? I don't want to get into the whole literature on what governs presidential elections, but the simple answer is no." He goes over a bunch of examples, noting that where an oldster like Bob Dole lost, it was always because of things that had nothing to...

Between a Rock and a Polling Place

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais F ew things excite a political reporter more than polls. They're the sports statistics of the electoral grind, giving any argument that little extra oomph. For people not necessarily known for their numerical prowess, a cleverly placed percentage point is the perfect condiment for any story. Heck, polls can even be the story. Unfortunately, our enthusiasm for those alluring little numbers can end badly. In election off-season it's not so noticeable, with polls slowing to a relative trickle and our attentions focused elsewhere—or so far in the future that the ambitious dreams of Chris Christie and Hillary Clinton dancing in our heads outweigh any margins of error. But the polls are still there. Exhibit A: presidential approval ratings. Public-opinion polls released in the past few weeks have come together to cast Mean Girls -like aspersions on President Obama's popularity. According to today’s Gallup tracker, the president’s popularity is at 41 percent...

The Real Origin of "Clinton Fatigue"

White House photo by Pete Souza.
This week sees two big articles about the Clintons, one on Hillary in New York magazine , and one on the Clinton Global Initiative (but also about Hillary) in The New Republic . So it isn't too surprising to see Salon's Joan Walsh pen an article titled, "I have Clinton fatigue—and it's not even 2014 yet." I don't have much of a problem with any of the particulars Walsh cites, but since this is likely to be the first of about twelve zillion articles on the phenomenon of "Clinton fatigue" over the next couple of years, it's as good a time as any to point out that there's something problematic about the whole notion. There are, without doubt, legitimate gripes you can have about the Clintons, whether it's their Third Way ideology or their accompanying comfort with corporate America (and of course, one can argue that in both these things, Barack Obama isn't much different). You can have legitimate concerns that Bill Clinton could find a way to "distract" (wink wink) from his wife's...

Is Barack Obama a Hawk?

Wikimedia Commons/DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, U.S. Navy.
Back in 2008, one of the things—maybe the main thing—that convinced liberal Democrats that Barack Obama was more liberal than Hillary Clinton was that while Clinton had supported the Iraq War and was seen as generally to the more hawkish side of national-security issues, Obama had opposed the war and sounded generally more skeptical about the use of American military power. Having been right on Iraq was a pretty rare calling card, and a lot of liberals took it as a proxy for something larger. It wasn't just that he was less like George W. Bush, it meant that he had the courage to stand up to Republicans and advocate for liberal values when other Democrats quaked in fear. In retrospect, it doesn't seem that Obama was or is more liberal than Clinton in any substantive way, aside from perhaps a small policy difference here or there. And while he hasn't started any new big wars on the scale of Iraq, that isn't saying much, since Iraq was our biggest war since Vietnam. Today Kevin Drum...

Seven Reasons You Will Click on This Article about 2016

flickr/ Lufitoom
flickr/Heptahedron W hen you see an article about the 2016 presidential race, your first reaction is probably, "Oh c'mon. It's three years away! Do we have to start talking about this already?" The first votes in Iowa and New Hampshire won't be cast for over two years, and even those politicians who are all but certain to run are doing only the barest minimum to prepare. So what is there to talk about? Not much, but that won't stop us. Here's a New York Times story about Chris Christie quietly building a re-election campaign that can be quickly repurposed for a presidential run, and here's a column about why Jeb Bush should run in 2016, both from Sunday's paper. Here's a Washington Post story about the potential presidential campaigns of Christie and Rand Paul. If your appetite has been whetted, you can go over to Politico 's Hillary Clinton section and read any of the eight gazillion articles about her potential 2016 campaign. The Times already has a reporter assigned full-time to...

Getting to Know Her, Getting to Know All about Her

Flickr/Angela Radulescu
The other day Jaime Fuller and I wrote about RNC chair Reince Priebus's complaints about the fact that NBC is planning to produce a miniseries on the life of one Hillary Rodham Clinton, who could well be a candidate for president in 2016. The objection isn't completely without merit, though there's no way to know yet whether the miniseries (if it ever gets made) will paint Clinton as a hero, a villain, or something in between. But would it really matter? Is a miniseries likely to change how we think of someone who has been a national figure (and a divisive one at that) for over two decades now? My guess is that, like most movies and TV shows about politics, it'll end up being hackneyed and unenlightening. But this does touch on a more interesting question about how our perceptions of political figures evolve over time and what does and doesn't have the power to alter them. Ed Kilgore has some thoughtful words on this: When HRC ran for president in 2008, I thought her biggest problem...

Solving (or Not) a Problem Like the Middle East

When George W. Bush delivered his State of the Union address in 2005, a number of Republican members of Congress showed up with a finger colored purple, in solidarity with the Iraqi voters who were required to dip their fingers in ink upon leaving the polls. Iraq had held an election, the purple digits testified, and therefore invading two years prior had been a swell idea, the transition to democracy was on its way, and everything would turn out great. The triumphalism turned out to be a bit premature; thousands of Americans were still to die there, not to mention hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and the country is riven by religious strife and violence to this day. As if we needed any reminder that an election does not a democracy make, Egypt's government now appears to be disintegrating, just a year after it held its first post-Mubarak election. Without strong civic institutions and no tradition of resolving disputes at the ballot box, the extended transition from dictatorship to...

Dear 2016 Democratic Upstart

AP Images/Charles Dharapak
To: 2016 White House Candidates (Democrats Only) Subject: How to Break with President Obama S ince you have time to read an unsolicited memo with such a provocative subject line, it is safe to assume that your name is not Hillary or Joe. That’s good because I am not writing for the establishment types—Clinton and Biden—who are convinced that the nomination is rightfully theirs if only they choose to run. Instead, this advice is aimed at the long shots, the crazed gamblers, and the hell-with-the-odds dreamers. You are the ones who fantasize about becoming the Gene McCarthy, the Gary Hart, the Howard Dean, and the Barack Obama of 2016. Let me start with the year 1960. Do you know its significance beyond the Kennedy-Nixon debates? It was the last time that any presidential candidate (incumbent presidents aside) was handed the nomination rather than having to fight for it. And even in 1960 Richard Nixon had to bow and scrape before Nelson Rockefeller to head off a primary challenge. What...

Ringside Seat: Obama's Plan B on Plan B

Although one can argue that the American culture war dates all the way back to the days before we were even our own country, these days we can trace most of our hot-button issues to the 1960s, when the hippies and the squares faced off. Eventually, most of the particular issues about which people argued were resolved, and in the liberals' favor. The occasional dissenter not withstanding, there's a broad agreement that the South was wrong about civil rights, the Vietnam War was a bad idea, and women deserve the same rights as men. But the cultural resentments still burn, and they can still be expressed in our policies, not only by Republicans but by Democrats afraid of Republicans. Consider, for instance, the Obama administration's position on whether Plan B, the "morning after" contraceptive pill, should be sold over the counter to any woman or girl who needs it. Today, the administration announced that after suffering multiple defeats in the courts, it is finally dropping its effort...

A Shocking Outbreak of Intellectual Consistency

National Security Agency headquarters (photo from nsa.gov)
As soon as an issue like the NSA surveillance comes along (and by the way, it needs a name—BigDataGulp, perhaps?), we immediately start hearing charges of hypocrisy. When a Democratic administration does something normally associated with Republicans, we've come to expect everybody to give their partisan affiliations precedence over their prior substantive beliefs, and switch sides. So liberals should now be fervently defending the government's right to see who you called and read your emails, and conservatives should be decrying the expansion of the national security state. And most of all, everyone should be accusing everyone else of hypocrisy. But weirdly enough, though there are some charges of hypocrisy, actual hypocrisy is in relatively short supply, outside of a few isolated cases here and there. I've spent the morning going around to websites of various political stripes, and amazingly, most commentators seem to be taking the same positions they did on this matter during the...

Ringside Seat: Frankie Muniz's Career Is Dead, Susan Rice's Is Alive

Fortunes can change fast—just ask Susan Rice. Nine months ago, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was perfectly situated and considered next in line for secretary of State. Then, after attacks in Benghazi left four dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Rice found herself persona non grata. Her crime? Going on the Sunday morning talk show network to run through her understanding of the events as caused by a mob, rather than the work of terrorists. Republicans argued she was complicit in a cover-up to help the president’s re-election. Since then, an abundance of evidence has shown that Rice had almost nothing to do with the debate between the CIA and the State Department over how to characterize the attacks. But when Rice publicly rescinded her name from consideration for secretary of state, the GOP claimed victory. But Rice’s prospects are suddenly looking up—way, way up. Obama announced today that he would be appointing her as his National Security Agency advisor. The...

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