Frank and I were talking yesterday. He expressed his annoyance with what has become a standard liberal disclaimer. Before attacking Trump, the writer will note that “Clinton is a flawed candidate.” He was specifically referring to an article by Jonathan Chait, New York Times Public Editor Liz Spayd Writes Disastrous Defense of False Equivalence. In that article, before going after Trump hard, he wrote, “How can the news media appropriately cover Trump and his clearly flawed opponent without creating an indecipherable din of equivalent-sounding criticism…” Frank’s point was that of course Clinton is a flawed candidate. All candidates are flawed. What’s with the constant repetition of this?
I had a different take on it. It ties into a tweet storm I did a few days ago. I do a lot of them because I get cranky a lot.
Not a Flawed Candidate
Clinton isn’t a flawed candidate. She is a great candidate. But I can already hear all the reactions, “But she is a flawed candidate because…”
Hillary Clinton is often thought of as a bad politician. And you know what? She is. She doesn’t glad-hand with a smooth smile, she doesn’t give rousing speeches, and she doesn’t walk into a room and make it stop with her sheer force of personality. Clinton lacks, as Miz Molly Ivins would have said, “Elvis.”
But that’s “politician” — not “candidate.” Charisma doesn’t necessarily make a great candidate. Just ask President Palin.
What Makes a Great Candidate
What makes a great candidate starts with knowing what the hell you are talking about. And Clinton knows. She knows the ins and outs of the federal government and can talk to your ear off about whatever happens to be the question in front of her about the federal government.
She also has over a hundred thousand words in her policy proposals. And she knows them just as well as she knows about everything else. This is why she tends to have a great deal of policy in her stump speeches. A flawed candidate? I don’t think so.
Reaching Out to Voters
Reaching out to voters is another critical skill for a candidate. Now in a presidential race this tricky. You can’t knock on 125 million doors in the US by the time of the election. But there are ways around this.
You can have small community meetings with local officials. And you can have smaller more intimate rallies. You can send people to do preliminary work on what would be best for you to do to have the biggest impact. Clinton does all of this.
In the debates, she stays around after to talk to the people who asked questions about their needs, and has staff get back to them. She has her staff follow up with people who are at rallies. Clinton calls it table talk time. Back when she was in the Senate, it led to a lot of legislation that she never asked credit for.
And unlike most other candidates, she is still thinking about Flint. This is not a flawed candidate.
Stamina is another essential quality of a great candidate. And we know how legendary Hillary Clinton’s stamina is. Her schedule the day she found out she had pneumonia had two fundraisers in two states, a two hour policy meeting, a press conference, and an interview with a reporter. She lasted an hour in the direct sunlight with Kevlar on in the New York humidity on 9/11. Then despite taking the rest of the day off, she did another interview on Monday. Reporters have complained on Twitter about how they can’t keep up.
Finally, she has the ability to turn the tables on her opponents. Witness the brilliant trap she sprung on Friday that few people seem to understand is brilliant. First, she made a statement that the media won’t shut up about. Granted, they are tut-tutting her for saying something that they all know is true.
As Scott Lemieux noted, “It strikes me as obvious that Clinton’s much-discussed ‘deplorables’ phrase was a Kinsleyian gaffe — a politician’s statement that gets criticized not because it’s false but because it represents a truth that is supposed to remain hidden.”
But in addition to the discussion of the “optics,” the media have been talking about the fact that she isn’t wrong. They’ve said, “Oh, you were too broad.” So she walked it back by saying that she was wrong about the number of deplorables. That can be taken either way. And it doubles down on the fact Trump is followed by too many racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and Islamophobic people.
It further lays a trap since it gives the media an excuse to ask people like sitting governor Mike Pence if he will denounce David Duke as deplorable. Pence, of course, refused to do so.
Clinton Is a Great Candidate
There are many other reasons why, far from being a flawed candidate, Clinton is a great candidate. But for me it is the fact that she has the knowledge, the stamina, an eagerness to connect with people, and the ability to trap her opponents into making fools of themselves. Regardless how you look at it, she isn’t a flawed candidate.