[guest post by JVW]
Barring some weird and unforeseen (but entirely welcome) developments, Hillary! Rodham Clinton will take to the podium on Thursday night to accept the nomination of the Democrat Party for President of the United States of America. While the race appears to be neck-and-neck, she is fighting against the dual and intertwined perceptions that she represents the unacceptable status quo in Washington, DC and that she is largely dishonest and untrustworthy to occupy the office one held by revered giants like Franklin Pierce and Jimmy Carter. Indeed her rising unfavorable ratings are only somewhat ameliorated by the equally poor favorability ratings of her main opponent.
So Mrs./Senator/Secretary Clinton has a pretty Herculean task in front of her come Thursday: to soften her image as a scheming yet reckless shrew who feels entitled to the office she seeks by sheer virtue of her longevity on the Washington scene. To accomplish this goal, she needs to firm up support among dissatisfied backers of Bernard Sanders (who now know that the playing field was titled against their candidate from the get-go) by reinventing herself as a progressive reformer, while still sending clear signals to moderates and independents who increasingly appear to be the ones who will decide this election that she is not enthralled to the far-left agenda of the Occupy crowd or to Black Lives Matter and other discredited grievance groups.
The biggest question then is how does she address the issue of the massive distrust she has engendered through her (and her husband’s) history of influence-peddling, feather-nesting, vindictiveness, and perfidy. I see a number of possibilities here, so let’s take a look at some of the major ones.
1. Avoid It Altogether — Hillary! Hiding
Advantage: She avoids bringing up the reasons why she is so largely disliked. She can instead focus on her — cough, cough — qualifications for office and list her lifetime accomplishments (such as they are).
Disadvantage: It would be seen as the dog that didn’t bark. Even her media sympathizers would have to point out that she remains defiant and unapologetic at a time when she is strongly disliked. It could end up turning off the very people to whom she needs to appeal.
2. Address It Ambiguously — Hillary! Hints
Example: “We are a party with the compassion for forgiveness and new starts. Heaven knows none of us are perfect and at times we have all needed forgiveness, and I want you to know that I appreciate the great support you have shown me this week.”
Advantage: It allows her supporters to claim she has addressed the elephant in the room. They can claim that she has “apologized” (even if she hasn’t) and it is now time to move on.
Disadvantage: It may be seen as too cute, a sort of “you know what I’m talking about but I won’t say it out loud” kind of message. People trying to make up their minds about her might see it as personifying her arrogance and reluctance to admit wrongdoing.
3. Blame Others for Her Wrongdoing — Hillary! Hater
We all know that she has a history of blaming others for her various foibles. The “vast right-wing conspiracy” is out to get her. Monica Lewinsky is a deluded stalker. Every other Secretary of State used private email.
Example: “You know, I have spent the last 25 years enduring partisan investigations into every aspect of my professional and private life, and I’ve been accused of pretty much everything including breaking up Destiny’s Child [that’s a semi-current allusion for all you young minority types to show that I’m a with-it grandma]. But in the end all the nasty things I am supposed to have done never turn out to be true, even if they keep talk radio and all the right-wing blogs busy for a few months.”
Advantage: Absolutely none, but her arrogance, self-regard, and moral blinders could potentially lead her to ad-lib something like this. Her staunch supporters would loudly cheer, but they’re already voting for her anyway. I’m sure her advisors would do their best to steer her away from this path.
Disadvantage: It would show the Hillary! that so many of us have come to hold in such high contempt.
4. Acknowledge Her Sins and Demand That Others Repent — Hillary! Hectors
When the Clinton/Gore campaign was busted taking illegal campaign contributions in their 1996 reelection, Bubba attempted to deflect attention away from their troubles by proposing strict new campaign finance laws. If memory serves (and I can’t find an online citation), he made passing reference to the irony of his serving as a campaign finance reform advocate by admitting he was an imperfect messenger. His wife might want to borrow that line.
Example: “And that is why I will propose new regulations governing the ability of powerful interests from Wall Street to use their wealth to lobby for favorable laws and to use their influence to avoid accountability when they violate our public trust. Now I know that I may be an imperfect messenger for this sort of reform, but I am committed to seeing it happen because the people from Main Street should be just as well represented as the people from Wall Street.”
Advantage: She would be laying it out there that yes, indeed, she regrets her past actions and vows that going forward she will at last be more virtuous than Bubba’s Girlfriend (or however that saying goes). It would be a daring outreach to moderates and independents who may find her positions to her liking, but firmly distrust her.
Disadvantage: It would put her various lies and shady practices front-and-center and would decidedly expose her as a first-rate hypocrite. You mean to tell us that you and your husband can amass $200 million from influence-peddling, but now that you have your nest egg you’re going to make sure that no one else can follow in your footsteps? Her opponents would have a field day asking her why she doesn’t renounce her ill-gotten wealth, and even the media would probably be goaded into looking more deeply into the operations of the Clintons.
5. Own Up to Her Malfeasance — Hillary! Honorable
Example: “I’m sure you are wondering why my $12,000 Armani jackets have been replaced tonight by sackcloth and ashes. [. . .] I know now that in pursuit of winning elective office I have compromised all of the principles that largely drew me to a life of public service. [. . .] And that is why I am tonight announcing that I respectfully decline our party’s nomination as President and will retire from public life and dedicate my remaining years to serving people in need.”
Advantage: It would probably raise her favorability rating by 40 points. Tina Fey would make a movie based on this situation which would get great reviews but do mediocre box office. Dems would probably get a nominee that would crush the GOP candidate.
Disadvantage: We might yet end up with President Bernard Sanders. Bubba would file for divorce immediately.
Naturally there are other scenarios that I did not cover, as well as combinations of the above scenarios (Hillar!y Hints or Hillary! Hectors would almost surely be combined to some degree with Hillary! Hater, for example). But just given those five, I see the odds of each one being part of her Thursday address as being the following:
Hillary! Hiding — 4:1
Hillary! Hints — 7:5
Hillary! Hater — 30:1*
Hillary! Hectors — 5:1
Hillary! Honorable — 1,000,000,000:1
* Odds that it would be all she has to say on the matter. Separately, it’s a 1:20 proposition that she will complain at least to some degree about being persecuted.
Disagree? Have another scenario for how she might address the fact that she is unlikable. Leave them in the comments.
[UPDATE:] I guess there’s another scenario I didn’t mention just because it seems so damn unlikely, but here you go:
6. Address the Situation Forthrightly and Apologize — Hillary! Honest
Example: “I know that some misguided choices I have made in my career of public service have let you down. Many times I have been in favor of ideas or policies that once seemed reasonable and practical, but have turned out to be misguided or even downright wrong. And yes, I have made personal mistakes that have caused honest and decent people to question my commitment to fairness and justice. I regret the times when I have fallen short of my ideals, I pledge to do better, and I invite you to hold me accountable.”
Advantage: It seems like that would be a pretty powerful statement. She could at once appear humble and contrite, while vowing to change. It would win plaudits from liberal editorial boards which otherwise are struggling with the issue of how to endorse her without looking like sniveling simps.
Disadvantage: It could seem yet another pivot, in which she adopts the tone of the day without any real commitment to it. It forces her to humble herself in front of others, which she has shown no inclination of ever doing. Inviting anyone to hold her accountable would be perilous for someone as fundamentally dishonest as she is.