Is Hillary Clinton saying tone-deaf things about wealth that could cause her political problems? Yes.
Is the fact that she's well off a political problem for her? No.
Yes, this a gaffe:
Clinton responded to criticism of her wealth in an interview with the Guardian newspaper published Saturday night by suggesting Americans won't be concerned about the more than $100 million her family has reportedly earned in recent years because they're not "truly well off."That's not politcally savvy, and it wasn't smart to say the Clintons were "dead broke" when Bill left office, even though the couple was in debt. (The debt was recouped quickly, thanks to book royalties and speaking fees.)
"They don't see me as part of the problem," Clinton said of Americans who are upset about income inequality, adding, "Because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names; and we've done it through dint of hard work."
But if these remarks are jarring, this is utterly ridiculous:
Some influential Democrats -- including former advisers to President Obama -- said in interviews last week they fear that Clinton's personal wealth and rarefied, cloistered lifestyle could jeopardize the Democratic Party's historic edge with the middle class that powered Obama's wins.OK, stop. Who are the most beloved Democratic presidents? Let's look at Gallup's presidential popularity list from 2011:
"I don't know whether it's just that she's been 'Madam Secretary' for so long, but she's generating an imperial image," said Dick Harpootlian, who recently stepped down as Democratic Party chairman in South Carolina, which hosts an early presidential primary.
Harpootlian, who backed Obama over Clinton in 2008 and is a longtime ally of Vice President Biden, added: "She's been living 30, going on 40 years with somebody bringing your coffee to you every morning. Is it more 'Downton Abbey' than it is America?"
Top Democrat on the list? Um ... Bill Clinton, who wasn't noticeably poorer in 2011 than he is now. Hillary, of course, was "Madam Secretary" then. She was accompanied by those coffee-fetchers -- and was extraordinarily popular.
Who are the next two Democrats on the list? Er ... JFK and FDR. As I recall, their wealth was a tad higher than the national median.
Look, if you're earning six figures -- as the wives of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were before they became president -- you're already out of most ordinary Americans' league. And most Americans don't let that bother them, much less the fact that most pols are truly wealthy. It's just the way things work.
If you want to run for president, you have to seem as if you understand what it's like to be an ordinary American -- but voters don't expect you to be an ordinary American.
Yes, Hillary has to stop talking like this. But she doesn't have to don sackcloth and ashes. Both her husband and President Obama have made a habit of saying taxes should be raised on wealthy people like themselves. Hillary should do the same -- and I suspect she will. Meanwhile, she needs to watch the gaffes.