Monday, November 12, 2018


When I woke up this morning, this Wall Street Journal op-ed co-authored by Mark Penn seemed to be the talk of the political Internet:
Hillary Will Run Again

Get ready for Hillary Clinton 4.0. More than 30 years in the making, this new version of Mrs. Clinton, when she runs for president in 2020, will come full circle—back to the universal-health-care-promoting progressive firebrand of 1994. True to her name, Mrs. Clinton will fight this out until the last dog dies. She won’t let a little thing like two stunning defeats stand in the way of her claim to the White House.
According to Penn (writing with Andrew Stein), Hillary 1.0 was a centrist who ran for Senate and won in 2000 and 2006, "arguably the most successful version of Hillary Clinton." Version 2.0 was also a centrist, but that sneaky liberal Barack Obama beat her in caucus states in 2008 and went on to victory. Hillary 3.0 "catered to the coastal elites who had eluded her in 2008," running as a progressive, but lost to Donald Trump as a result. But now... it's vengeance time.
Claims of a Russian conspiracy and the unfairness of the Electoral College shielded Mrs. Clinton from ever truly conceding she had lost. She was robbed, she told herself, yet again. But after two years of brooding—including at book length—Mrs. Clinton has come unbound. She will not allow this humiliating loss at the hands of an amateur to end the story of her career. You can expect her to run for president once again.
Um, I think if she were determined to run, she'd have an organization in place now, the way several other serious aspirants do. Don't you think?
Expect Hillary 4.0 to come out swinging. She has decisively to win those Iowa caucus-goers who have never warmed up to her. They will see her now as strong, partisan, left-leaning and all-Democrat—the one with the guts, experience and steely-eyed determination to defeat Mr. Trump. She has had two years to go over what she did wrong and how to take him on again.
But nearly every pundit I've encountered said that firebrand progressives didn't do all that well in this year's midterms, especially in Middle America. Why is this an approach tailor-made for Iowa?
Mrs. Clinton won’t travel the country in a van with Huma Abedin this time, doing small events and retail politics. Instead she will enter through the front door, mobilizing the army of professional women behind her, leveraging her social networks, and raking in donations. She will hope to emerge as an unstoppable force to undo Mr. Trump, running on the #MeToo movement, universal health care and gun control. Proud and independent, this time she will sideline Bill and Mr. Obama, limiting their role to fundraising.
Aren't there several dozen other candidates who might have a word or two to say about this?
The generation of Democrats who have been waiting to take over the party from the Clintons will be fuming that she is back and stealing their show. But they revealed themselves to be bungling amateurs in the Brett Kavanaugh nomination fight, with their laughable Spartacus moments. She will trounce them. Just as Mr. Trump cleared the field, Mrs. Clinton will take down rising Democratic stars like bowling pins. Mike Bloomberg will support her rather than run, and Joe Biden will never be able to take her on.
Penn, of course, hasn't run a Democratic campaign in a decade, and spends more time hanging out with Republicans on Fox News than with Democrats. In fact, even though this reads at first like an effort to troll Democrats with the notion that we won't be able to move on from 2016's humiliating loss, I don't think this is aimed at us at all. It's aimed at the core market for Penn's punditry -- Republicans.

And why? Does Penn actually believe all this? It's hard to tell -- but he and his editor's at the Journal op-ed page know that Hillary Clinton is a villain right-wingers love to hate. I think this isn't trolling -- it's a Republican in all but name gulling the rubes on his own side, because he knows that this nonsense is just the sort of thing they eat up.

Notice that Clinton is portrayed in a way that's intended to exquisitely stroke right-wingers' rage centers (which are actually their pleasure centers). In 1994, Clinton was a "universal-health-care-promoting progressive firebrand" -- the evil socialist so many older conservatives loathed. After the 2016 election, she "shielded" herself from the knowledge of her own awfulness by believing "claims of a Russian conspiracy." (In Wingnuttia, they're still "claims," and everyone "knows" they're "fake news.") Like the supervillain she is, she's been "brooding" ever since. Defeat? She won't have it! "She will not allow this humiliating loss at the hands of an amateur to end the story of her career"! (Picture her entertaining these thoughts in the comic-book version of this narrative. She and her lair are drawn in sinister chiaroscuro. She shakes her fist at the cosmos as she thinks all this.)

Now she will be "strong, partisan, left-leaning" and full of "steely-eyed determination." She'll "enter through the front door" and "emerge as an unstoppable force." The prose gets purpler and she becomes more and more menacing: "Mrs. Clinton will take down rising Democratic stars like bowling pins. Mike Bloomberg will support her rather than run, and Joe Biden will never be able to take her on."


This is what right-leaning pundits do: They routinely lie to their core audiences. Usually the lies are in the service of fat cats' policy goals (climate change is a myth); sometimes the point is just electing more Republicans (Democrats will let MS-13 members with Ebola slither under your bed while their fellow caravaners build a Ground Zero mosque and turn the U.S. into a second Venezuela!). But this is just lying because the liar knows the lies are catnip to the GOP audience.

Not surprisingly, the people who ran with this story were overwhelmingly on the right:

Guys, you're supposed to be making us chase our own tails, not your own people.

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