Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Chozick on the Hillary Reboot: The Triangulator Triangulates Obama as He Attempts a TPP Triangulation of His Own

Amy Chozick has worked the Clinton beat for two years now. Chozick acts as midwife for the public relations campaigns launched one after the next to reinvent the bloated power broker we have come to know as Hillary, but Chozick can also be a stealthy critic as well.

An example can be found in last Saturday's repackaging ("Hillary Clinton Embraces Her Mother’s Emotional Tale") of Hillary as a loving daughter to a mother with a hardscrabble, emotionally-harrowing working-class story. If Hillary had a privileged, stable Illinois upbringing, her mother did not. Here is how Chozick sums up the Hillary reboot in a tidy four paragraphs that open the story:
Dorothy Howell [Hillary's mother] was 8 years old when her parents sent her away. It was 1927. Her mother and father, who fought violently in the Chicago boardinghouse where the family lived, divorced. Neither was willing to take care of Dorothy or her little sister. 
So they put the girls on a train to California to live with their grandparents. It did not go well. Her grandmother favored black Victorian dresses and punished the girls for inexplicable infractions, like playing in the yard. (Dorothy was not allowed to leave her room for a year, other than for school, after she went trick-or-treating one Halloween.) 
Unable to bear it, Dorothy left her grandparents’ home at 14, and became a housekeeper for $3 a week, always hoping to return to Chicago and reconnect with her mother. But when she finally did, a few years later, her mother spurned her again.
It took a long time for Hillary Rodham Clinton to fully understand the story of her mother’s devastating childhood. But now, four years after her death, Dorothy’s story is forming the emotional foundation of her daughter’s campaign for president, and will be a central theme in her big kickoff speech on Saturday.
Chozick, a media reporter before taking on the Clinton beat, explains to her readers why this reboot is important:
A sympathetic tale of her mother’s struggles could help Mrs. Clinton convince a struggling middle class that she understands their problems, aides said. A CNN poll released on June 2 showed that 47 percent of voters thought that Mrs. Clinton “cares about people like you,” down from 53 percent last July. Mrs. Clinton’s campaign aides have publicly shrugged off such polls as evidence that voters distrust Washington and politics in general, but privately they are strategizing about how to reframe the conversation.
The task at hand for the Clinton campaign is enormous, almost akin to an alchemical squaring of the circle: How to convince people that Hillary is not what she is? -- a member of the "Davos elite," a powerful, jet-setting celebrity that accepts gargantuan checks from sheikhs and moguls and cares less for ordinary working people than an antebellum plantation owner would for one of his infirm slaves. Hence, we have Hillary piggybacking on her dead mother's backstory.

Hillary came out swinging last Saturday (Amy Chozick, "Hillary Clinton, in Roosevelt Island Speech, Pledges to Close Income Gap") on Roosevelt Island, the long spit in the East River between Manhattan and Queens, promising to fight for the truck drivers and nurses. Chozick couldn't help getting in the dig that
For as much as the content of the speech mattered, the theater of it was equally important. For a campaign criticized for lacking passion, the event gave Mrs. Clinton the ability to create a camera-ready tableau of excitement.
The Brooklyn Express Drumline revved up the crowd assembled on a narrow stretch at the southern tip of the island. And Marlon Marshall, the campaign’s director of political engagement, rattled off statistics about the number of volunteers who have signed up and house parties held in the early nominating states. A section with giant screens set up for an overflow crowd stood nearly empty. 
But a crowd of supporters and volunteers from the staunchly Democratic New York area does not exactly represent the electorate writ large. The real test for Mrs. Clinton and how the speech was perceived will be in Iowa, where she was to travel on Saturday evening for several events. Iowa, the first nominating state, shunned her the last time she sought the presidency, in 2008.
The Clintons when they occupied the the White House in the 1990s were known for something called "triangulation," which was a way of running against your own party by cherry-picking policies from the opposition. Tony Blair made a career out of it in the UK as well.

As Obama's attempt at triangulation to get the Trans-Pacific Partnership through Congress has exploded in a ball of flames, it is interesting to note that at the core of Hillary's messaging is the triangulation of the Obama presidency. According to Chozick and Patrick Healy in today's story "Hillary Clinton’s Vows to ‘Fight’ Evoke a Populist Appeal and a Contrast With Obama":
In a roughly 45-minute speech on Saturday, Hillary Rodham Clinton made 14 references to herself as a fighter. 
She said she would “fight” back against Republicans, “fight” climate change, “fight” to “strengthen America’s families” and “fight” to “harness all of America’s power.” She used the verb in many of the same ways at her first major rally in Des Moines on Sunday, adding that she would “fight” for Midwestern values. 
The presidential campaign’s effort to define Mrs. Clinton as a fighter is, on the surface, a way to persuade middle-class voters that she is on their side. But it is also helping to convey a more subtle message: When it comes to political combat and perseverance, Mrs. Clinton is not President Obama. 
The theme is emerging just as Mr. Obama has suffered a major setback on trade, one that many in Congress say reflects his weaknesses, namely his standoffishness and his inability to forge coalitions for an agenda.
It is a hall of mirrors. Obama is working with Republicans to surreptitiously reintroduce Fast Track while Hillary is positioning herself on the corpse of Democrats' hopes that Obama was a transformative politician.

This cannot end well. Hillary has not put Benghazi and the email issue behind her, let alone successfully relaunching herself as a working-class champion. I am still of the belief that absent the GOP nominating Ted Cruz Hillary cannot win.

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