Hillary Before the Fall
I have been thinking about the sin of pride lately, not because I suffer from it but because it plays such a large role in politics.
At this point, the potential Republican presidential field doesn't have to worry about pride. That's because it has so little to be proud of.
You see these Republican straw polls and cattle calls, and you come away asking: Which one was supposed to be the exciting one? Which one was supposed to be the smart one? Remind me again.
Currently, the Democratic presidential field is largely limited to just one person, Hillary Clinton. She ought to be worrying a lot about pride, seeing as it helped do her in when she ran for president in 2008.
In fact, she has a lot of things to worry about. She is not just the favorite, and she is not just the prohibitive favorite; she is the inevitable nominee. Except she's not.
If she falters in any of the first four contests — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina — it will be viewed as a sign that she is a mere mortal, that she can be wounded, that she can lose.
And other Democrats may feel the urgent need to enter the race to save the party.
Current polls tell her not to worry. But then, the polls told her that before.
The top headline on the Drudge Report on Oct. 4, 2007, was: "Clinton has 33-point lead."
The political strategy of the Clinton camp was simple: She was going to win the nomination because the party owed Hillary the nomination, just as the country owed her the presidency.
"There was an arrogance and insularity that was mind-blowing," a top Hillary adviser told me in 2008.
Which brings us to pride.
One of Hillary's key problems in the 2008 primary race was her refusal to apologize for her vote authorizing the Iraq War in 2002. All the other Democratic senators in the race who had voted for the war said their votes were wrong.
But Hillary refused. She had too much pride. All she would say is: "Knowing what we know now, I would never have voted for it." But she would not apologize.
And from his very first day as a candidate, Barack Obama bashed her over the head with that. "Even at the time, it was possible to make judgments that this would not work out well," Obama said of Hillary's Iraq War vote.
Some Hillary advisers went to her and asked her to apologize for her war vote. She wouldn't hear of it. "She didn't want to apologize because she didn't think she had made a mistake," one of those advisers told me.
Pride. Hubris. Even in Hollywood, where pride and hubris are like mother's milk, there was irritation with Hillary.
David Geffen, the multibillionaire Hollywood record executive and film producer, had raised $18 million for Bill Clinton in the old days but now was raising money for Obama.
"It's not a very big thing to say 'I made a mistake on the war' and typical of Hillary Clinton that she can't," Geffen told Maureen Dowd.
Philippe Reines, Clinton's Senate press secretary and campaign adviser, told me, "With the Geffen episode, we got a big dose of reality." People were viewing Hillary's refusal to admit a mistake as not principle but an excess of pride.
In North Carolina in May 2008, a few weeks before the end of the primary season, Tom Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa and a Hillary supporter, sat in the back of a car with Bill Clinton. Vilsack remembers the former president looking for any ray of sunshine amid the gloom.
"Even if she doesn't win, they will know Hillary better and like her better," Bill Clinton finally said. "She's a complex person. They just didn't know her. If you know her, you just love her."
The odd thing about Bill's statement is that Hillary has been in the public eye for decades. So why don't we know her yet?
Don't worry; it's coming, we are told. The new campaign will be bright and shiny, with more experienced operatives and a more organized staff.
Which leaves just one problem: the candidate.
Has she changed? Changing a political strategy is a lot easier than changing a personality.
Hillary said last year: "The Bible was and remains the biggest influence on my thinking. I was raised reading it, memorizing passages from it and being guided by it."
So she must have read Proverbs 16:18: "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
All Hillary Clinton has to do is be Hillary Clinton, Bill tells us. We will get to know her, and then we will love her.
And with a campaign strategy such as that, what could possibly go wrong?
Roger Simon is Politico's chief political columnist. His new e-book, "Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America," can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.
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