WASHINGTON – That it took two newspapers to dig out the barest financial details of a speaking engagement at the University at Buffalo by a putative candidate for president, Hillary Rodham Clinton, ought to speak volumes about old-fashioned civics. About openness, transparency and the public good.
Clinton’s performance on the 2013 engagement in Buffalo, and others, is standard now as public accountability has evolved for most public officials and the public’s money, whether it be for a former mayor, or for someone holding public office like a sitting U.S. senator.
Still, it doesn’t promise a new or restored threshold for accountability should she actually run for president. As gregarious and engaging as Clinton is up close, and in public as she was with Jon Stewart last Tuesday, her entourage was always very touchy about letting you get too close.
But that’s part of her mystique and it’s what gives her the agility to rescue her career from one challenge after another, including stagings as a senator from New York and secretary of state, which in all honesty should be shaded in beige.
At the moment, the public doesn’t care. A recent Gallup Poll shows she is far and away the most popular candidate for president of either party. This is despite her gaffes about being dead broke, Fox News’ crusade about her responsibilities for Benghazi and the garish disclosures about her six-figure speaking fees.
Clinton is more than Teflon. She is Kevlar, or bulletproof. Even conservative columnist Pat Buchanan claims she is unbeatable across the entire presidential plain. Her support among probable women voters is enduring. Women were in the majority in every presidential election since 1980.
The question is: Will she run, or just keep channeling those lavish speaking fees? Rumors about her health, circulated by her friends as well as her enemies, keep dogging her. These peaked when her testimony about Benghazi was postponed for health reasons in the spring of 2013. But those concerns have diminished with every carefully staged appearance and every big fee.
There seemed to be a chance once that Clinton would be deterred by the election this fall of big Republican majorities in the Senate, as well as in the House. The election of a GOP Senate is still a possibility, but that chance could be spiked by the fact that elections in lame-duck midterms are often local affairs.
Besides, divided government would give Clinton an opportunity to show off her vaunted talent for “working both sides of the aisle,” which the current president is uniquely afraid or unwilling to do. Remember, this woman refused to speak to then Sen. Barack Obama after he said he would run for president, and then she campaigned for him in 2008.
Would she make a difference if elected? Certainly on women’s reproductive and other health issues. She has a strong record on children’s health and broader issues of primary and secondary education.
Others look to her to stem or reverse President Obama’s drastic cuts in the armed services and end Obama’s estrangement from his own party establishment.
Clinton’s own White House record is quite mixed. In addition to the calamity of her 1994 health care attempt, in part a victim of the secrecy she imposed over the process, she was given a softer schedule of advisory issues in her husband’s second term than she had had at the beginning. Clinton family friends were supplanted by the tough and seasoned Leon Panetta as White House chief of staff.
And besides, after President Dwight D. Eisenhower, only President Ronald Reagan’s terms turned out the way he thought they would.