Of all the unforced errors Hillary Clinton has made thus far—from leaning on everything in sight to avoid collapsing due to her old age to forgetting* which chamber of Congress Abe Lincoln served in—the most curious of them are related to her continued effort to convince the plebes that she's one of them.
First there was the "dead broke" comment. Now, in an interview with the Guardian, Hillary has said that, unlike some evil horrible no good very bad (possibly racist) (definitely Republican) rich people, she and Bill are just kinda rich. They're not "truly well off," despite having a net worth in the mid-eight-figures and pulling in $200,000 per hour of talking in public to other enormously wealthy people. Here's the Guardian:
America's glaring income inequality is certain to be a central bone of contention in the 2016 presidential election. But with her huge personal wealth, how could Clinton possibly hope to be credible on this issue when people see her as part of the problem, not its solution?
"But they don't see me as part of the problem," she protests, "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," she says, letting off another burst of laughter. If past form is any guide, she must be finding my question painful.
Needless to say, the "aw shucks, we're jess normal folks" routine is going over as well this week as it did two weeks ago.
When you've lost CNN…
It's a sad comment on the Democratic base that she feels the need to go this route. Because the Clintons are great American success stories! Say what you will about his policies and his personal character, but Bill came from a poor, broken home, worked his way into the White House, and then parlayed his natural speaking talents and personal charisma into a career of bilking rich folks out of their money for the honor of hearing him blather for a bit. Hillary Clinton parlayed her early interest in getting child rapists off into a successful career all her own. Some may question whether or not their contributions are actually a net plus to society—I mean, it's not exactly like the good work Bain Capital was doing—but success speaks for itself. The Clintons are the American dream embodied!
So why on Earth isn't she using it to her advantage? "Yes, we've earned a lot of money. We came up from nothing. We're living the American Dream! And we want to help every other American live the same dream we've been living! Hillary 2016 or Bust!" There's no need to slag others, no need to pretend that her multiple estates and tens of millions in the bank don't put her in the dread one percent. Americans love winners. She should embrace her success, not run away from it.
*Possibly due to age-related dementia.
I suspect that this must drive Clinton, the ultimate Mandarin, crazy with Status-Income Disequilibrium. To paint a sympathetic narrative: This is a woman who grew up in a middle-class family but attended Wellesley and Yale Law School. This is someone who clearly worked much harder than her husband in law school. She worked even harder in Little Rock to support her husband both emotionally and financially even though he didn’t care all that much about money or … other aspects of their marriage. She had to suffer the indignities of trying to have an influence on policy as first lady, even though that’s a fantastically awkward position from which to exercise the levers of power. Her opponents drowned her and her husband in legal fees throughout their eight years in the White House. Humiliated by her husband’s scandals, she struck out on her own, first as a senator, then as a presidential candidate, then as Secretary of State. And despite all of that effort, despite the $200,000 Goldman Sachs speeches she delivers, she’s still not as well off as the run-of-the-mill hedge fund manager. At the same time, she likely does face a higher income tax rate, because her income does not come via carried interest or capital gains. If she runs for president in 2016, she’s going to have to cadge enormous sums of money from these people to fund her campaign. Does this burn her sense of how the world should work? I bet it does.
Published under: Hillary Clinton