Hillary Clinton’s wink-wink routine is getting old.
It’s really not her fault – with each presidential cycle, the pre-campaign phase grows more elongated – and she can’t help it if the journalistic action junkies persist in parsing every syllable she speaks. But since we all know she’s going for it in ’16, the least she could do these days is start filling in some of the policy blanks.
This she failed to do on Sunday, when she surfaced at one of Iowa’s annual political rituals, the Tom Harken Steak Fry. That’s often a vaporous event – second only, in Iowa vapidity, to the GOP’s Iowa Straw Poll – and Hillary’s rhetoric fit right in. Hundreds of Washington political reporters trekked to the site, a hot-air balloon field (perfect!), anticipating that maybe she might…I dunno…strengthen her hints? Use stronger transitive verbs? Polish her peekaboo phrases? In this era of tight media budgets, it’s at least nice to see that some organizations still spend lavishly on travel, for no discernible reason.
Here’s some of the stuff she said. Grip your armrests.
One of the reasons this election is so important is because in Washington there is too little cooperation and too much conflict. (To quote Johnny Carson: “This I did not know!”)
We have the will if we decide to exercise it. (Did I read that once in a fortune cookie?)
We can build a growing economy of shared prosperity and a more equal sharing of responsibility for a secure world. (Care to explain how? Before I nod off?)
If you work hard and play by the rules, you deserve the possibility of a good life for you and your family. (That’s what they all say.)
When you get knocked down, get right back up. (Not to be confused with Frank Sinatra’s “I pick myself up and get back in the game.”)
But, blessedly, Hillary also dropped crumbs for the hungry Hint Patrol:
I get excited about presidential campaigns. (Didja hear that? She gets “excited,” surely that word must mean something!)
I’ve got a few things on my mind these days. First and most importantly, Bill and I are on constant grandchild watch, I’m calling Chelsea every five minutes…(OMG, her private life is what’s most important, so maybe she’s not running?)
And then, there’s that other thing. It’s true I am thinking about it, but for today that is not why I’m here. (Stop the presses – she said she’s “thinking about” that “other thing!”)
I’m baaaack (in Iowa)…I will not let another seven years go by. (That means she plans to be in Iowa a lot, which means she’s running – but wait, that remark has wiggle room. She could let another 6.9 years go by, which maybe means she’s not running.)
And sure enough, the press pounced on the crumbs and barked in obedience. Sample headlines from the past 48 hours: “Hillary Clinton Hints at 2016 Run” and “Hillary Fuels Candidacy Hopes” and “Hillary Clinton in Iowa Stirs 2016 Speculation.” Hints, fuels, stirs…If this game goes on much longer, the headline writers are gonna run out of verbs.
The columnist Jimmy Breslin once coined the term “blue smoke and mirrors” as a synonym for substance-free rhetoric. An apt term that captures Hillary’s game. But, pray tell, how would she reduce income inequality at home (presumably, without alienating her Wall Street friends)? How would she solve the deadly Rubik’s Cube in Syria and Iraq? How would she ease racial tensions in places like Ferguson? Is it enough to essentially say, “Vote Hillary, because there’s nobody else”? Aside from hinting that It’s Time For a Woman, what’s her governing vision anyway? Her overarching theme? Her message?
Deep in a news story the other day, on the eve of her Iowa visit, there appeared this telling sentence: “Fledgling efforts to develop a message are quietly taking place, said the people close to Mrs. Clinton.” Oy. They might want to get cracking on that. Because a coronation vibe just isn’t good enough. Sooner rather than later, Hillary has to stop pumping the smoke.
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