How to read a Hillary Clinton story

     Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is shown on stage after receiving the Liberty Medal during a ceremony at the National Constitution Center, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, file)

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is shown on stage after receiving the Liberty Medal during a ceremony at the National Constitution Center, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, file)

    Will Hillary, or won’t she? When will she say or not say? Why would she or why would she not? Should she or shouldn’t she? Come on press corps, give it a rest already.

    But that won’t happen; witness this week’s New York magazine opus on whether she might or mightn’t. Go ahead and read it, but don’t expect to be enlightened. I’m not slamming the author; he worked hard, and got what little there was to get. That’s the problem. Political speculation stories typically have fewer nutrients than a croissant – and I can say that, because over the years I’ve written some myself. These stories hew to a requisite formula, and this new magazine opus is no different. If you prefer to skim the piece, here’s a handy how-to that will serve you well when the next wave of will-she-or-won’t-she stories inevitably churns your way…

    The requisite humanizing details: “We get to be at home together a lot more now,” Hillary says, referring to Bill. “We have a great time; we laugh at our dogs; we watch stupid movies; we take long walks; we go for a swim. You know, just ordinary, everyday pleasures.” The author describes “her loud, head-tilted-back laughs,” her “plain-home midwestern tones,” her “smiling, upright” countenance, “beaming in a turquoise pantsuit.”

    The requisite quotes of a prospective candidate playing it coy: “Right now, we’re just trying to just have the best time we can have doin’ what we’re doin’,” Hillary says. “(S)pend a lot of that time with my family and my friends, do things that I find relaxing and enjoyable…I’m somebody who gets up every day and says, ‘What am I going to do today, and how am I going to do it? I think it moves me toward some outcome I’m hoping for…”

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    The requisite quotes of a prospective candidate talking a lot about politics and policy, but saying nothing: “I think I have a pretty good idea of the political and governmental challenges that are facing our leaders, and I’ll do whatever I can from whatever position I find myself in to advocate for the values and the policies I think are right for the country…there needs to continue to be an effort to find common ground, or even take it to a higher ground on behalf of the future.”

    And this: “”This election is more than three years away, and I just don’t think it’s good for the country. It’s like when you meet somebody at a party and they look over your shoulder to see who else is there, and you want to talk to them about something that’s really important; in fact, maybe you came to the party to talk to that particular person, and they just want to know what’s next.” (Huh?)

    The requisite repackaging of old stuff everyone already knows: Bill is known to be a tad disorganized. (Gee, really?) The author, referring to Bill’s tenure at the Clinton family foundation, writes, “Bill’s loosey-goosey world had to be straightened out if Hillary was going to run for president. ‘She doesn’t operate that way,’ says one of her former State Department advisers. ‘I mean, she has all sorts of creative ideas, but that’s not how she operates. She is much more systematic.'” (Didn’t we hear that in 2007?)

    The requisite lavish praise from inner-circle insiders who say what you’d expect them to say: Her State Department team “argues that Clinton was a great stateswoman (who) managed a host of important, if underrecognized, global flareups along the way.” One longtime aide says, “She doesn’t repeat her mistakes. She really learns from her mistakes. It’s like, you want to grow a best practice and then always operate on that.” One confidant, who sees Hillary as destined for greatness, says Hillary will run again because “It’s just like a force of history. It’s inexorable, it’s gravitational.”

    The requisite surrender to the Stockholm Syndrome, where the writer sounds like he’s in the tank for his subject: “She’s a Clinton. And what a candidate she’d make in 2016.”

    There. I just saved you a lot of precious time.

    “In Clintonworld,” says the article, “wheels are turning, but no one wants them to turn too fast.” Problem is, the media beast must still be fed, even if the scraps are substance-free. In our contemporary infotainment hothouse, there’s no way to slow that wheel.


    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1 


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