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What Hillary Clinton Could Learn From Scott Walker

Memo Pad Politics

What Hillary Clinton Could Learn From Scott Walker


Juggernauts are fragile in the manner of a Lehman Brothers or a General Motors — complex and convoluted, and as we have seen, not too big to fail.

Now mind you, I am not saying that’s what’s going to happen to Hillary Clinton or, for that matter, Jeb Bush. But a New York Times report that Clinton is consulting with more than 200 people about her economic plan is discomfiting, because it recalls problems that helped sink her in 2008 and even earlier.

If you are a Democrat and want to keep on the sunny side, look at it this way: That’s less than half the 500-plus experts who were on the task force advising Clinton on health care in 1993, when she was in charge of her husband’s reform push. And overdoing it is in character for Clinton. She’s always been the A student, conscientious to a fault. It’s just like her to solicit input from as many experts as possible.

Yet there are only so many ways to attack income inequality and stalled mobility, and it’s a given that America’s upper crust won’t embrace all of them. So it’s discouraging to read that Clinton is concerned about maintaining friendly relations with “the wealthy.” They are the backbone of any politician’s donor base, granted. But where is Clinton’s backbone? What does she believe? What does she want to do? And will she have the guts to make the argument?

Maybe I’ve been listening to too many Scott Walker speeches on YouTube — and maybe Clinton ought to watch a couple herself. You don’t have to agree with the guy (on anything!) to recognize why his appeal extends way beyond the Wisconsin governor’s mansion. He is who he is and if you’re offended, tough.

Happily for Walker, his true beliefs will bring him more money rather than less if, as expected, he runs for president. That’s not necessarily the case for Clinton. And yes, Walker did “punt” a question on evolution on a visit this week to London. But his general approach is instructional. He projects a well-defined identity. His job is to sell himself to a winning coalition — not figure out what version of himself will sell best.

I know what you’re thinking, liberal readers — that Clinton needs to watch Elizabeth Warren speeches, not Scott Walker speeches. She and Warren do share the same concerns and at least some of the same solutions. But Warren is a narrowcaster on a specific issues set. Walker is testing a presidential narrative, which makes him a better model.

It seems crazy to say this about someone who has been so visible for so many years, but Clinton still needs to reveal herself, to define herself and, in national politics, to prove herself. Her longevity is in fact a chief reason for this identity dilemma. Clinton has been a First Lady, a senator, a presidential candidate and a Secretary of State. She’s been painted as a bleeding heart liberal, a friend of Wall Street and a defense hawk. She’s been a perceived as a victim, a villain and — horrors — a feminist, when that was a new thing for a First Lady. She’s won praise as a pioneer and a leader, and been scorned as a phony. She’s proven uneven as a candidate, and her chaotic 2008 campaign raised questions about her skills as a manager.

Now a feud has erupted among principals at the two major Clinton-in-waiting organizations –Priorities USA Action (raising money for ads) and American Bridge (conducting opposition research and defending Clinton’s record). Both are independent of Clinton and her non-campaign, or pre-campaign, so she’s not to blame and cannot intervene. But it’s an unfortunate reminder of the infighting that hobbled her White House bid against President Obama seven years ago and of the need to enforce focus and discipline in her own campaign when it launches.

Clinton’s decisions on economic policy are more fundamental to her anticipated bid, but they do not need to be complicated by fear of causing offense. There may be redistribution, and consequently there may be blood. There’s simply too much imbalance to ignore such remedies, and corporate America isn’t offering much in the way of voluntary fixes. Clinton should take her own advice to Tessa Jowell, a British politician considering a 2016 race for mayor of London. When Jowell wondered if she and Clinton would run, according to the London Evening Standard, Clinton had a succinct response: “No guts, no glory.”

Follow Jill Lawrence on Twitter @JillDLawrence. To find out more about Jill Lawrence and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo: WisPolitics via Flickr

Jill Lawrence

Award-winning journalist Jill Lawrence is a nationally syndicated columnist and a contributing editor to U.S. News & World Report. She also contributed to The Surge: 2014's Big GOP Win and What It Means for the Next Presidential Race (2015). Lawrence has discussed political and policy developments on television, radio, and many other media outlets. She was an adjunct professorial lecturer at American University in 2014, teaching on the relationship between politics and the media.

Lawrence has covered every presidential campaign since 1988, as well as historic events such as the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress, the Clinton impeachment, the Florida recount, and the 1993 and 2009 battles over health reform.

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  1. Dominick Vila February 12, 2015

    This “liberal” does not think Hillary should spend her time studying Elizabeth Warren, if nothing else because Liz has not shown any interest in running, and because, as the author of this article pointed out, Liz’ has been a one issue politician since she became Senator. I believe a more apt title for this article would have been what Scott Walker could learn from Hillary.
    Scott Walker does have a populist image, and if he runs he will be able to connect with a large number of mainstream Americans by identifying himself as one of them. What he does not have is the intellect, character, and record to be a viable candidate. Dismantling Unions and not answering questions about evolution will appeal to a large segment of the GOP, which may be all he needs to win the nomination. The question is, will that be enough to persuade the electorate to vote for him, or will it be an albatross hanging around his neck. If nominated, he would be one of the most unqualified candidates in U.S. history, and would make Sarah Palin look like an intellectual. When serious voters go to the polls, they don’t vote for the guy or gal they would love to have a cocktail with, they vote for whomever they believe is best qualified to lead the nation, protect our national security, strengthen our economy, create jobs, and make us proud.

    1. Independent1 February 17, 2015

      Dominick, according to an article by Robin Marty posted by Care2, Scott Walker would have trouble carrying his own state should he actually get the GOP nomination. According to Marty, Walkers latest cuts of educational budgets has turned a lot more wisconsinites against him.

      See these excerpts from Marty’s article:

      See these excerpts:

      Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is very likely planning to run for president. If he does, don’t expect him to be getting too much support from the voters back at home. Recently, about the nly thing everyone in the state can agree on is how much they all dislike him. In order to really get his GOP campaign running, Walker is doubling down on his far right push to cripple public education, break unions and defund pretty much anything that could be seen as potentially progressive. Not content to be part
      of his presidential makeover, however, the state is fighting back.

      Writing from the Marquette Education blog, Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year Claudia Klein Felske first clarifies that Walker mentioned the wrong person when he told a story about a first year teacher of the year being laid off, then chastises him for
      his bad education policies. You failed to mention these details as you used Sampson’s lay-off from her first year teaching position as an opportunity to bash Wisconsin schools on the national stage,” she writes. “You blamed the seniority system for Sampson’s lay-off when, in good conscience, you should have done some serious soul searching and placed the blame squarely on your systematic defunding of public education to the tune of $2.6 billion that you cut from school districts, state aid to localities, the UW-System and technical colleges.”

      Educators aren’t the only ones angry, either. While Walker pu ts cutting education costs as a sound business plan, and believes it will help the state’s economy grow, most people in Wisconsin disagree. The latest to vocally do so is a most unlikely source: the
      small business community. They think many of Walker’s conservative policies are driving the state’s economy into the ground.

      “Meet Lori Compas. Compas is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Business Alliance, a nonpartisan organization for businesses in the Badger State,” reports Huffington Post. ”Compas told me that drug testing was ‘not something any small business has come to me about.’ Overall, she was ‘utterly perplexed by [Walker’s] approach to jobs and economic growth,’ which prioritizes ‘things that don’t have anything to do with economic development.’ Walker’s push for drug testing and strict voter identification laws make good politics in a Republican presidential primary. But they are bad policies for hardworking Wisconsinites.”


  2. charleo1 February 12, 2015

    As what would be labeled a total kool-aid chugging Liberal, to probably 98% of the GOP base. And proudly so. I can usually guess who their most favored candidate will be. By simply picking out the one most obnoxious to me, and going with that. Not bragging, but I’m right more than Bill Crystal, Who was last right in 2000, in predicting the Supreme Court would choose Bush for President. I pick the one with the most entirely unacceptable, policies. The one most unabashed corporate bootlicker, shill. Preferably, with the record deficits, and the numbers of Americans thrown out of their formerly well paying jobs, to back it up. And in this respect, Republicans haven’t disappointed me early on with Scott Walker. Walker, more “qualified,” by GOP standards than Jeb. As the State of Wisconsin under Scott’s tutelage, is ranked 49th in job creation. Over promising a minimum of 250,000, jobs on the campaign trail. And showing his valuable talent for getting elected on hot air. (the actual number is less than 100,000) And that alone, for a fair number of Right Wingers, is more than adequate to qualify him for the Presidency. Don’t let that dull, the lights are on, nobody’s home, blankness behind the eyes fool you. Ot, the fact Walker has no college degree, and no particular formal education in government to speak of. He has 10 working digits, and can cut education, and give away public monies to billionaires, with the best of them. And, after all Romney couldn’t win. Even though the corporate, and money is free speech billionaires, really liked Mitt a lot. And showed it with their 100s of millions. He just couldn’t close the deal with the American People, that the International Capitalists, and the formation of an American Corporatocracy, in place of a Federal Government could, or had the intention of saving democracy from Socialism. Now, the candidate the top 10 or so funders in the GOP believe can sell that pig to the public, will get the nomination.

  3. ypbpmp1992 February 12, 2015

    Hillary is delusional thinking she has all the answers when in fact she has none. listen closely, her lips move but she says absolutely nothing!!

  4. FT66 February 13, 2015

    Unfortunately I am not impressed by Mr. Punt, Punt (Scott Walker). I do not think he will manage to go through the primaries, let alone using his preaching skills as his weapon. If GOP will nominate him as their candidate, they will be doomed. A simple question in London by a friendly BBC man, was just an introduction to him how things are looking like ahead. He is not going to get a friendly media at all.These people know exactly the weakness of every contender and thats where they go to. At this age we are living in now, the leader must be more intelligent than those he is leading.


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