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How Hillary Clinton’s Rivals Could Make A Difference

Memo Pad Politics

How Hillary Clinton’s Rivals Could Make A Difference

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley delivered a keynote presentation at Canada 2020 on November 26, 2014 and sat down in conversation with Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. (Canada 2020/Flickr)

Everybody’s talking about Hillary Clinton’s email problems except the three Democratic upstarts trying to slow down or maybe even halt her march to the 2016 presidential nomination.

Forget trying to foment conflict from these single-digit strivers. Deference has been the trio’s default setting toward the formidable if flawed politician on the verge of becoming the official frontrunner in the race, and who can blame them. “Hillary Clinton is a remarkable woman with an extraordinary history of public service,” Vermont senator Bernie Sanders said this month at the National Press Club between calls for a grassroots movement to take on corporations and “the billionaire class.” As for her email troubles, “Not one of the major issues facing me.” In the same vein, former Virginia senator Jim Webb told NPR recently that he would not run “as a counterpoint” to Clinton but rather to promote his own ideas about how to help people get ahead. Asked repeatedly about the emails, he told reporters that “people will make conclusions in a better way than I can.”

Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, a Clinton ally in the past, has gone furthest to draw distinctions. He is on a kick of emphasizing “openness and transparency,” and spoke Wednesday at the Brookings Institution on the need for accountability in governing. It’s not hard to connect those dots, given the ongoing Clinton email furor. But in other ways O’Malley might as well be speaking in code. Democrats can’t become “Dodd-Frank light,” he says, a reference to a Wall Street reform law and a warning that the party should crack down. “Glass-Steagall” needs to be reinstated, he says, referring to a law that limited risky investments by banks, that Bill Clinton had a hand in repealing, and that might have helped prevent the Great Recession had it been in place.

The tacit message is that he’d be tougher than Hillary Clinton on banks and Wall Street. But O’Malley demurs when it comes to direct criticism. “I like Hillary Clinton. I respect Secretary Clinton. I am not here to talk about Secretary Clinton,” he said on a recent campaign stop in New Hampshire. On Wednesday, asked about Clinton’s press conference on her email troubles, he said he hadn’t watched it.

This is not the stuff of headlines and fevered cable TV bookings. Nor do the aspirants have a Republican president to swing at. O’Malley has suggested he would be stronger than President Obama on immigration reform and overtime pay — but that’s a hard argument to make since Obama is under siege over trying to restructure the immigration system unilaterally, and his Labor Department plans to update regulations this year to make more people eligible for overtime pay.

So what are the Democrats to do? Why not turn their attention to Republicans, particularly the multitude weighing presidential bids? It’s not like the GOP hopefuls have been delicate in their critiques of Obama, Clinton or Democrats in general. The Not-Hillary contenders, by turning the tables, could become a useful army for their party and at least try to raise their own profiles before Clinton’s expected launch next month.

O’Malley demonstrated how it’s done this week at an International Association of Fire Fighters conference, giving an energetic speech that recalled his 2012 role as Democratic surrogate on the talk-show circuit. There was no tiptoeing around Clinton or splitting of liberal policy hairs. Instead, speaking after a half-dozen Republicans, he said all of them “are opposed to collective bargaining. Collective bargaining, you see, runs contrary to their belief that keeping wages low somehow makes America’s economy better. We’ve now suffered 12 years in a row of declining wages thanks to that brand of voodoo economics.”

Homing in further, O’Malley noted that in Wisconsin, “right-wing ideologues just took action to wipe out unions in their state. Now that might be good policy for the Koch brothers, but it’s bad for our economy, it’s bad for firefighters, and it’s bad for the working people of the United States of America.” He was talking about Governor Scott Walker, a leading GOP White House prospect, and he should have just said so.

O’Malley, Webb and Sanders are reveling in some attention — finally — as Democrats and the media realize that Clinton might not be invincible. As her disappointing press conference confirmed, there will not be a fresh new Clinton era. Hillary is still Hillary, a package deal in which Democrats must take the defensive, self-protective, lawyerly control freak along with the hard worker, serious policymaker, loyal partisan and potential pathbreaker. There’s plenty of time for the upstart trio, or other players to be named later, to mount an intra-party case against Clinton. Right now, instead of Democratic White House hopefuls making arguments against their GOP counterparts, there’s a void. They should fill it while they have a chance.

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.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley delivered a keynote presentation at Canada 2020 on November 26, 2014 and sat down in conversation with Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. (Canada 2020/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. Carolyn1520 March 12, 2015

    Martin should throw his hat in the ring for Mikulski’s job when her term is up. He would have a formidable opponent in Donna Edwards but he can’t touch Hillary.

    1. Budjob March 12, 2015

      Carolyn 1520,I concur with your opinion on this matter.I believe O’Malley would be a great Democratic Senator!

      1. Carolyn1520 March 12, 2015

        I’ve always liked him but I don’t think he’s ready for primetime yet. He doesn’t have the name recognition.
        Besides he thinks like Mikulski in many ways and I’d like to keep him around representing us.

  2. FT66 March 12, 2015

    No thanks to the writer of this article. We made our mind many years ago. It is Hillary, Hillary, Hillary whole way through for the better or worse.

    1. mike March 12, 2015

      New York magazine: “Hillary Clinton “emailgate” press conference proves she’s not ready for Presidential Campaign.”
      Real Clear Politics: “Hillary in free fall, What happens next?”
      Washington Post:”Absence of 2016 competition for Clinton raises stakes for Democrats”

      1. FT66 March 12, 2015

        Are we voting following what any paper tells us? To hell with those paper. They have their opinion and we have ours as well.

        1. mike March 12, 2015

          The trouble is your opinion has little influence with the powers that be, they see a problem and it is not going away soon. She has shot herself in the foot and could cost the party dearly. You on NM can bury your heads on this not being a problem hoping it goes away or is swept under the rug.
          One reason it is not gone is the what the State Department Manual, Volume 5, Handbook 4, states as to what an Official must do upon leaving. Plus, If she did sign State Department OF-109 she really has a problem, if she didn’t then she has put both herself and Obama in a bind.
          She can have the appearance of saving all if she gives up the server to an independent person. But, she has made quite clear, she will not. Transparency be damned.

          1. FT66 March 12, 2015

            Mike,will you please go away. And for your information I have put you on the list of those I will never answer. Did Hillary’s server kill anyone? And how much gov. treasure did it cost to install it? You and the media are totally hopeless people. Why didn’t you take time and investigate “W” and his people when they lied to go to war? Young lives were lost, treasure as well went through the window. Do you think that wasn’t important? And still you put a big stone in the mouth and pretend nothing major happened. Please stop fooling people around and drive them to the direction where the wind blows to. Disgusting.

          2. mike March 12, 2015

            No, to that me going away thing.
            Stupid questions, BTW, I never asked.
            Go bury your head about all the rules she broke having her own server to deleting emails that broke every State Department rule. She failed in the press conference to silence the critics and only opened more questions about her activities and judgement. Don’t forget this was all exposed by the leading left wing paper in the Country.
            You hitched yourself to the wrong person.
            Doesn’t bother me if you don’t reply but I will express the facts on your posts if they are wrong or half true. Live with it.

          3. Wellstone March 14, 2015

            Yada yada yada. We know you will not stop trying to take her down at all costs, and that lying, smearing, and demonizing are all things you actually enjoy doing.

          4. mike March 14, 2015

            It isn’t me it is the New York Times who broke the story.
            This hers and only hers.
            “Hillary, Deleter of the Free World”, not my headline.

    2. Carolyn1520 March 12, 2015

      I’m with you. and going with better. Considering the low bar on the right, one would have to be pretty bad to be worse than anything they have to offer.

  3. gunslinger March 12, 2015

    Most importantly she would make history by becoming the first woman President. And if we’re lucky the next cycle we can make history again by electing the first “mentally challenged” person to PROVE we as a people are “politically correct” for one and also just to see if “low information” democrats would even notice!

    1. Wellstone March 14, 2015

      You sound like an expert on “mentally challenged”.

  4. j.martindale March 12, 2015

    O’Malley wants to privatize Social Security. That alone makes him unelectable. He is considerably to the right of Clinton on issues. The same for Webb. Sanders is great, but also unelectable. Hillary is the Democrats’ hope.

  5. jointerjohn March 12, 2015

    We will all do better once we get used to the ugly fact that big budget commercial news outlets are not in the news business anymore. They will hype anything attached to a high recognition name without regard to it’s value or meaning. Ratings and advertising dollars are all that matter with them. This is why they nauseate us daily with senseless tripe involving celebrities and sports morons while we have to find the things that really matter through other means. Any person with public profile as high as Ms. Clinton will be lead story material for even the most insignificant act.

  6. Elliot J. Stamler March 12, 2015

    If one believes as I seriously do, that the Republican Party is now at best a quasi-fascist party seeking to end political democracy and the civil liberties of Americans, then the one burning question is: which Democrat has the best chance of winning next year. Not which Democrat do you personally love the most or which Democrat would be ideal but which Democrat can WIN. Because if the Republicans win, my fellow Democrats, the single worst thing a Republican president will do is pack the Supreme Court with another 2-4 Scalias. If that happens this country will see our equivalent of when the Reichstag in 1933 passed the Enabling Act giving Hitler complete extra-constitutional powers obviating the German constitution.
    Remember the title of Sinclair Lewis’s famous book, IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE. His point was..YES IT CAN. AND IT WILL! if you are deluded as to think Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb or Elizabeth Warren can beat the billion-dollar Rove-Adelson-Koch campaign of next year you are sowing the end of democracy as we know it. WAKE UP. HILLARY CLINTON IS OUR BEST HOPE AND SHE WILL BE A SPENDID PRESIDENT AS SHE WAS WHEN SHE WAS OUR SENATOR FROM HERE IN NEW YORK.

  7. DEW March 12, 2015

    Man you liberals are so off track you can’t see past your nose. After what this lying, conniving halfrican has done to this country you don’t stand a chance of another liberal president. This country is sick of your way governing. There’s a movement to oust all you libs and your silly ideas of how to “control” the American people !! Good riddance to all you silly DUMBRATS about sums it up !!

    1. Sand_Cat March 13, 2015

      Yeah, right. THis cautious moderate conservative has done more good than harm, and Hillary is even more so.
      You’re just so far out in right-wing never-never land, they look like “liberals” to you, as would just about anyone with a sane political viewpoint.
      Yeah, “libs” are all about controlling people, unlike you morons, who are constantly trying to sneak intro peoples’ bedrooms and other aspects of their private lives and regulate them.
      All your crap about “controlling” liberals is just ignorance and projection.

    2. Wellstone March 14, 2015

      President Obama has just about fixed what you broke, and Hillary will finally put us back on the track we should have been on since 2000, when partisans on the SCOTUS se-lected Dubya.. Too bad the new America coming will not be Konservative.

      1. DEW March 18, 2015

        Hey idiot…..Don’t believe all that BS you liberals are spreading around because you have next to no chance of running America for quite awhile once we’re rid of this halfrican. I hope you’re putting all your eggs in Killery’s basket…..ha ha ha !!

  8. Whatmeworry March 12, 2015

    It amazes me that Pols can make statements and not be challenged? Bernie can you provide 1 example of a Hilary success just `1

    1. Daniel Max Ketter March 13, 2015

      Who cares about pols. Just read a few Matthew Lesko books like I have and figure out how to beat the system and get free tax money. It worked for me.

    2. Sand_Cat March 13, 2015

      Can you provide one real failure?

      Probably not. I’m sure you’re bursting with lies and made-up scandals, though. And you should be challenged.

      1. Whatmeworry March 15, 2015

        Bengasi Libya Syria Russia H/C just a few off the top of my head

        1. Daniel Max Ketter March 16, 2015

          You’re sounding like a real moron. God bless our labor unions and their families for their noble services to our country.

      2. Whatmeworry March 16, 2015

        Botswana Sudan Congo Bolivia H/C just a few off the top of my head. Of course I lie and make up things

  9. Whatmeworry March 13, 2015

    It amazes me that Pols can make statements and not be challenged?
    However, I can lie and make up facts and be challenged

    1. Sand_Cat March 13, 2015

      You do lie and make up facts, quite frequently. Hopefully you’re usually challenged.

      1. Whatmeworry March 13, 2015

        Of course I lie


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