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June 20, 2014 5:01 PM HRC’s Single-Mindedness

By Ed Kilgore

I mentioned yesterday that Peter Beinart had penned a very long essay on HRC’s personality as it affected her performance as a politician and potentially as a president. It’s main argument is that her single-mindedness is the trait that both makes her frustratingly inflexible and amazingly effective. Here’s the coda, which I pass along without endorsement:

None of this to suggest that Hillary would be an ineffective president—only that her successes and failures would look different from Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s. Bill’s failures often owed to indiscipline. Obama’s have stemmed in part from aloofness. If past is prologue, Hillary’s would stem in significant measure from unwillingness to change course. Hillary does learn from her mistakes. But only after the damage is done.
Her successes as president, on the other hand, would likely result from the kind of hands-on, methodical, unyielding drive that both Bill Clinton and Obama struggled to sustain. In her wonkishness and her moderate liberalism, Hillary has much in common with Obama and her husband. But her “tunnel vision”—in the words of a close friend quoted in Sally Bedell Smith’s For Love of Politics—might produce a presidency more stylistically akin to that of George W. Bush. For years now, Democrats have yearned for a leader who champions their causes with the same single-minded, supremely confident, unwavering intensity that they believe Republican leaders bring to theirs. For better and worse, they may soon get their wish.

I dunno. Aside from the unfortunate comparison to W., who has never exhibited the sort of depth or policy fluency that HRC consistently shows, I’d say she has had to adjust to a lot of unpleasant realities in the course of her public career, when she—and her husband—were forced to “change course.” Persistence in adversity is not the same as inflexibility. And having lived in the White House for eight years, I’m reasonably sure she knows the difference.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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