What’s the Message of Clinton’s Noncampaign for the Office She Might Run for in Three Years?

Dan Balz

Dan Balz

Hillary Clinton hasn’t announced that she’s running for president in 2016, and launched a campaign yet. But the Washington Post is already complaining that her nonexistent campaign for an office she may or may not seek lacks a clear message.

“Clinton’s gender likely would be a significant asset,” writes chief correspondent Dan Balz (8/12/13), adding: “It, however, is not a message.” One has to admire the first 44 presidents of the United States, each of whom somehow managed to achieve the office without the benefit of this asset.

The next day (8/13/13), Post columnist Richard Cohen picked up on Balz’s take that Clinton’s noncampaign for an election to be held three years from now lacked focus, writing: “Clinton, as my Post colleague Dan Balz points out, needs a message. At the moment, her only one is that she is a woman.”

Richard Cohen

Richard Cohen

Notice how Cohen switches it up, so you’re not just reading the exact same article one day later. Now being a woman is a message–just not a very good one: “Becoming the first female president is a worthy goal, but it kind of falls into the category of miles traveled and countries visited,” Cohen writes, dismissing it as “not a stirring trumpet call.”

Luckily, Cohen has a better strategy for Clinton: “If she is to run for president at the age of 68, she must rediscover her youth.”  I see. And how’s she supposed to do that? “She has to revert to the brave and inspiring woman who was the first student to deliver the commencement address at Wellesley College.”

First female president of the United States–meh. But first student commencement speaker at Wellesley–now you’re talking inspirational.

Cohen also does some close analysis of polling data to suggest that Vice President Joe Biden might be a tough rival to Clinton:

At the moment, Gallup gives Obama a healthy approval rating of 80 percent among Democrats. He does less well among the public at large –44 percent in the most recent poll–but it is Democrats who vote in the Democratic caucuses and primaries. It can’t hurt to be Obama’s vice president.

Now, I’m no Nate Silver, but it might be more relevant to compare the poll ratings of Biden himself–whose favorability rating tends to be in the 30s or low 40s–with those of Clinton, whose ratings are more often in the upper 50s-low 60s. Maybe?

But thank you, Dan Balz and Richard Cohen, for this glimpse into the kind of campaign coverage we can look forward to for the next three years.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.