In 1979, my Harvard classmate Ted Kennedy [Class of ’54, I never met him] announced his candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination for President. He was interviewed by the fine old TV reporter Roger Mudd. Mudd asked Teddy the one obvious softball question that everyone aspiring to the Presidency can expect to be asked: “Why do you want to be President?” Teddy’s utter inability to give a coherent answer killed any chance he might have had of following in the footsteps of his martyred older brothers Jack and Bobby.
This afternoon, as Susie and I were sitting in the café, I was musing on the epic awfulness of Hillary Clinton as a candidate, I remarked that no one watching her could answer that simple question: Why does she want to be President? When asked, she gives a perfectly crafted laundry list of practical policies she would attempt to implement, but never is she able to give a simple one sentence answer to the question that rings true, and that, I think, could be fatal for her chances.
There is in fact an answer she could give, if she could bring herself to give it. It would be clear, straightforward, and immediately recognizable as true, but she would have to discipline herself not to tack onto it a fifteen sentence list of focus group tested addenda designed to assemble a winning coalition. It would be a narrow answer, a direct answer, an answer that did not speak to every constituency she needs for a win, but it would have the extraordinary virtue of being true, and giving it would establish her as an authentic human being.
What would that answer be? Here it is:
“I want to be President so that I can spend the next four years doing everything I can to make sure that now, at long last, after more than a century of struggle, women in this country will finally get all of the rights they deserve and have so long been denied.”
That is, I really think, the one thing Hillary Clinton the human being actually believes. But there is not the slightest chance that she will ever say it just that directly and simply.
It is a pity. It would be a winner.