The consensus is that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign rollout has been a success. But that doesn’t really matter. What matters are the three cornerstones of her candidacy:
- Hillary Clinton is far and away the most qualified, experienced and prepared candidate among the announced and unannounced candidates for president in 2016, Democrat or Republican.
- On a broad array of issues that really matter, from climate change to the economy to human rights to campaign finance to health care, Hillary Clinton’s policies will be better for America than those of her Republican rivals.
- America deserves – history deserves – a woman president after nearly a quarter millennium of men holding that office. Specifically, a woman president who has consistently placed the rights of women and girls atop the global agenda.
As a veteran of two presidential campaigns and several congressional races, I know how difficult it is to stay focused on the real issues at stake in an election when the first law of political coverage takes hold:
Process over policy is the principle that governs campaign coverage in modern politics.
With Hillary Clinton, that law is pushed to extremes of absurdity. As Eric Boehlert explains:
After “news” broke that Clinton, en route to Iowa to meet with voters, stopped in at an Ohio Chipotle for lunch and that the order was captured on film, the press corps basically went bonkers, treating it like a Tupac sighting and going all-in with fevered reporting. The New York Times first got hold of the security cam video and reported that Clinton’s order “included a Blackberry Izze drink, a soda and a chicken salad, and was filled just after 1 p.m.” (1:20 p.m., to be exact, according to the New York Daily News.) Who carried the tray after payment? Clinton herself, the Times explained to readers.
It is not just the national media who bear responsibility for this silliness. In a previous post I introduced the term “innerati” for lack of a better word to describe the people who determine what America talks about: The “innerati” are a motley group of high achievers scattered along the Acela corridor — reporters, pundits, bloggers, politicians, strategists, opinion makers, operatives and insiders who frame the national debate. By luck, effort or circumstance, they are in a position to determine what America thinks and talks about. And more than anything, they want to talk about Hillary Clinton.
The innerati are focused primarily on the ‘how’ of a campaign. The vast majority of coverage and commentary in 2016 will be about how Hillary planned this speech or prepared that video; how she and her advisors parried this attack or rebutted that critique; how she prepped for this debate or did a photo op with that voter; how she hired this staffer or consulted that strategist. Even when the topic is ostensibly about policy, readers will be tempted with process, the obsessive desire to get ‘behind’ and ‘inside’ the story, distracting from what really matters, namely, that America is in the process of choosing a president who will be responsible for managing a portfolio of life and death challenges.
For Hillary supporters, these distractions will be hard to avoid. After all, it is only natural to look where everyone is pointing. Chipotle-mania is not the only kind of distraction Hillary supporters will have to contend with. There will be gratuitous political attacks that are given far more play than they deserve, and books that cash in on the Clinton name, laden with false aspersions and breathless innuendo. One of those books is now being touted as the NBP (next big problem) for Hillary. It will fade, like all the others.
In the months ahead, there will be a concerted effort among the innerati to place the focus on anything and everything but the three cornerstones of Hillary’s campaign that I enumerated above. It will be the task of Hillary’s supporters to stay hyper-focused on what really matters and not to get caught up in the process frenzy.