Published on TheHill.com on January 20, 2015
The next time you run into Hillary Clinton, ask her how she feels about President Obama’s tax proposals in his State of the Union speech. Does she want to raise the capital gains tax to 28 percent? How about the fee on financial institutions?
And, while she’s in the mood to answer questions, try asking about the bill to raise the definition of full-time work under ObamaCare to 40 hours. Or the Keystone XL pipeline? Or cutting off aid to the Palestinians if they go after Israel in the International Criminal Court? Or new sanctions on Iran? Or, for that matter, his amnesty for illegal immigrants?
The uncommon burst of post-election activity (i.e., leftist liberation) that has come over Obama since he presided over the annihilation of the Democrats’ Senate majority is putting Clinton in a tough spot. Unless she opts out pretty quickly and pretty often, she will find that her 2016 platform has been written for her … and that it’s way too far to the left to run on.
We can expect Obama to spend whatever time he devotes to the presidency in his remaining two years focused on selling his new radical left-wing agenda to America. He won’t succeed, but he will be able to sell it to the left. Liberals will be agog over his class warfare and his “damn Congress, full speed ahead” attitude. Finally, they are getting the kind of presidential leadership they have pined for since he was elected.
He is not just making proposals. Obama is staking out a left-wing agenda that will play in our politics for decades hence. The liberal wish list has scarcely been updated since the days of Johnson or even Truman. Now, Obama is carrying income redistribution to a whole new level, articulating a vision that will set liberal hearts aflutter for years hence.
That poses a big problem for Clinton. If she embraces this agenda, she types herself as way too far left of center. But if she rejects it, she will turn off liberals and encourage them to sit it out in 2016.
Clinton, for her part, seems to have taken a Trappist vow of silence, as she remains holed up and inaccessible while avoiding saying much of anything. That formula would serve her well if the president could keep his mouth shut. But with his constant new proposals and his regulatory agencies running amok with new regulations, Clinton’s silence can and will be read as assent, trapping her in an ultra-left agenda of which the vast bulk of the voters strongly disapprove.
Clinton’s 19th century-style, front-porch campaign, where she rarely ventures forth to answer questions, is also leaving her out of the action. She looks irrelevant and, as Obama stirs passions with his regulations and proposals, she seems to lack conviction by her silence.
Surrogates for lame-duck presidents have always had a tough time when they run on their own. Remember how Hubert Humphrey embraced President Lyndon Johnson’s bombing pause in 1968 only to be left high and dry when it failed to bring Hanoi to the negotiating table? Candidate George H.W. Bush kept tripping over Ronald Reagan’s changing explanations of his role in Iran-Contra, and Al Gore tore his hair out over his boss’ shifting stories about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
Obama’s activist agenda is not making Clinton’s life any easier.
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