Hillary needs to step up — for New York’s sake

Is Hillary dropping the ball?

New York used to be a state where presidents were born and made. Since FDR made it to the top, the Empire State has been having a dry spell. For years now, it looked like Hillary Clinton would be a sure thing on her ride to the Oval Office.

Assuming that she won, not only would a New Yorker be President, New York would have produced the first woman chief executive. That would have been a dream come true for New York, which would be bathed in special favors.

All the polls had Hillary, one tough bird, clobbering all comers. It turns out, however, that Clinton has several real vulnerabilities. The first is that many potential voters are Clintoned out. They don’t like being taken for granted and they don’t like the usual Clinton coziness with the same old, same old group of power people who have enough money to try to buy elections.

Even more disturbing for Camp Clinton is the fact that many people just don’t like her. I’ve interviewed her and when you speak with her one on one you have to enjoy yourself. I certainly did. She is very smart.

The problem for Hillary is that she has been the frontrunner from the very beginning. But people like underdogs and Hillary has no current underdog in her. That has not always been true. I’ll never forget her fighting for her husband when he was ensnared by the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal.

She described his political enemies as a vast right wing conspiracy. She was right, of course. People liked that. But now what they see is a take-no-prisoners machine. They contrast this tough lady with the poignant story of Joe Biden being told by his dying son, Bo, to fulfill his dream and run for President.

This is just the kind of thing that happened to her in 2008 when an obscure African-American U.S. senator, cheered on by the Kennedy clan, robbed her of the nomination. People projected their hopes and dreams onto Barack Obama and like an aging ball player, Hillary dropped the ball. She just didn’t know how to play it.

Now Bernie Sanders has galvanized the left, filling stadiums and talking truth to power. That is so exciting. Come to think of it, the Brooklyn to Vermont transplant is more of a New Yorker than Hillary Clinton is.

But what about that first woman thing? I mean, Barack was electrifying as the first African-American to come from behind and there certainly are a lot of women who want to see this symbolic breaking through the glass ceiling, but it just hasn’t caught fire.

In order to win, Hillary has to get angry and take some political risks the way she did when she fought for the flawed Bill. People couldn’t get enough of that.

Biden is coming on fast now. Obama seems to be encouraging his loyal vice president to go for it. Do you remember that time when Bill came to the White House and embarrassed the president by stealing the show at a press conference? Could it be that Obama never forgot that?

All of a sudden, we are reading about how Biden and his president love each other. Maybe, like the aging Kennedy going for Obama against Hillary, this is now get even Obama time.

There’s still a long way to go. Hillary has to connect with her people. We have to become invested in her. She hasn’t yet captured our hearts and souls. She’s the ice queen political operator.

You can love Joe Biden. You can love Obama. Hillary is just not loveable. It’s hers to lose and right now, she’s doing that. New Yorkers FDR and TR must be unhappy wherever they are.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 8/29/15

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