With a recent series of highly compensated speeches to wealthy and influential groups, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has unofficially but effectively launched her 2016 presidential campaign. In July Clinton spoke to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, a $40 billion international private equity firm, followed by another to the $31 billion international asset manager Carlyle Group in September. On October 24th and then again on October 29th she addressed conferences sponsored by the international banking firm Goldman Sachs. At $200,000 per speech, Clinton has raked in nearly a million dollars in two months.
This coincides with an alleged slip of the tongue which occurred on September 13th when Clinton was being awarded an honorary degree from St. Andrew’s University. She was asked the inevitable question about whether she was going to run in 2016 for the presidency of the United States, and she initially responded with her usual answer: “I haven’t made up my mind yet.” But when guests joked that that response was unsatisfactory, she added: “Yes, it is unsatisfactory … I’m minded to do it.”
Then she formalized her re-entry into politics on Saturday, October 19th, when she attended a rally in Virginia for Democratic governor candidate Terry McAuliffe. She used that occasion to begin to practice her sound bytes for her campaign:
Recently in Washington unfortunately we’ve seen examples of the wrong kind of leadership. When politicians choose scorched earth over common ground … when they operate in what I call the “evidence-free” zone [of] ideology trumping everything else … that’s not the kind of leadership we need in America today.
In these and other speeches (in one three-day stretch Clinton spoke at the University of Buffalo, the liberal Center for American Progress conference, and Colgate University) she tried on other phrases that would fit nicely into 20-second TV spots, including: “we need to assure that future generations can realize the American Dream … [and] a full discussion of the NSA’s surveillance program.” She accused Republicans of “careening from crisis to crisis” and expressed her willingness to “take on our problems here at home including ending the gridlock that has paralyzed our political system … [and] developing new strategies for creating jobs and getting back to growing incomes for the hard-working middle-class Americans who are still worried about their futures.”
She tried taking on the president and his vice-president as well in an obvious reference to the present administration’s appearance of careening from crisis to crisis, to check for effectiveness:
I’m not as interested in what a candidate looks like as what the candidate stands for … and what he brings to the table in terms of being able to not only present the agenda but have a very specific set of plans of implanting the agenda and bringing the country along.
And she checked to see if various “hot point” issues would still resonate with the electorate come 2016, like abortion. At the McAuliffe rally Clinton tested it with this:
The whole country is watching to see if the rights of women and girls will be respected, especially over our own bodies and our health care.
She added: “We cannot let those who do not believe in America’s progress hijack this great experiment, and substitute for the habits of the heart suspicion, hatred, anger, anxiety. That’s not as a people who we are.”
It takes more than money to buy the presidency, however. Clinton needs support from the media as well. CNN obliged in a fawning review of her performance at the McAuliffe campaign including the impression that “she was relaxed”, that “she wasn’t afraid to jab Republicans,” and that “she executed the McAuliffe game plan” of lending her credibility to McAuliffe who is under attack as a carnival barker and a Washington insider.
She also secured the endorsement, and an initial $25,000 check, from uber-liberal George Soros who was then immediately granted a firm position on the national finance council for Hillary’s political action committee, Ready for Hillary. That committee, set up well in advance of the widely anticipated “official” announcement of her candidacy, already boasts $1.2 million in the bank, supported by some 20,000 adoring admirers. Soros, it will be remembered, was a huge financial backer of the Democrat Party in 2004 to the tune of an estimated $27.5 million, and was key in shifting Democrat support to Obama in 2008.
In her burst of speechifying, Clinton hopes to solve several problems. One, she needs the work to polish her elocution skills. Second, she needs the money. Third, she needs to do something to offset her declining poll numbers which, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, have declined by 12 percentage points over the last nine months.
The machinery for 2016 is being oiled up. The sound bytes are being tested. The support from insiders is gaining momentum. Expect the official announcement any day now.