Why Hillary Is More Like Obama Than Bill – And Why It Matters

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Tom G. Del Beccaro Former Chairman, Republican Party of California
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So Hillary is the nominee. Given that she has served two presidents, not to mention is married to one of them, it is a worthy question as to which of those two she would be more like. Sadly, the answer is Obama – for two key reasons.

First, it is becoming painfully obvious that Hillary is not a “people person” or, if you prefer, she has a hard time relating to people. Always the headstrong attorney, and a bit prickly, she has never been comfortable with the average Joe. Add to that the fact that she has been insulated from the every day world of Americans for two decades (she hasn’t driven a car since 1998) and you get the awkward campaigner she is today.

How awkward is Hillary? Recall that when she launched her book tour, she infamously claimed to be “flat broke.” From there, she entreated us to series of even more awkward attempts to explain away her millions of dollars of brokeness. That performance also renewed her difficult relationship with the American press – that same press that dropped her like a hot rock when that young guy, Barack Obama, came around.

In Iowa last year, she continued The Awkward Tour, giving a heartless “I’m baaaack,” which surely lacked Howard Dean’s authenticity. She demonstrated that same awkwardness when confronted by, of all things, voters. She was reported to “ducked questions from DREAMers” on immigration in Iowa” and “even awkwardly “giving two thumbs up and saying ‘yay’ to DREAMers who are facing deportation.”

Obviously, Hillary does not compare well with the president who could “feel your pain.” Even amidst the worst of it, Bill Clinton could charm the press and the nation into a 60%+ approval rating.  Physically and otherwise, Bill Clinton proved he could relate to people and could engage them — not to mention his thick skin.

For his part, while campaigning for President, Obama generally displayed a broad smile and willingness to immerse himself in a crowd. He played basketball, golf and could talk sports. Voters do those sorts of things. While he was riding high, Obama kept a sunny disposition and was happy with a Senate and House that did his work.

Apparently, that hid the real Obama from voters. Today he is not known for his relationships. Yes he still plays golf, but he has proven to be more aloof – and often petulant – even with the press. He doesn’t court the Congress – almost at all – and his relationships are few.

Of the two, Hillary is clearly far more like Obama than Bill.

Does being a people person matter? In difficult, divided periods – it really does – and the next successful person will have to be just that.

Bill Clinton overreached in his first two years as president when he took over a divided electorate. He signed a tax bill that unified a previously divided Republican Party by allowing them to vote in unison against a tax increase.  Hillarycare was so ill conceived that it divided the Democrat Party – who killed Hillarycare in the Senate before the 1994 midterms.  The combined result gave great impetus to the Republican takeover of the House.

That is when Bill Clinton, the real people person and former Governor, took over. He not only salvaged his approval ratings, he also championed a major reform – which wasn’t even a Democrat idea, i.e. welfare reform. He did it by working the Congressional crowd, the press and America. Of course, it was a repeat performance by Clinton who won, lost and won the Governorship of Arkansas before his presidency.

Barack Obama is not and cannot be Bill Clinton.

Obama has never built a coalition around any idea or legislation. He won the presidency and used the Democrat majorities in the House and Senate to get his way. While getting his way, he often demonized the opposition. Once those majorities were lost, Obama’s days of working with Congress were and are all but over. Now we have the presidency by Executive Order. His lack of people skills and the ability to build a consensus have hurt him and the country badly.

Hillary Clinton is not and cannot be Bill Clinton.

Has Hillary ever built a coalition? The answer is simply: No. Like Obama before the presidency, she has never held a position that required coalition building. She did Hillarycare behind closed doors – a process that got the Clinton administration sued. She became an ardent defender of her husband by talking of “vast right-wing conspiracies” – not building legislative coalitions.

She became a Senator by defeating a Republican not courting them. She had no major legislation to her name, because Senators don’t need to do such things. As Secretary of State, she was unable to “reset” much of anything or build a grand coalition.

In plain terms, the attorney turned advisor, turned insider, turned candidate, turned Secretary of State, turned candidate doesn’t have the skills to be a Bill Clinton the consensus builder. Worse yet, when things go bad – she goes bad – even pounds the table in front of the nation and says, “what difference does it make?”

In the final analysis, Hillary is far more like Barack Obama than Bill Clinton. If she wins the presidency, she is likely to face a Republican House and Senate. Dealing with a Congress held by the opposition party is never easy – even for an experienced leader.

No one should expect Hillary, who has no experience in such matters to succeed like Bill. She is far, far more likely to run aground like Obama.

You see, if you cannot relate to people, you cannot lead them – you can only rule them. That is where Obama is today. If Hillary was elected, she would be just the same – and worse than awkwardly so for the nation.