TIME 2016 Election

5 Reasons to Be Delighted and Worried About a GOP Convention in Cleveland

Johnny Manziel gestures on stage after being selected as the number twenty-two overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft to the Cleveland Browns at Radio City Music Hall Adam Hunger—USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

What the GOP can look forward to for its quadrennial confab

Correction appended, July, 9, 2014.

Randy Newman sang it best, more than 40 years before Republicans chose Cleveland on Tuesday to host their 2016 convention.

There’s a red moon rising
On the Cuyahoga River
Rolling into Cleveland to the lake

That’s right. The Republicans are coming, and they will be camping out for a week in one of the most Democratic parts of the nation’s most crucial swing state. It’s a blessing and a curse, a wonderful choice and problematic one all the same. Here’s a quick five-point guide to America’s North Coast, the place Newman called the “city of light, city of magic”—and what Republicans should expect.

1. Ohio is perhaps the key state in presidential elections. No Republican has won the White House without Ohio since Abraham Lincoln in 1860, and the last candidate in either party to win without Ohio was Democrat John F. Kennedy in 1960. But there is nothing too swingy about Cleveland. In Cuyahoga County, there are an estimated 345,000 Democratic voters and 126,000 Republicans.

2. Exactly because it is such a hotbed of Democratic activism, Republicans have a lot to gain, just as Barack Obama did in 2008 by holding the Democratic convention in the once-red state of Colorado. Since 1856, Cuyahoga has voted Republican 19 times and Democratic 21 times in presidential elections. But, says Mike Dawson, the founder of Ohioelectionresults.com, “if you look at the last 10 elections, Cuyahoga County has voted 10 times for the Democrat and never for the Republican.” Dawson, a Republican consultant, argues that the Cleveland convention should boost Republican turnout in the highly-populated Cleveland area, as well as the rest of the key swing state. “It’s not just a boon for the county or the region,” he says. “It’s gonna have a benefit for the whole state.”

3. The last time the Republicans had a convention in Cleveland, in 1936, they nominated Kansas Gov. Alf Landon, who was defeated by Franklin Roosevelt in a landslide. But the party of Lincoln need not fear a curse. Before that, Cleveland was the site of the 1924 convention that renominated the victorious Calvin Coolidge. (Just try to forget that Grover Cleveland was a Democrat.)

4. The city of magic has a long history of catering to the peculiar needs of the political class. Back in 1924, during the dark days of prohibition, the great scribe H.L. Mencken reported on the extraordinary steps Cleveland took to satisfy the Republican Party. “My agents in Cleveland report that elaborate preparations are under way there to slack the thirst of the visitors, which is always powerful at national conventions,” he wrote. “The town is very well supplied with bootleggers, and regular lines of rum ships run into it from Canadian ports. Ohio has a State Volstead act and a large force of spies and snoopers, many of them former jail-birds. These agent of the Only True Christianity, no doubt, will all concentrate in Cleveland, and dispute with the national Prohibition blacklegs for the graft. I venture the guess that bad Scotch will sell for $15 a bottle in the hotels and at the convention hall, and that more than one delegate will go home in the baggage car, a victim of methyl alcohol.” Would that it be so again, without the alcohol poisoning, of course.

5. Two words: Johnny Manziel. They have a ring to them that “Reince Priebus” will never match. There is also the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The inductees may be overwhelmingly liberal, but Kid Rock is always down for a show.

-Additional reporting by Becca Stanek/Washington

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the outcome of the 2010 election in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Republican Governor John Kasich did not win the county.

TIME China

7 Reasons Chinese Censors Don’t Like Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives to sign copies of her book "Hard Choices" at a Barnes & Noble book store in Los Angeles
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives to sign copies of her book "Hard Choices" at a Barnes & Noble book store in Los Angeles, California on June 19, 2014. Lucy Nicholson—Reuters

Though careful in her handling of domestic political hot potatoes, the former Secretary of State holds little back when it comes to China

The publisher of Hillary Clinton’s new political memoir, Hard Choices, told Buzzfeed Thursday that sales of the book have been effectively banned in China.

The reasons are not hard to figure out. Clinton’s book, though notable for its careful treatment of controversial domestic issues, is full of criticism of the Chinese regime and its existing policy of state censorship. She also goes into great detail about her interactions with senior Chinese officials on some of the most sensitive issues for China, and maintains a consistent tone of disapproval for the regimes suppression of Democratic rights.

Here is a cursory glance at seven passages from the book that may be the most offensive to the Chinese:

She knocks China for blocking a U.N. resolution to call out North Korea for sinking of a South Korean naval vessel.

“Here was one of China’s contradictions in full view. Beijing claimed to prize stability above all else, yet it was tacitly condoning naked aggression that was profoundly destabilizing.” (Page 56)

She details China’s recent domestic suppression efforts.

“Things had only gotten worse in 2011. In the first few months, dozens of public interest lawyers, writers, artists, intellectuals, and activists were arbitrarily detained and arrested.” (Page 63)

She describes the work of Chinese censorship efforts on her speeches.

“In China, however, censors went right to work erasing mentions of my message from the Internet.” (Page 64)

She describes confrontations with President Jiang about China’s treatment of Tibet.

“‘But what about their traditions and the right to practice their religion as they choose?’ I persisted. He forcefully insisted that Tibet was a part of China and demanded to know why Americans advocated for those ‘necromancers.’ Tibetans ‘were victims of religion. They are now freed from feudalism,’ he declared.” (page 68)

She questions the power of former Chinese President Hu Jintao

[H]e lacked the personal authority of predecessors such as Deng Xiaoping or Jiang Zemin. Hu seemed to me more like an aloof chairman of the board than a hands-on CEO. (Page 72)

She tells the story of dissident lawyer Chen Guangcheng taking refuge in the U.S. embassy.

Bob hustled Chen into the car, threw a jacket over his head, and sped off. Bob reported back to Washington with an update from the car, and we all held our breath, hoping that they wouldn’t be stopped before reaching the safety of the embassy grounds. (Page 87)

She describes the Chinese crackdown on speech, and the nation’s censorship regime.

“The ‘Great Firewall’ blocked foreign websites and particular pages with content perceived as threatening to the Communist Party. Some reports estimate that China employed as many as 100,000 censors to patrol the web.” (Page 548)

TIME 2016 Election

Hillary Clinton Confronts Her Squirrel Stalker

The GOP has been sending someone dressed in a squirrel costume to the likely presidential contender's book tour events

While out on the campaign tra-….er, book tour Tuesday, Hillary Clinton took a moment to say hello to her most devoted groupie: a Republican squirrel.

The Republican National Committee has been sending an RNC staffer (or staffers rotating shifts) to follow Clinton around on her book tour wearing a squirrel costume and a shirt that says, “Another Clinton in the White House is Nuts.” The “HRC Squirrel” even has its own Twitter account.

On Tuesday, Clinton hopped out of her transport for a moment to deliver a copy of her book, Hard Choices, to the squirrel, which had been on her heels since last Friday.

TIME 2016 presidential election

Romney: How Republicans Will Take Back the White House

Romney criticized Clinton's response to Bergdahl's release and expressed confidence that a Republican will take back the White House in 2016

+ READ ARTICLE

After hosting a high-profile summit over the weekend that included many Republican presidential hopefuls, Mitt Romney appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday to discuss politics within the G.O.P. and the 2016 election.

When asked by host David Gregory what he would do if he were a presidential candidate running against Hillary Clinton in 2016, Romney pointed to Clinton’s past political record as her weakness.

“I think you have to consider what’s happened around the world during the years that she was secretary of State,” Romney said. “And you have to say it’s been a monumental bust.”

Romney also referred to Clinton’s comments regarding the exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, in which she said the released Taliban leaders did not pose a threat to the U.S.

“And she came back with a clueless answer,” Romney said. “She was clueless.”

According to Romney, those points will be “the foundation of how a Republican candidate is able to take back the White House.”

TIME politics

Hillary Clinton Wants You to Call Her a Feminist

Clinton Global Initiative America Meetings Begin In Chicago
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to guests at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on June 13, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The CGI was established in 2005 by former President Bill Clinton with the intention of convening world leaders to address pressing global issues. Scott Olson--Getty Images

During an appearance in Chicago, the "Hard Choices" author and potential 2016 Presidential candidate revealed she doesn't believe there's "anything controversial" about being a feminist

Though we live in an era in which women in the public eye seem to waffle over whether or not they consider themselves feminists, Hillary Clinton has made it perfectly clear: she’s a feminist and she has no problem with letting the world know.

During an appearance in Chicago’s Harris Theater with Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday night, Clinton defined the ‘f-word’ simply as supporting equal rights for women, before adding, perhaps pointedly, “I don’t see anything controversial about that at all.” She also addressed the women — and men! — who view feminism as old-fashioned or out of date, saying, “I don’t think you’ve lived long enough.”

As the former U.S. Secretary of State, Clinton discussed how feminism plays a key role in the U.S.’s foreign policy. “[W]omen and girls … [are] central to our foreign policy,” she said, explaining that nations that support women are more stable and “less likely to breed extremism.”

Clinton — who is widely thought to be the leading Democratic contender for the 2016 presidential race though she hasn’t committed to running — is busy promoting her new book Hard Choices, which was released this week. The 656-page political memoir goes into detail about the many difficult decisions she’s already made throughout her career in politics. Evidently, deciding to call herself a feminist wasn’t one of them.

 

 

TIME politics

Are You There, Angela Merkel? It’s Me, Hillary!

Hillary Clinton Addresses National Council for Behavioral Health Conference
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - MAY 06: Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers remarks during the National Council for Behavioral Health's Annual Conference at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on May 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland. Patrick Smith—Getty Images

Hillary Clinton's new book is not as boring as you think. It's actually kind of funny.

Who knew Hillary could be so hill-arious?

Her new book Hard Choices isn’t as dour as the title suggests or as long and boring as it looks. It’s actually really funny. It probably would sell better if it were called something like Richard Holbrooke Wore Yellow Pajamas or Are You There, Angela Merkel? It’s Me, Hillary, but neither of those titles sound quite as presidential.

Hillary comes off as smart, tough, and kind of… cool. Maybe even cooler than 1980s-Obama-with-cigarette, if you factor in her Normcore advantage. It’s probably part of a highly calculated personal branding move in anticipation of some kind of big national announcement (touring with Katy Perry?) but it’s appealing nonetheless.

She told Diane Sawyer in an interview Sunday night that she’s finished being the scripted, guarded cautious Hillary we saw in the 2008 campaign, when Obama sneered that she was “likable enough.” But she also says she’s sick of the whole “likability” question altogether. “I’m done with that, I’m just done,” she said. “I think I have changed, I’m not worried so much about what other people are thinking…I’m going to say what I know, what I believe, and let the chips fall. For me, it’s time. I don’t know if I could have done it earlier, because I was trying to find my way.”

So in Hard Choices, she shows much more personality than we’ve seen from her before. For example, when she talks about being compared to William H. Seward, who was Secretary of State under Lincoln and part of his “team of rivals,” she says “I hope no one ever describes me as a ‘wise macaw,’ which is how Seward appeared to the historian Henry Adams.”

Or when she says her first meeting with Obama after her 2008 defeat was “like two teenagers on an awkward first date,” but later describes the moment she and the President became official BFFs:

Before one of our meetings in Prague, on that same April trip, [Obama] pulled me aside and said, “Hillary, I need to talk to you.” He put his arm around me and walked me over toward a window. I wondered what sensitive policy matter he wanted to discuss. Instead he whispered in my ear, “You’ve got something in your teeth.”

The book is funny in a way that only the unexpectedly personal observations of an unfunny person can be. For example, this is how she explains her “Texts from Hillary” meme to her fellow olds:

“Her photo, to everyone’s surprise, became an internet sensation many months later and the basis for a ‘meme’ known as ‘Texts from Hillary.’ The idea was simple: an internet user would pair the photo of me holding my phone with a picture of another famous person holding a phone and add funny captions to narrate the texts we supposedly sent back and forth. The first one posted showed President Obama lounging on a couch, with the caption ‘Hey, Hil, Watchu doing?’ the imagined response from me: ‘running the world.’ Eventually I decided to get in on the fun myself. I submitted my own version full of internet slang: ‘ROFL @ ur tumblr! g2g–scrunchie time. ttyl?’”

Somewhere a lightbulb just went off over Dianne Feinstein’s head.

Hillary chuckles at the German newspaper that featured her and Angela Merkel as interchangeable faceless pantsuits, and wonders aloud whether Putin was messing with her when he told her a sad story about his childhood. She admitted she’s “no Condi Rice on the piano” but still tried to play along with Bono after Nelson Mandela’s funeral. She calls former French President Nicolas Sarkozy her “Prince Charming” for helping her when her shoe fell off. She reveals they sometimes watched romantic comedies on the State jet, and that Richard Holbrooke wore yellow PJs on long flights. She even talks about America’s foreign policy using a quote from A League of Their Own: “it’s supposed to be hard… the hard is what makes it great.”

“In politics a sense of humor is essential,” she writes. “There are countless reasons why you have to laugh at yourself.” And it may be that this enormous behemoth of a book is just the kind of controlled environment where Hillary can let her freak flag fly. She’s too calculated to get funny in off-the-cuff interview, and she’s too serious to crack jokes in speeches or debates. Obviously every joke and story in the book is carefully crafted to be as unobjectionable as possible (I’d love to read the uncensored version), and the fact that nobody comes off badly is probably even more proof that she’s trying not to annoy anyone before she *maybe* runs for President.

Hard Choices isn’t likely to convert any Hillary-haters or get her a job writing for Parks & Rec, but it’s still kind of funny, which is funnier than I thought it would be.

 

 

 

 

 

TIME 2016 Election

Hillary’s Hard Choices, By The Numbers

Hillary Clinton Reads From Her New Memoir In New York City
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to a crowd during a book signing for her new book, "Hard Choices" at a Barnes & Noble on June 10, 2014 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

The book is over 600 pages long, so here's what you need to know from the index

The price of fighting Osama bin Laden? $1 trillion. Chelsea Clinton’s wedding? $2-$5 million. Appearing in the index of Hillary Clinton’s new memoir, Hard Choices? Priceless.

Ancient astrologers used to divine the future by counting the kinds of stars that appear in the sky. We’re doing the same thing, but instead of reading constellations, we’re reading the index of Clinton’s book.

First of all, her index is heavy on Presidents and light on First Ladies. Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Barbara Bush are each mentioned only twice. By contrast, George W. Bush gets 13 pages and George H.W. Bush gets four. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama get too many to count. Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan get three mentions each, Jimmy Carter gets two, Richard Nixon gets seven. JFK got four pages, Jackie only one. Coincidence?

The only First Lady to outdo her husband in the index was Eleanor Roosevelt, with a cool five mentions to FDR’s paltry three. Clinton talks about how she’s lifting from Eleanor when she talks about women’s rights as “unfinished business” and pushes for “full participation” of all genders. She also has Eleanor’s picture in her office.

Benghazi got a chapter all to itself, as did Syria and Iran. And Angela Merkel got tons of love, especially since Clinton revealed that she has a German newspaper in her office that portrays Merkel and Clinton as interchangeable on the cover.

The Clinton index also freezes out the philanderers. Huma Abedin gets mentioned nine times, including a heartwarming story about that time when President Obama called her an “American patriot” after she got accused of sympathizing with the Muslim Brotherhood. But her disgraced husband Anthony Weiner is nowhere to be found. David Patraeus got 15 mentions, Paula Broadwell not a one. Is she taking the high road, or doing a complete whitewashing?

Guess who else didn’t make the cut? Monica Lewinsky or Gennifer Flowers. Surprise, surprise.

TIME 2016 Election

Brooklyn Eyes 2016 Democratic Convention

SPO-ARENA-BARCLAYS CENTER
Exterior view of the Barclays Center before a Brooklyn Nets basketball game in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, April 9, 2013. Stan Honda—AFP/Getty Images

New York City making a bid for convention

Brooklyn will make a pitch to host the Democratic National Covention in 2016, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday.

De Blasio suggested the Barclays Center, where the Brooklyn Nets play, as the prospective venue, citing its access to multiple subway lines and proximity to other cultural centers like the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Brooklyn Museum.

“Our enthusiasm for hosting the DNC is matched only by our capacity to execute large, world class events such as the Super Bowl XLVIII,” de Blasio wrote in a letter to the Democratic National Committee. “We are proud to be the safest big city in the country and the home of the nation’s most extensive public transit system and largest bicycle-share program.”

TIME 2016 Election

The Myth of Inevitability

Silhouetted by a stage light, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the University of the Western Cape about U.S.-South Africa partnership, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, in Cape Town, South Africa. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
The Myth of Inevitability: Nothing is certain in 2016 Jacquelyn Martin—AP

Nothing is certain for Hillary Clinton in 2016

We have reached, believe it or not, the first crucial moment in the 2016 presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton has written a book. It will be launched, with Vesuvian hoopla, on June 10. Her schedule will be incredible for the weeks thereafter–an hour interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, for starters; Good Morning America the next morning; a town meeting with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. There will be joint appearances with Bill and Chelsea. And attention, Costco shoppers! Hillary Clinton will be signing copies of Hard Choices at Costco’s Arlington, Va., store on Saturday, June 14.

We are sure to be smothered by Hillary (or Hillary!, as an old campaign button had it) well past the summer solstice. There will be reviews and nonstop attempts to tease policy and controversy from the substance of the book, which concerns her time as Secretary of State. Her account of the Benghazi controversy has already been leaked. In it, she says she was “ultimately responsible” for the insufficient security at the consulate there, even though it was well below her pay grade. Happily, she fights back against the bizarre Republican campaign to find a scandal amid the tragedy. This is called getting out in front of the story, a common political strategy. Hard Choices is, like almost everything else Clinton, a campaign. How it is promoted and received will say a lot about the campaign to come, if it is to come.

As always, there will be a festering low road of speculation about Clinton herself, her health, her hair, her husband. And as always, a squalid tabloid underbuzz: Did she ask Chelsea to become pregnant to give her campaign a soft, grandmotherly tinge? Will new Whitewater papers reveal that the real estate deal was really a conspiracy to sell heroin? Monica Lewinsky has already reappeared and disappeared, coming out of seclusion to tell her story for the umpteenth time. The Clintons have long held an unprecedented primacy in academic journals and supermarket tabloids. That’s why we can’t take our eyes off them. They have big thoughts; they are creative policymakers who balance budgets; they care about the average guy, his widow and orphan. And yet their private world often seems laced with circus-sideshow overreach, both purposeful and accidental: Bill Clinton abandoned McDonald’s to become a vegan. Hillary’s top aide, Huma Abedin, married the tweeting exhibitionist Anthony Weiner.

Inevitably, there will be political speculation. Does this book mean she is running? Does her book tour prove that she “takes all the oxygen” out of the Democratic race? Is she “inevitable”? Is the Benghazi chapter “enough” to quiet the controversy? Will she learn to love the media–and will the media stop being so trashball in its Clinton coverage?

As a veteran Clinton watcher, I approach the coming spectacle with a combination of obsession, exhaustion, dread and exhilaration. This is going to be horrible fun–and crucial, as the Clintons always are. If she runs.

For the sake of magazine sales, let’s say she’s running. She’s got it locked, right? She’s the Democratic nominee at the very least, right? Ask any Republican and they’ll tell you she’s a cinch. They’ve already started their general-election campaign against her. Karl Rove is speculating that the fall she took at the end of her time as Secretary of State caused traumatic brain injury. Others fantasize that she conspired to have Lewinsky tell her story now, to get it out of the way–as if anything could. And congressional Republicans have dragged Benghazi back into public view, with stacked hearings that will amount, no doubt, to a hill of beans. Most Democrats think that she’ll not only waltz to the nomination but also crush anyone the Republicans put up, except maybe Jeb Bush–and hasn’t the Bush family saga become a moldy oldie over the decades?

But wait a minute. Aren’t the Clintons approaching their sell-by date too? Aren’t we about to become tired of their personal and policy baggage and retinue of overcaffeinated too-loyal aides spewing talking points on cable news? It can and will also be argued that the Clintons are out of touch with millennials and their handheld virtual society, out of touch with the growing populism of the Democratic Party, too closely aligned with Wall Street and untrammeled free trade, too hawkish, too closely aligned with an unpopular incumbent President. (Of course, Obama could easily rebound.) It can and will be argued, as always, that Hillary is stiff, programmed, overcautious. Exhibit A: her book-tour schedule.

It is possible, maybe even probable, that all these arguments will have the same effect on the Clinton juggernaut as a flea on a rhinoceros. Clinton is said to be the best-prepared politician to run for President in our lifetime, and that is probably true. She knows the issues, foreign and domestic; no one will outwonk her. She has the potential to run the table when it comes to big donors and endorsements. She has a presidential temperament–prudent, patient and tough. She is both funny and wise: ask anyone, Republican or Democrat, who has ever sat in a policy meeting with her. She started as a lousy stump politician but became a real trouper in the crucible of the 2008 primary campaign against Obama, especially in Pennsylvania, where she started hanging out in bars and bowling alleys and taught white working-class males that she was no quitter. Indeed, the lessons she learned in the 2008 primaries may be her quiet competitive advantage in 2016. Finally, she is a woman–an aspect of her candidacy that was foolishly underplayed by her advisers in 2008. As such, she lives in history.

Some presidential campaigns are about inevitability. Others are about energy. The best have both, but it’s rare: inevitability tends to crush energy. It makes candidates cautious. In 2000, George W. Bush raised a ton of money and secured a ton of endorsements. He was skating toward the nomination, according to the polls. “It’s amazing how close we came to losing,” says Matthew Dowd, who worked for Bush. “We were hanging on by our fingernails after McCain beat us by 18 points in New Hampshire, but McCain made some mistakes in South Carolina,” and Bush turned vicious, “and we were lucky to win.” Lest we forget: an inevitable candidate named Hillary Clinton was blindsided by Barack Obama’s energy in 2008.

Obama may be her greatest challenge in 2016 as well. It’s been reported that she has scrubbed Hard Choices for any negative references to the President. But any candidate following a two-term President has to figure out a “kinder, gentler” way to distinguish herself from her predecessor. People always want a change, a fact Al Gore and John McCain found out the hard way. It will be trickier if Obama remains unpopular. Inevitability is reality’s first casualty. If Obama makes a big mistake overseas or the economy flops, Clinton’s first job will be to say what she’d do differently, without offending the Democratic base who’ll remain loyal to the President no matter what.

Even if Obama successfully navigates his last two years in office, Clinton is likely to face more than one energy candidate in 2016. Former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer, profiled by Michael Scherer on page 36, is as entertaining as a presidential candidate should be allowed to be, and substantive too. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has a new book out–aha! (perhaps)–and is wowing the Democratic left at their partisan powwows. And former Virginia Senator Jim Webb–who also has a new book out, aha!–has not ruled out a presidential campaign. All three would challenge Clinton from the populist left, a force that is growing noisier within the party, if not more populous. The moderate governors, like New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Maryland’s Martin O’Malley, probably won’t run if Clinton does.

Any of the three populists could run an exciting and perhaps even successful campaign against Clinton. She has real vulnerabilities and, yes, hard choices to make on policies she is assumed to have inherited from her husband, especially regarding the primacy of Wall Street and free trade. Bill Clinton essentially deregulated Wall Street while he was President–repealing the Glass-Steagall laws and refusing to regulate the exotic derivatives that helped cause the stock-market crash of 2008. Will Hillary Clinton move away from those positions? Is she willing to walk away from the egregious buckraking and speechmaking she and her husband have done with the global megarich in the service of the Clinton Global Initiative? “If not, she’s red meat in this new age of economic populism,” says David “Mudcat” Saunders, a Democratic consultant who has been close to Jim Webb in the past.

I recently asked Webb what he saw when he looked at America a year after he left the Senate. “Groundhog Day,” he said. Nothing had changed. In his book I Heard My Country Calling, Webb writes about a country “governed by a club of insiders who manipulate public opinion in order to serve the interests of hidden elites who hold the reins of power.” That could be a call to arms for Democratic populists and Tea Partyers alike. It is a bit over the top–hidden elites?–but it is a voice to be reckoned with in a ticked-off America.

There is also a bubbling-up of what the historian Fred Siegel calls gentry liberals, the old alliance of guilt-ridden limousine riders and (mostly African-American) minority groups who are itchy to file grievances again after 50 years of remarkable progress. A 2003 Brookings Institution study showed that if you graduate from high school, wait until marriage to have no more than two babies and have a job (any job, and there are plenty out there), the chances of your living in poverty are 3.7%. Those sorts of stats–and there are plenty of others like them–are downplayed by a new generation of African-American activists and by mayors like New York City’s Bill de Blasio, who has lifted some of the work requirements imposed by Bill Clinton for people on welfare. The left argues that times have changed. The economy has changed. It’s harder to get a job. Will Clinton modify her long-held positions on welfare and the importance of two-parent families?

Then there is her foreign policy. Robert Gates’ fabulously candid memoir about his time as Secretary of Defense has some juicy tidbits–like the fact that Clinton stood to his right on the Afghan surge in 2009. He favored adding 30,000 more troops; Clinton and General Stan McChrystal favored 40,000. Her support of the war in Iraq, except for the 2007 surge there, is also on the record–but Gates has her admitting that her opposition to the surge was “political.”

That is probably the ultimate argument against Clinton. She can be prohibitively “political” and far more cautious than she needs to be. The trouble is, presidential campaigns can’t be managed like book tours. They tend to be overwhelmed by events and trivialities. There is a constant gotcha contest with the press. In a recent Politico article about Clinton and the press, one of her advisers is quoted: “Look, she hates you. Period. That is not going to change.” To make things worse, her top communications adviser, Phillippe Reines, argued that Clinton didn’t really hate the press. She brought bagels to the back of the bus. But bringing bagels to the back of the bus is an embarrassingly transparent ploy. Bringing candor to the back of the bus might be a little more successful. I’ve seen her candor more than once, but always off the record. That will have to change. If Hillary Clinton hopes to succeed, she’s going to have to drop the veil–spontaneously, quite possibly in a crucial moment, like a debate–and trust the public to accept who she really is. Absent that, there is no such thing as inevitability.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Brian Schweitzer Isn’t Holding Much Back as 2016 Approaches

Former Democratic Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer at the Montana AFL-CIO annual convention in Billings, Mont. on May 10, 2013
Former Democratic Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer at the Montana AFL-CIO annual convention in Billings, Mont. on May 10, 2013 Matt Brown—AP

Would he be a better president than Hillary Clinton? He thinks so

To get rid of the trash, former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer either has to drive it away in a pickup from his remote lake house or burn it in a rusty oil barrel. But with the cellular signal from a nearby tower, he is able to broadcast live high-definition video of himself from his wine cellar to MSNBC viewers all over the country.

That same technology has also allowed him emerge in the last several months as a notable force in Democratic politics, as he has begun to explore publicly the possibility of a 2016 presidential bid and offer criticisms of President Obama and his heir apparent, Hillary Clinton. In this week’s TIME magazine, I have a story about Schweitzer on the range, his views of the party, and his thoughts on how to win in 2016. (The story is free to read online for subscribers. Everyone else click here to subscribe.) Suffice it to say, he is not just another Democratic candidate.

The story was reported over two days in May in and around his home, taking walks, riding horses, traveling the countryside in a six-wheel Polaris ATV and crossing the local roads in his pickup truck. He talked pretty much the whole time. Not all of the newsworthy things he said made it into print.

Here is a selection of his views on everything from Obama to Clinton to Republican resistance to comprehensive immigration reform. More, of course, can be found in the magazine.

On the Barack Obama presidency

I was very hopeful. I was like everyone else. I’m an idealist. And when Obama was elected, all of these things were going to happen. We were going to get out of these foreign entanglements. We were going to show the world that we were a country of laws, and we were going to close Guantanamo Bay. We were going to have a healthcare system that actually worked, that challenged expenses. But one by one, all that stuff was dashed.

Some of it is because they didn’t move fast enough, and some of it was dashed because you get to Washington, D.C., and it turns out that the Republicans are mostly owned by corporate America and the Democrats are partially owned by corporate America. The same insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, the same military industrial complex that fills the coffers for Republican reelections, they filled the coffers of Democrats for reelection. So that things don’t get done shouldn’t surprise you because it’s safe not to get things done. The status quo works.

On Hillary Clinton

You can’t be the candidate that shakes down more money on Wall Street than anybody since, I don’t know, Woodrow Wilson, and be the populist. You can’t be the one to say we’re going to focus on rebuilding America if you voted to go to the Iraq war. There were 30 some Democrats who voted against that.

On whether he would be a better president than Hillary Clinton

Well, I think so, of course. I think I have a background and a resume that isn’t just in government. But the time I was in government, I was a chief executive. And as I said to you before, you can go around Montana and ask people what they think of me and they will say, “Well I didn’t always agree with him, but I always knew where he stood and he was good with money.” That’s what they will say to a person. And I think there is one thing we all can agree on: they are not good with money in Washington, D.C.

On the 2002 vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq

I watched [Former West Virginia Sen.] Robert Byrd stand up and beg this country not to go to war in Iraq. And I would have been standing right beside him. A young guy, not an old guy, and I would have been saying, “I lived there [in the Middle East]. Are you f—ing crazy. Iraq is fighting the war against Iran. We are creating a vacuum, and we will have to fill it, or the Iranians will.”

On the hazards of working in Washington, D.C.

I do know this. If someone has been entrenched in Washington, D.C., for 8, 10, 12, 20 years, they are bought and paid for by the special interests. Not because they wanted to, not because they consider themselves corrupt, but because first there is a deal, and then another deal, and then they look the other way on big banks, and then you look the other way on regulation, and then you allow outsourcing of taxes, and then you allow the military industrial complex to talk you into voting for another war, and pretty soon you look at yourself in the mirror and you go, “My God, I’m all of those things that I hated when I came here.”

On the questions Democrats should ask themselves in deciding the 2016 nominee

Are we going to choose more leadership that is going to roll over and get scratched on the belly by corporations like a fat dog? Are we going to be able to reform this healthcare system so it is one that doesn’t hand your taxpayer dollars to private insurance companies? Are we going to force the pharmaceutical companies to sell medicine in the United States for the same price as they do to the rest of the world?

On immigration reform

Let me tell you who is rethinking their position on immigration. Not the Republican party. The Cheyenne, the Gravant, the Salish, the Crow. You know, they’d like to have that decision back. All the rest of us, what kind of royalty was your family when they got here? I know my family wasn’t royalty. They came here with just the clothes on their back and faith in God and high hopes and for the most part no place to go.

On the Democratic big tent

We are a big and diverse country and for the Democratic Party to be successful we have to be a big and diverse party. It has to be that same party that not only respects gay and lesbian rights and transgender rights in San Francisco, but respects that blue collar guy who takes a shower at the end of the day and not in the morning.

On the difference between big state and small state governors

Almost without fail, politicians that come from New York and Texas and California and Florida and Illinois, their personal game, their ability to connect one-on-one, their ability to walk into a room and light it up, is nothing like the folks that come from the Dakotas and Nebraska and Arkansas. Because in a place like Montana you don’t win an election by those TV ads. They know you — “Yeah I met him, I know his sister, I knew his parents.” And almost without fail if you walk in and take a look at the governors, you can pick out the ones from the big states.

On his strategy if he decides to get in the race

Look, if you wanted to make a big machine that matches the machine that is likely to be built around Hillary then you would have to have started eight years ago. But if the outcome is always known with a superior slow moving army then we would still be part of England and we would still have a king. And Hillary would be president, or whatever you have under a king, but certainly it would not have been Obama.

 

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