Most of those who watched Hillary Clinton’s press briefing on Wednesday came away disquieted. Her tone was off. Her attitude was off. Her facial expressions were off. Her body language was clearly off.
Happily, for those of us who are less attuned to such cues, Peggy Noonan offers an expert read of Hillary’s non-verbal message.
Did she seem to you a happy, hungry warrior? She couldn’t make eye contact with her questioners, and when she did she couldn’t sustain it. She looked at the ceiling and down at notes, trying, it seemed, to stick to or remember scripted arguments. She was shaky. She couldn’t fake good cheer and confidence. It is seven years since she ran for office. You could see it.
Noonan did not see a candidate rearing up for battle. She saw a woman who was tired of it all and was not ready for prime time.
In her words:
This wasn’t high-class spin. These were not respectable dodges. They didn’t make you grudgingly tip your hat at a gift for duplicity. I could almost feel an army of oppo people of both parties saying, “You can do better than that, Hillary!”
This wasn’t the work of a national, high-grade political response team, it was the thrown-together mess of someone who knew she was guilty of self-serving actions, who didn’t herself believe what she was saying, who didn’t think the press would swallow it, and who didn’t appear to care.
She didn’t look hungry for the battle, she looked tired of the battle….
Mrs. Clinton is said to be preparing to announce her candidacy for the presidency in three to four weeks. But did that look like the news conference of a candidate about to announce? It lacked any air of confidence or certitude. For a year the press has been writing about the burgeoning Clinton Shadow Campaign. Where’s the real one?
Many of us believe that Hillary came across as incompetent because she is incompetent. No one has yet named a government job that she undertook and completed successfully. If she runs, Hillary will be running on her gender and her name, not on her achievements.
Noonan has a different take:
After the news conference I thought what I never expected to think: Maybe she doesn’t really want this. Maybe that’s what this incompetence is meant to be signaling.
For those who are chagrined that the Democratic Party has no one else, Noonan astutely explains that politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum:
Maybe Democrats who saw that news conference will sense an opening and jump in. There’s the myth of the empty bench, but it won’t be empty if she leaves it. That’s another law of physics: Nature abhors a vacuum.
We all talk so much about the presidency and who’s got the best chance. Maybe it’s not Hillary. Maybe that’s over and no one knows, even her.
One caveat: for all we know, this could be a lot of wishful thinking. Hillary might be trying to make her opponents complacent, softening them up by making them overconfident, thus paving the way for victory.