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September 10, 2015

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is like a pinball machine: substance bouncing off trivia, a nuanced Iran speech careening off a campaign plan to script her to be more spontaneous, a serious proposal on money in politics caroming off the set of the Ellen DeGeneres Show. There is insight into what a Clinton presidency would bring and there are “buzzers and bells . . . lights aflashin’.”

On Wednesday Clinton announced her support for the nuclear deal with Iran. She emphasized her distrust of the Iranians and promised that if Iran violates the accords while she is president “I will not hesitate to take military action.” Clinton was threading the needle between a skeptical public and a deal made by the Democratic administration she served. Still, her formulation that “Diplomacy is not the pursuit of perfection, it is the balancing of risk” should wear well with Democrats and ultimately with a nation dubious about more neoconservative calamities.

On Tuesday the Times covered Clinton’s proposals to restrain big dollar corporate contributions and shine some light on political dark money.  Since Paul Krugman has recognized that Trump is right on economics, perhaps Secretary Clinton can be applauded for recognizing that Trump is right on campaign finance: the candidates (except the wealthy Trump) are beholden to a few rich donors and not to the people, because of the undemocratic disgrace that is the American campaign finance system. It doesn’t much matter if you prefer Clinton’s one-percenters to Bush’s billionaires; we all suffer from America’s campaign finance farceocracy.

When Clinton talks substance she is in her element.

On the other hand Senator Barack Obama’s 2008 debate remark that “You’re likable enough, Hillary” doesn’t seem to have settled much according to the Boston Globe. Tuesday’s Times story Hillary Clinton to Show More Humor and Heart, Aides Say featured the campaign roll-out of  “new efforts to bring spontaneity” from the candidate. It’s like Clinton is returning from a political summer camp that teaches candidates how to act authentic, with a lot of spontaneity practice. The aides promised not only more humor and heart but “to relentlessly contrast herself with Republicans, saying she is at her best when showing willingness to do battle.” Heart, humor, and aggression; she may become authentically confused.

The Times story, which is probably authentic but reads like an Andy Borowitz satire, is very kind to the aides. What a job they have! “Previous attempts to introduce Mrs. Clinton’s softer side to voters have backfired amid criticism that the efforts seemed overly poll tested.” The story is really a story about a story; it isn’t about Mrs. Clinton being more human, it’s about the aides strategizing about how to make her appear to be more human.

Could the authentically softer Clinton script work? Here’s a paragraph from Wednesday’s front page story in the Times, recounting a Tuesday evening interview with ABC’s David Muir:

When asked if she had ever second-guessed her decision to make another run at the White House, Mrs. Clinton began to choke up, admitting that she had, at times, before invoking her mother’s admonitions to “fight for what you believe in, no matter how hard it is.”

That kid sure plays a mean pinball.

Hillary, Clinton

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