Can Hillary Clinton Please Go Quietly into the Night?

Can Hillary Clinton Please Go Quietly into the Night? By T.A. Frank at Vanity Fair, a PC publication.

Clinton, who has grown increasingly public and vocal in recent weeks, appears ready to drive the bus again. But do we have to be the passengers?

Just about everything we do lends itself to a generous or hostile interpretation. Our friends think we feed the poor because we have genuine compassion, and our enemies think we do so because we want to look good. The benign take on motives isn’t always closest to the truth, but it’s the better bet. (On the occasions that I’ve had an inside view of something in the glare of the press, those with the darkest take on it have usually been wrong.) I’ve been tough on Chelsea Clinton — hard not to be — but Hillary Clinton has a much higher accomplishment-to-self-regard ratio. So why not start generously? …

Like her husband, Hillary also has a resilience that is superhuman. Most of us would find it impossible to live with special prosecutors and countless enemies plotting our downfall, but Bill and Hillary just keep going. Al Gore never seemed to recover from losing in 2000, and he went dark for a long time. But Hillary Clinton is already back in the arena and swinging fists. …

But we can’t stay friendly to Hillary forever. There’s a fine line — or maybe not even so fine a line — between boosting morale and monopolizing the spotlight. One reason Bill Clinton was able to make a name for himself decades ago was that previous candidates had the grace to get out of the way. Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis weren’t trying to place themselves at center stage during the campaign of 1992. The Clintons, by contrast, kept sticking around. When it comes to power, and a few other things, they can’t control their urges. As a friend of mine recently wrote to me in an e-mail, “They both had to be president?” …

All of this would be easier to take if Hillary were on a crusade for a distinctive cause, in the manner of Bernie Sanders or Pat Buchanan or Jesse Jackson or Ross Perot. But when she offers her take on the world, she speaks in clichés and vague generalities like “progress” versus “turning back the clock.” Such teleological smugness (to which Barack Obama was likewise prone) doesn’t just attract the ire of conservatives; liberals can get miffed, too. Is “progress” on the side of expanding NATO or the opposite? Is it on the side of greater National Security Agency surveillance or of less? Is it in favor of immigration amnesty or high-tech border security? We all want to move forward, but maybe we’re not all facing Hillary’s way. …

Times have changed. America is no longer a lone hyperpower triumphing amid squabbles about same-sex marriage. We’re an overstretched empire fighting about fundamental questions of economy and national identity. The Clintons see that, sort of, but they’re stuck in time. Worse, their network, which is vast and powerful and heavily dependent on them, is stuck in time, too. Precisely when those on the left ought to be negotiating today’s fault lines and creating new coalitions, Democrats are getting dragged back into last year’s fights and letting personal loyalties drown out thoughts about core principles. The indefatigability of the Clintons isn’t just a nuisance but a hindrance.

We can’t expect them to accept this, of course. Psychologist Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism, has famously observed that optimists tend to do better in life but exhibit more delusion. They tend to attribute failure to changing external factors rather than enduring internal qualities, blaming outside causes, not themselves. Hillary—who has been pinning her defeat on Comey and Vladimir Putin and the Democratic National Committee and Wikileaks and “a thousand Russian agents” and high expectations and the press and sexism and voter suppression and, for all I know, static cling—is a major optimist. That’s great for persistence and mental well-being. She’s ready to keep driving the bus. But it’s not so great for knowing when to quit. That’s where the passengers come in.

Even the progressives are calling “time!” on the Clintons.