SAN FRANCISCO — There are some who look at Hillary Rodham Clinton’s activities – the book tour; the serial radio, newspaper and television interviews – and her opportunity to shatter what remains America’s ultimate glass ceiling and figure a 2016 run for president is something close to a no-brainer.
She, apparently, is not one of them.
Appearing Wednesday night in San Francisco, Clinton declined for the hundredth, or perhaps hundred-thousandth, time to clarify her much-guessed-at intentions regarding a second White House bid. She answered, as though by rote, that if she runs she will do so because she believes that “I have the skills and experience to do the job and do it well.”
Perhaps more notable were the Democratic front-runner’s much lengthier thoughts on why an individual would choose not to run for president, even if they were desirous of the position and perfectly suited for the job.
“There are a number of qualified people who, if they could wake up in the morning and somebody were to say, ‘You’re going to be president' would serve our country well and we’d be proud of them,” Clinton said during a question-and-answer session that followed a speech to several hundred well-wishers and purchasers of her new memoir.
“But that’s not how we do it,” she went on. “We say, ‘OK, get ready, put your armor on, run that gauntlet, see who survives at the end.’ And whoever is standing up still, that’s the winner.”
It is a process, Clinton suggested, that is an unappealing if unavoidable product of the current political system, taking up “a lot of time, energy, money.”
“I wish we had some changes and some modifications in the way we do it,” Clinton said, to applause from the Orpheum Theatre audience. “But that is not yet on the horizon, so at least this next presidential election will be even more expensive, more challenging, with even more voices out there because you'll be analyzed, criticized, supported from so many different directions.”
For that, she blamed the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings in recent years – “terrible decisions for democracy” – that have opened the floodgate for campaign spending by a legion of loosely regulated individuals and political groups. As a result, Clinton went on, “a lot of very qualified people, not just in politics, but maybe from other parts of our society just say, ‘You know, who can do that? That is just too much.’”
Clinton fielded questions for more than half an hour after a speech recounting events in her new book, “Hard Choices.” (The title was a leitmotif she used throughout the evening.) She sat on stage in a wingback chair alongside Scott Shafer of San Francisco’s public broadcaster, KQED, the two separated by a small table that displayed a propped-up copy of Clinton’s memoir.
Asked about the deteriorating situation in Iraq, she criticized Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, saying he had squandered an opportunity, acquired through enormous sacrifice of U.S. blood and treasure, to build a stable country. “The ingredients were there, the oil was there, which could have been fairly distributed, that would have given everyone … a chance to really build a functioning state,” Clinton said after once more stating her regrets for voting to support the war while in the Senate.
“People who are on TV saying now, ‘Well, you know, Barack Obama should have stayed ...’” Clinton began.
“It’s not just ‘people,’ it’s Dick Cheney,” Shafer interjected, referring to the former George W. Bush administration vice president, who was one of the architects of the war.
“Yes, right,” Clinton responded, with seeming contempt. “Just think about that logic. There he is basically saying, ‘Barack Obama should have cleaned up the mess that I made when I was in office.’”
“Is that chutzpah?” Shafer asked.
“It’s not even worth commenting on,” Clinton responded.
Clinton also demurred when asked about a compliment Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently paid her during a San Francisco appearance before the Commonwealth Club of California. Perry, who is also mulling a possible repeat run for president in 2016 on the Republican side, described her as a “very, very capable public servant, great secretary of State, first lady.”
Told of his remark, an evidently surprised Clinton asked, “Does anybody have that in writing?”
Assured that it was documented, Clinton declined the opportunity to respond in kind. The mere mention of Perry’s name drew hisses from the partisan crowd. “Let me think about it,” she said, then moved on.