August 18, 2013

I'm not sure what Hillary Clinton could say or do other than to stay out of the spotlight altogether, or declare right now that she's not going to run for president again for any of these pundits to agree that she's not "getting political," but apparently speaking up about voter suppression now means you've officially started a presidential campaign, or so say the talking heads on this week's Meet the Press.

I think Will Durst summed up what we're watching here very well in a guest post over at The Political Carnival on this endless campaign season being perpetuated by the media, with, as Laffy noted,stomach turning, "endless, pointless speculation" over three years out.

It’s time to address the burning question singeing the lips of every American this summer: What will happen to Bryan Cranston’s pork pie hat after Breaking Bad ends its run? Okay, maybe that’s number 2. The big one is who’s going to be the Democratic Presidential candidate in November of 2016? 38 months and counting.

Having gone almost a year without the least meager of Presidential Race morsels to munch on, journos are doing whatever it takes to jump- start a tasty plate of appetizers. Also, it’s August, which means politically, there’s less going on in Washington than a vacuum in a crater at the southern most base of Neptune’s thirteenth moon.

If you suspect this might all be a bit premature. YES. INDEED. YOU BET. Your instincts are correct sir. This sort of speculation normally doesn’t kick into gear until a year and a half out; two years, tops, but the accelerated pace is today’s norm. Rapid is the new sauntering. Welcome to Extreme Campaigning. 24/7.

Of course, they do have a point. President Barack Obama’s second term has already entered its 7th month. It is more than an eighth over. The guy is history. Spent. Taking up space. Got the “How Can We Miss You If You Won’t Go Away” Blues. Way beyond lame duck, he’s a differently-abled turducken. A quadriplegic platypus. His goose is undergoing severe cookage.

Barack could nip the suspense in the bud by stepping down and giving Joe Biden a leg up. Because the job will not be Biden’s for the taking. He’s going to need a crowbar the size of Idaho to pry the nomination from a certain someone who’s already spent 8 years in the White House. Albeit, in the East Wing. And not baking cookies thank you very much.

Go read the rest for his take on what happened the last time the media decided to anoint Clinton the winner of the primary before it started and what might happen this time around. He's also spot with the media feeling the need to constantly declare that President Obama is a lame duck. I think that started about a day after he got reelected though.

Transcript of this morning's hackery on Meet the Press below the fold.

GREGORY: Welcome to all of you. This is the middle of August, but there’s a lot of politics going on, and we want to get to a lot of it. From Hillary Clinton to the RNC, the Republican Party, Chris Christie, a lot to chew on. Let’s start with Hillary Clinton, Chuck Todd. She is talking about voting rights on Monday, a series of speeches. She is laying the groundwork for how she comes up with a message. Listen to a part of her speech.

(Videotape; American Bar Association, Monday)

MS. HILLARY CLINTON: Anyone who says that racial discrimination is no longer a problem in American elections must not be paying attention.

(End videotape)

MR. CHUCK TODD (Political Director, NBC News/Chief White House Correspondent, NBC News): I am surprised in this first year that she is getting political this quickly…

GREGORY: Really?

MR. TODD: …and laying the groundwork this quickly. I really thought she was going to take-- you have sky-high bipartisan approval ratings. You come off foreign policy. It’s the least political of the offices are hold. Why not hold on to that as long as you can? The thing that has surprised me by this is that she has done nothing to tamp down this sort of enthusiasm for her, understandably, and now she is embracing it by giving these series of speeches. It-- it means she’s going to become political sooner. And with that comes some negatives. It means you’re going to get scrutiny, like we have seen this week of the Clinton Foundation. You are going to get dings for things that Terry McAuliffe is doing in the Virginia governor’s race, where in-- in the minute you stop being above the fray, and that’s the decision she’s made. You are then starting the presidential campaign, I think a lot sooner, and at some point, they’re going to look back and go, ooh, did we-- should we really have started this soon, that-- that is the one thing about this entire sort of run-up here that surprises me.

GREGORY: Rich Lowry, you were watching, you didn’t like what you saw. You wrote about it in Politico. And this was the headline of your column, Hillary’s race card, “Madam Secretary hasn’t missed a beat," you write, "She knows that the calling card of Democrats in the Barack Obama era is a polarizing politics that seeks to fire up minority voters by stirring fears of fire hoses and police dogs. Its basic vocabulary is imputations of racism; its evidently (sic) standard is low and dishonest; and its ethic is whatever works -- so long as it stirs fear, anger and resentment. Get ready for Hope and Change 2.0.”

MR. RICH LOWRY (Editor, National Review): Well, look, she’s going to a formidable front-runner if she runs but, as Robert can tell us, she’s been a formidable front-runner before. And I think one of the big downsides of her is that as a politician she’s not really a natural so she’ll be vulnerable again to someone potentially creating a-- a prairie fry-- fire on the left so she’s fighting the last war here. She wants to shore up the left, I think, as soon as possible so she, you know, didn’t, as you might expect a former secretary of state, to give a speech about Egypt when it’s descending into the abyss. It was about voter laws. And these voter ID laws, depending on how-- how you count, about 30 states have them. They’re popular across the board. The Washington Post poll not too long ago said more than 60 percent of blacks and Latinos support these laws. They’ve been upheld by the Supreme Court six to three by a very liberal justice so I think the case against them is extremely weak and inherently demagogic.

GREGORY: Congresswoman, what do you think?

REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D-MD): Well, I mean, I think that this comes on-- her speech comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s action striking down part of the Voting Rights Act. And so it’s not a surprise that she would give an important policy speech on something like that. And also I think she’s going to really dig her heels in at the foundation, continuing the work that she did at the-- did part-- at the State Department on women and girls and lifting up the voices of women and girls in the United States and around the world.

GREGORY: There is a question, Robert Gibbs, that I have, which is how does Hillary Clinton position herself, vis-à-vis Barack Obama? She wants a coalition that he has built her in 2012. She wants that certainly to be her coalition in 2016, but the legacy of Obama could both help and hurt her. How does she distinguish herself and have room to run?

MR. ROBERT GIBBS (White House Press Secretary (2009-2011)/NBC News Political Contributor): Well, she also has to distinguish herself from her husband, too, right?

GREGORY: You’re right.

MR. GIBBS: We-- we-- if her campaign becomes an extension really of either her husband’s term or the current president’s term, it’s not necessarily a good deal for her. I completely agree with Chuck. I, as a strategist, am fairly floored that she has decided to enter the public fray so quickly. She could do the foundation work, she could do issue work, she could build the campaign, she could develop a message without having to be so far out front there. And-- and, you know, Chuck talks about strong bipartisan approval ratings, those will whittle quite quickly as she steps further and further…

(Cross talk)

MR. TODD: And by the way, then we’re going to get cheap political stories that will show up in certain political news sites that say, oh, look, Hillary Clinton’s ratings are falling, and it’s simply because Republicans and independents who are Republican leaning will go away as she becomes more partisan.

MR. GIBBS: I’m just-- well, I’m just surprised that she doesn’t look at the primary process as one that has shortened for her as being a very good thing. Remember, Bill Clinton got into, because we ran primaries very late in-- in the earlier ‘90s, you know, he gets in in the fall of 1991 for a 1992 election, and I would have thought that would have-- would be the path she would more appropriately should.

MR. LOWRY: And-- and she-- and she basically has the power, right…

MR. GIBBS: Absolutely.

MR. LOWRY: …to freeze…

MR. TODD: She actually can do this.

MR. LOWRY: …that race for a long time…

MR. TODD: Not many front-runners have that power.

MR. LOWRY: Exactly.

GREGORY: So it’s interesting. Newt Gingrich sat in your chair, Robert, here on this program not long ago and said jeez, I don’t know if Republicans have anybody who can really take on Hillary Clinton. This week, changing his tune a little bit on Wednesday. He said, you know, the coronation’s not starting now. Here’s what he said.

(Videotape; Wednesday)

NEWT GINGRICH (Former Speaker of the House (R-GA)): She’s proven an ability to lose so I want to just start and say it’s a long way from here to her coronation. And if she moves to the left in these speeches in order to try to block a primary opponent, she will be increasingly isolating herself from the American people. So I’m-- I’m not at all convinced what the choice will be by 2016.

(End videotape)

GREGORY: What do you say, Rich?

MR. LOWRY: Well, Republicans aren’t going to have anyone with this kind of resume, but I think although Hillary has quite the resume, I’m not sure she has much substantive accomplishment to back it up, certainly as secretary of state. So, what Republicans have will be a lot of fresh faces, a lot of fresh voices about the direction of the party, and it really shaping up to be the inverse of what we may see on the democratic side, where you have a huge front-runner, whereas Republicans for the first time in recent memory won’t have that next-in-line front-runner looming over the rest of the field.

REP. EDWARDS: But when you…

GREGORY: Donna Edwards, I want to come back to this point of do Americans-- specifically democratic voters, do they want to see a third Obama term or would they like to see the restoration of the Bill Clinton era?

REP. EDWARDS: Well, I think among, you know, the electorate, President Obama’s really popular among Democrats. And so, you know, there’s no harm in that, but we didn’t mind President Clinton either. And so, I think Democrats really don’t really have a problem here. It’s Republicans who have the problem. And really, for Hillary Clinton, you know, the fact is, she doesn’t need to shore up her base from a fight from the left. She will win the nomination if she chooses to run. I really do believe that, and I think Democrats want to coalesce around a candidate early to kind of put this aside.

MR. LOWRY: By the way…

MR. GIBBS: Also, that-- that makes why she’s getting involved so much, quite frankly, more and more curious, because she’s-- she is the default candidate and she’s probably more the default candidate than she was in 2008 because there’s not an issue like Iraq that separates her. And if she-- if she has that ability, I do think-- like I said, I think it is very surprising that she’s decided to step back into the ring so early.

MR. TODD: David, there is one other unintended consequence here and I don’t think she is intending. The more-- there is sort of the split inside the Democratic Party, who’s the leader of the Democratic Party right now? Who’s the future of the Democratic Party and the more she talks out there, the more you start seeing a gravitational pull back towards Hillary. This hurts the current president of the United States as trying to be leader of the Democratic Party, as trying to move the party as he gets ready for a bunch of fall fights. You know, lame duck status happens in two phases, right? The first phase is lame duck status in Washington between the presidency and the White House. And then there’s a second phase of lame duck status inside your own party. Her coming out early I think speeds up that lame duck process of Barack Obama inside the Democratic Party, and that’s something if I’m sitting in the White House…

GREGORY: You don’t like so much.

MR. TODD: …I-- I don’t like so much. You don’t have to start that so quickly.

GREGORY: Let me go to a break here and let’s come back and talk about the Republicans.

Can you help us out?

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