The tragedy of Hillary Clinton

“Clinton has her faults, but her strengths would have been on display here: a deep understanding of the federal government, a belief that it is the president’s job to solve national problems, an unparalleled enthusiasm for convening experts and synthesizing their knowledge into policy, an unusual enthusiasm for the details of interagency collaboration, a relentless focus on operational details.

President Clinton would be able to tell you where every vaccine in development stood, how fast tests were coming back in all 384 metropolitan areas, what PPE stocks looked like in every midsize city in the country. We would not be free of the coronavirus, but unlike under this administration, we would have a plan, and competent people running it, and we would’ve had it in place for months and months by now.

But that is not the world we live in. In this world, the unqualified reality TV star who won 3 million fewer votes captured the White House and botched the pandemic. And Clinton, wearing suffragist white, was relegated to a few scant minutes on the penultimate hour of the penultimate night of the convention.”

“Like Clinton, Biden is a veteran politician, with a long record dotted with bad votes and taped gaffes. Clinton was often criticized for offering too many policies and too little boldness or thematic vision. Biden is also running on a laundry list of policies, but he’s far more detached from the substance of his agenda, and tends to speak in gauzy generalities. Clinton was criticized as too cautious a figure, too much a creature of the establishment, to win in a country that prefers inspiring outsiders. But Biden has been in politics longer, and tacked more carefully toward the Democratic Party’s shifting center over the course of his career.

Moreover, Biden lacks some of Clinton’s virtues: her policy sharpness, her attention to detail, her polymathic hunger for information, her obvious delight in the details of governance. The difference between them was on display in April when she endorsed him. There’s nothing wrong with Biden’s performance, but Clinton is by far the more knowledgeable and precise in her discussion of Covid-19.”

“What he has that she didn’t is fuzzier: a reputation for likability, for relatability. Clinton was beloved by her staff, by those who met her or worked with her, but the person they described was rarely the person the public saw. Biden’s warmth shines through on the trail. There’s no “you’re likable enough” burns in his background.”

“More Americans voted for Clinton than voted for Trump, but it wasn’t enough. And as Biden’s rise — and historic lead — suggests, what held others back wasn’t just a dislike of veteran politicians, or a desire for a democratic socialist, or a yearning for an outsider. Clinton is not perfect, but neither was the man she lost to in 2016, nor the man she made the case for Wednesday night. America was taught to see her flaws, but not her strengths. That’s not been a problem for the men she’s run against.

“I think there’s a lot of sexism in the way they went after Hillary,” Biden said in January. “I think it was unfair. An awful lot of it. Well, that’s not gonna happen with me.”

He was right.”