WASHINGTON – The Greeks have a word for it. When Ronald Reagan moved into the White House, a top aide, Michael Deaver, gave out campaign-style buttons to Reagan’s brand-new staff that read “Beware Hubris.” Hubris is the Greek word for towering overconfidence.
Hillary and Bill Clinton should be pondering that word. But they’re not – and they have been there before.
In 2008, Hillary Clinton had the resume, the platform as the unstoppable senator from Chappaqua and Embassy Row, and she benefited from her husband’s business alliances. She already had, according to CNN Money, amassed a personal fortune of $34.9 million.
Hillary Clinton was, and is, a feminist icon. She would simply stroll into the Democratic presidential nomination and succeed a lame-duck Republican president made unpopular because of a war she supported.
Then this rail-thin African-American community organizer from Chicago began a move on her, ostensibly from the left, and history was made.
Toughened by that disappointment, Hillary shows every sign of securing the Oval Office in 2016, even as both Clintons seemingly nailed down the Obamas’ support in a private dinner March 1 and then paid tribute to John F. Kennedy as a quartet on Thursday.
So, how inevitable can another Clinton presidency be? And yet, circumstances can change, particularly where overconfidence – hubris – beckons. For example, when the former president put the knife between President Obama’s ribs at the lowest point in his presidency. Essentially Bill Clinton made Obama out to be a liar by calling on him to live up to his 2009 promise that Americans could keep their health insurance if they like it.
A larger change in the environment is the terrible recession created in part by Wall Street banking and investment fraud that has left its most lurid scars on legacy Democratic voting blocks – African-Americans and Hispanics – and on the young.
The causes of this misery visited on the most vulnerable Americans cannot have escaped Hillary Clinton. Yet she has signed on “exclusively” as a paid public speaker with the Harry Walker Agency, which has helped raise millions in fees for such luminaries as former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Harvard president Lawrence Summers.
Who has the ready cash to pay Walker’s stable? Among them, Wall Street investment houses. Eyebrows are being raised by stories in the New York Times and the blog Politico over fees Hillary Clinton received from Goldman Sachs over six days last month – an estimated $400,000. National Review Online reported she made paid visits to the private investment houses Carlyle Group and KKR. She is also billed to address the Vancouver, B.C., Board of Trade.
Little wonder that a boomlet among progressives for a new Democrat – a consumerist, a freshman senator and a woman – is catching thermals as the un-Hillary. The alternative, of course, is Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, whose work in the Obama administration led to creation of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Warren is a militant advocate of controls over self-dealing by the very investment houses that helped trigger the Great Recession of 2008. She says she isn’t running now for president. But Warren’s rhetoric is dependably populist. In a recent floor speech opposing the president’s notion of limiting the inflation payments on Social Security, she proposed augmenting the payments.
“Over the past generation,” Warren said, “working families have been hacked at, chipped and hammered. If we want a real middle class – a middle class that continues to serve as the backbone of our country – then we must take the retirement crisis seriously. We support the right of every person to retire with dignity.”