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The Inevitable End of the Prototypical Liberal Presidential Candidate

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
WASHINGTON -- What is it like in the Clinton household now that the last prototypical liberal presidential candidate has lost her run for the White House? Hillary the Inevitable? I attempted to correct that mediawide delusion months ago, as I did in 2008. Where is my Pulitzer?

Close students of presidential politics, such as the eminent Michael Barone and Charles Krauthammer, know that liberals go to painful lengths to live up to their prototypical image. They have studied it assiduously and made occasional alterations as the prototype changes with the times, adding and subtracting attributes always subject to public tastes. Inevitably, the goal is the same: to create a candidate who is fundamentally irresistible.

At first, the prototypical liberal candidate was an intellectual who cared enormously for the poor. Recall, if you will, the late Woodrow Wilson -- professor Woodrow Wilson -- and the late Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Being an intellectual presented no problem for Wilson, but it did for the philistine Roosevelt. He overcame his lack of intellectual heft with a nocturnal resort to martinis and several fine speechwriters, plus an in-house poet or playwright.

Other ingredients of the prototypical liberal presidential candidate were boldness and being eternally youthful regardless of age. Think of John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton. Being highly cultured also seemed to matter, which presented no problem for Kennedy thanks to his wife, who spoke French and even ate French. But cultural interests tripped up Clinton, so he and his wife confused the issue by conflating cultural interests with nerdiness.

Then there was athleticism, which was a late arrival to the prototypical liberal presidency. Athleticism almost killed Jimmy Carter. Remember his ill-fated 10K run, and the time he foolishly jogged around the top deck of a riverboat? Flap, flap went his shoes. It was 6:00 a.m., and the rest of the boat was asleep! Then there were Bill Clinton and his sidekick Al Gore, who were rendered absurd when they snarled traffic in the nation's capital by running through rush-hour traffic in what appeared to be their underpants. Even the war hero, Jean-Francois Kerry, looked stupid windsurfing and skateboarding, and there was that dreadful mishap on his bicycle.

Clinton, of course, was the ultimate prototypical liberal presidential candidate. He cared for the down and out, was an intellectual, bold and athletic, and played a musical instrument. If I recall, it was a saxophone or a banjo. He had it all. He was charismatic and then some. The girls loved him, even after his impeachment.

But now his oafish wife has brought liberalism -- actually, crude left-wingery -- to a pretty low ebb. The Clinton machine is challenging the vote in Wisconsin. I doubt it will do more than demonstrate what a botch Hillary Clinton has proven to be for the present-day inheritors of liberalism, though my agents who have utterly infiltrated the Clinton camp tell me that the Clintons are going to give it one more try.

Even now, Hillary Clinton is resurrecting her profound concern for the nation's urchins. She has spoken to the Children's Defense Fund and is again contemplating a late-in-life pregnancy, as she did back in her White House days. Bill Clinton comes into their Chappaqua home after a well-received morning latte with his arms full of books, and he warms up the family chessboard. Hillary Clinton reads stuff like Albert Camus (she adores his sense of humor), E.E. Cummings and the complete Norman Mailer. She is also reading books on how to avoid prosecution for Clinton Foundation fraud and mishandling intelligence documents, though these last tomes she does not read in public. Mozart sounds throughout the house, and in the evening the Clintons invite Huma Abedin over to hear recordings by John Cage after they have said their vespertine prayers to NPR's "All Things Considered."

They are trying out all the elements of the prototypical liberal presidential candidacy -- the intellectual stuff, the athleticism (yoga for her, Pilates for him). And occasionally, she limbers up her right arm by heaving a lamp or a vase. I do believe it is all quite hopeless. The only thing inevitable about her is retirement.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the author most recently of "The Death of Liberalism," published by Thomas Nelson, Inc. To find out more about R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at


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