If you had a minute with Hillary Clinton, would you give her advice on how to win the White House?
David Axelrod, the man who some say made Barack Obama president, likes to toss unsolicited “advice” to Hillary Clinton, some of which could be interpreted as trying to throw her under the campaign bus.
First, both he and the president suggested that Americans are going to want a “new car smell” in their next president, a not so subtle suggestion that Hillary isn’t the latest model on the block. But then, Axelrod seemed to contradict himself by saying that if Hillary is a 2016 presidential candidate, that she should steer clear of the common wisdom about distancing herself from the current president, and embrace his legacy!
That is some serious counter-intuitive advice if I’ve ever heard it and a clear sign that if Axelrod isn’t still saying outrageous things just to sell his new book, then he’s still channeling that love/hate relationship he has with both Clintons.
While I’m pretty sure that Hillary knows better than to take any advice from Axelrod, not even for a restaurant recommendation or a movie choice, I’ve got some better ideas she should think about between now that we’re in 2016 debate season White House run:
1. Embrace the double XX. In 2008, Hillary was advised to downplay the “I could be the first woman president” card. We all know that didn’t work out so well. So this time, Hillary, you need to play that card because it will get you some votes you didn’t get last time — GOP women. No not all of them, but there is a large segment of women regardless of political party who are just tired of the all boys club.
2. Embrace the grandma. I know I don’t have to convince you on this one. While few mentioned Mitt Romney’s brood of grandchildren as a liability, once Chelsea announced she was pregnant, the media frenzy started over whether or not we could imagine a grandmother in the Oval Office. Instead of ignoring this ridiculousness, I say you should go full on grammy. After all, there are already Facebook groups dedicated to your supporters who are grandparents! By the time it’s 2016, Charlotte will be walking and the photo-op of her toddling with you on stage at the Democratic National Convention will only help you.
3. Embrace our Oprah-fied world. No, I don’t mean hang out with Oprah. I know she’s probably not your favorite person after she used her huge media platform to support Barack Obama in 2008. What I mean is this — you have what NO ONE who has ever run for president has ever had. You have deep contacts and existing relationships with so many in the Senate, and numerous foreign leaders that will give you a crazy head start on getting things done and, dare I say, actual compromise on Capital Hill. No spending the first couple of years of your presidency introducing yourself to people you need to deal with to get things done. There is no need to reinvent yourself as someone who has the gravitas and the personal contacts to be the leader of the free world. You’ve been nourishing and cultivating those personal relationships since you were first lady, the ones that Oprah is famous for telling us we need to succeed. So you go, girl.
4. Only the media have Hillary fatigue. Don’t pay attention to those stories about Hillary fatigue. Most people in this country are still not focused on the 2016 election (notwithstanding the craziness if the GOP debates) and won’t be until sometime next year. The only ones truly focused on November 2016 at this point are the ones who make a living writing about it and the ones who want to keep people from seeing you as a viable 2016 contender. We have fatigue, alright. It’s just with writers and politicos who want to tell us what to think.
5. Keep Elizabeth Warren close. No, she’s not going to run. I am guessing you’ve had that conversation with her. But you have to watch out for the Elizabeth Warren fan club. Members will do whatever the can to make it seem like she’s a candidate so that you worry about her. Keep her close and use those Oprah-like skills in the relationship department. I bet Elizabeth Warren wouldn’t mind a cabinet post in your administration.
6. Keep Bill on a short leash. The rumors are already starting to fly about Bill’s “extracurriculars.” I don’t believe he would do anything to jeopardize your shot at the White House. Plus, it’s not a good visual to see a doting grandfather doting on anyone outside his family. And he knows that. But still … better safe than sorry.
7. Show your real sense of humor. So your friends and family say you have a wicked sense of humor, but that it’s hard for you to show it on the campaign trail. Now is the time to be bold at that humor. You know, the ‘taking a selfie with Meryl Streep’ person. The ‘Texts from Hillary’ meme that you bought into with good humor. She’s even trying some on Twitter:
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 22, 2015
8. Find those middle of the road GOP women. No, you’re never going to win over the Mama Grizzlies. But trust me when I say there are Republican women voters who appreciate you and think you’d make a great president. I’m assuming you already have an adviser on your team telling you what you need to do to connect with enough of those GOP ladies. If not, it’s time!
10. Please don’t ever talk to Mark Penn again. You need someone who actually knows how to count electoral votes. ‘Nuf said.
11. Buy some “new car smell” perfume. What was meant to be a sly shorthand for the Obama team’s hope that you won’t succeed him by suggesting that anyone who’s been in the arena before (except maybe Joe Biden) should be left on the used car lot, got some media attraction. The media can’t help it — they love anything that’s a snappy soundbite. But you know what? Given how the economy has been for a long time, lots of voters own used cars and they’re pretty fond of them. You need a little spritzer of “New Car Smell” perfeume to have on hand at all times to remind people that there are worse things than buying a car that has some miles on it.
12. Define yourself and all your opinions. That’s right. Use this time now to nail down all your talking points on the issues, both major and minor. Then when the media say stupid s^#@ about you, or the GOP misinterprets and twists what you’ve said, you don’t have to waste any time. You just come back with, “You can say whatever you want, even if it’s not true, I’ve defined that for you already.” And once that defining is done, use that opportunity for a little humor (see point number 7). (Thank you to TBS contributor Kim Cottrell for this one!)
So Hillary, I know you didn’t ask for my advice. But if you make this list your own, I think you’ll be getting the best seat on Air Force One!
Joanne Bamberger is an independent journalist and journalism entrepreneur who is the editor in chief and publisher of The Broad Side. She is also the author/editor the book of Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox (Nov. 2015), a collection of essays from women writers on our collective, complicated feelings about the woman who wants to be our first female president. You can find Joanne on Twitter at @jlcbamberger. Follow the conversation about LHLHN with the hashtag #hillaryparadoxbook
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