Hillary Clinton stepped up to the microphone on Tuesday and flopped.
Don't take my word for it -- I didn't watch her news conference -- take it from the coverage from the political left, right and center that followed her question-and-answer session at the UN about her use of private email as secretary of state, and her unchecked deletion of much of it. The general take-away: The slick Clinton games never end. Can America endure four or eight more years of them?
Republicans are no doubt enjoying the moment. The presumed Democratic nominee for president is having a tough time getting out of the blocks, and her campaign team, uncharacteristically, has that deer-in-the-headlights look. After six years of President Barack Obama, Republicans are anxious to reclaim the White House, and Clinton isn't looking nearly as invincible as she did six months ago.
But Republicans, and moderates for that matter, need to be careful what they ask for, because Hillary Clinton wouldn't be the worst Democrat to lose to should the GOP fail to capture the White House next year. I, for one, would give my eyeteeth to have Hillary Clinton as president today instead of Obama.
The Clintons are often accused of standing for nothing other than their own self-interest. I don't know if that's true, but I do know that the Clintons are a practical pair. Bill Clinton co-opted -- I can't stand the term "triangulated" -- much of the Republican agenda and rhetoric during the latter part of his presidency, at one point even proclaiming that "the era of big government is over." (The next two presidents more than tripled federal debt since those words were spoken in 1996, from $5 trillion to $18 trillion.) It said a lot about how the Clintons roll.
Mr. and Mrs. have a special talent for holding a finger in the air and sensing where the national zeitgeist is blowing. They know what the collective public wants, and it behooves them as pragmatists to provide it.
Obama, on the other hand, is an ideologue. He thinks he knows better than the public -- he knows he knows better. The man who doesn't believe in American exceptionalism very much believes in intellectual elitism, with him standing atop its pedestal.
The American people didn't want Obamacare. He knew better. Seventy-one percent of Americans are dubious about Obama's negotiations with Iran (Wall Street Journal/NBC poll). He knows better. Fifty-three percent oppose his plan to unilaterally legalize undocumented immigrants (Rasmussen Reports). He knows better, again.
It's how Obama rolls.
He has turned out to be what Republicans feared the Clintons might be 20 years ago -- unrestrained, intellectually elitist liberals. But after the demise of "Hillarycare," the Clintons showed that they are willing to take a step back and listen to what the public wants -- at least to what it wants to hear -- which is a good thing, even if it's in the Clinton's own self-interest.
Hillary Clinton still looks like the 2016 Democratic nominee for president. But that can change in the blink of an eye. One or two more stumbles and the Democratic primary race could be blown wide open. God knows who might sneak in in her place this time.
As things stand, Republicans and moderates have a reason to feel hopeful about 2016. They should hope they stay this way.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant.