U.S. presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has joked that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ability to be confident in being re-elected is attractive, but at the same time made her feelings about the Russian leader clear in a critical remark about him.
“I don’t admire very much about Mr. Putin, but the idea you can stand up and say ‘I will be your next president’? That has a certain, you know, attraction to it,” the former secretary of state joked during a question-and-answer session following her address on the Iran nuclear deal at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Sept. 9.
Sure, it was intended as a joke and a dig at Russia’s sketchy electoral practices. In fact it’s a big mistake, and say much more about Hillary and her campaign than she would probably like to acknowledge. There are two reasons for this:
- There are a million bored web content providers out there (they like to think of themselves as journalists, but we all know the truth) who are going to jump on the presence of “Putin” and “attractive” in one sentence and write cheeky articles, much like that one above. I’ve done this job. I know how it works.
- There is, in fact, only one thing preventing Clinton from announcing to the US electorate that she will be the next President: her own inability to control the narrative. Sure, it’s lovely to be self-deprecating if you’re a retired healthcare activist and grandmother. If you’re hoping to be President, however, you need to own the discourse, something that Hillary is terrible at doing (Donald Trump – sometime tv clown and trust fund baby – is justifiably confident that debating Clinton will be “easy”). You can bitch all you like about Russian electoral irregularities, but even the most objective poll data has Putin hovering consistently around 80% – and that’s largely because of his success in controlling the political narrative. And this raises subsequent questions. When President Hillary has to negotiate tariffs and subsidies with the Chinese, will she stand up and say ‘you will accept our offer’? Or is she just going to phone up Vladimir Putin and ask him what she should do?