Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has a new memoir coming out in which he alleges, among other things, that Hillary Clinton opposed a 2007 troop surge in Iraq for political reasons. "Hillary told the president that her opposition to the surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary," Gates wrote.
That's hardly a flattering tidbit about the former senator and secretary of state. And some pundits are (wrongly) going so far as to say this is a potentially dire threat to Clinton's future electoral viability.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza argues that this may well "haunt" Clinton, because while voters understand politicians often make politically motivated decisions, they will treat this story differently because Clinton isn't your average politician.
But, remember this is Hillary Clinton we are talking about. And, the criticism that has always haunted her is that everything she does is infused with politics — that there is no core set of beliefs within her but rather just political calculation massed upon political calculation…Gates' version of why Clinton opposed the surge fits perfectly into this existing good-politics-makes-good-policy narrative about the former secretary of state. And that's what makes it dangerous for her — and why you can be sure she (or her people) will (and must) dispute Gates's recollection quickly and definitively. [Washington Post]
Yes, Clinton has often been accused of drifting with the political winds. But I'm skeptical that anyone in 2016 will truly care about — let alone remember — one line about years-old events in a score-settling memoir released during the doldrums of early 2014.
Voters care far more about the economy, health care, and a whole host of other issues than they do about all of America's foreign entanglements combined, per a recent Associated Press survey. Only 14 percent of respondents want the government to focus on Iraq and Afghanistan this year — half the number who want immigration front and center — and that number will only drop as the wars further wind down.
Plus, as Cillizza concedes, politicians make this sort of calculation all the time. The presidential primaries for both parties are a months-long process of candidates courting the base before shifting back to the center for the general election. Progressive Democratic primary voters and moderate general election voters may not love this new detail about Clinton, but will they really abandon her in droves over a rather run-of-the-mill bit of political cravenness?
And while Gates' memoir is reportedly chock full of administration bashing, even he has effusive praise for Clinton. "I found her smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world," he wrote.
So who might care about Clinton appearing to be no more than an M.C. Escher sketch of political calculations? Republicans — three-fourths of whom already don't like Clinton and were never going to vote for her anyway.
Republicans may well hammer Clinton with his story if she runs for president. But even then, it's unlikely to make many voters sour on Clinton — unless they were already opposed to her.