by Max Brantley
I’ve come to call it “the Gap.” There is the Hillary Clinton I watch on the nightly news and that I read described in the press. She is careful, calculated, cautious. Her speeches can sound like executive summaries from a committee report, the product of too many authors, too many voices, and too much fear of offense.
The Iraq War mars her record, and the private email server and the Goldman Sachs paydays frustrate even her admirers. Polls show most Americans doubt her basic honesty. Pundits write columns with headlines like “Why Is Clinton Disliked?”
And then there is the Hillary Clinton described to me by people who have worked with her, people I admire, people who understand Washington in ways I never will. Their Hillary Clinton is spoken of in superlatives: brilliant, funny, thoughtful, effective. She inspires a rare loyalty in ex-staff, and an unusual protectiveness even among former foes.
“It’s always amusing to me that when I have a job, I have really high approval ratings,” Clinton said. “When I’m actually doing the work, I get reelected with 67 percent of the vote running for reelection in the Senate. When I’m secretary of state, I have a 66 percent approval rating.”
Her explanation for the Gap is simple enough. “There’s a lot of behavioral science that if you attack someone endlessly — even if none of what you say is true — the very fact of attacking that person raises doubts and creates a negative perspective,” she says. “As someone Exhibit A on that — since it has been a long time that I’ve been in that position — I get that.”