Hillary comes out of the shadows

The long reintroduction of Hillary Clinton to the American public as a presidential candidate is getting to look like the coming-out of a wealthy and spoiled debutante.

It began with a series of small, informal tea dances in the first 2016 caucus state of Iowa. She eschewed the customary swanky limousine for a luxury van, rolling into several small towns for cozy meetings with the "everyday Americans" to chat with and listen to them.


Preferring that she not to be distracted by the presence and ears of pesky reporters, the newly declared candidate essentially barred them and sloughed off their questions. She held no free-wheeling press conferences in the preliminary stages.

The grand plan, however, was abruptly thrown off the track by the disclosure that she had used a private e-mail account as secretary of state and had deleted those she deemed of a personal nature. Not surprisingly, suspicions were raised about her motivation by the press and by rival Republican candidates.


All this time, the new candidate and well-heeled Democratic frontrunner offered very little in the way of indicating the main issues on which she intended to lay her claim to her party's nomination. Finally, an announcement came that she would make her first major campaign speech in New York this Saturday.

It is to take place on Roosevelt Island off Manhattan, at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, which refers to his enumeration of the four freedoms all people ought to enjoy: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear. He invoked these in a speech during his first days in the White House, in the depth of the Great Depression.

The choice signals her intent to put a strong progressive stamp on her candidacy, aimed at the same wing of the party that her rival Barack Obama tapped into in 2008. After the speech, Ms. Clinton is to tour the key early caucus and primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire,Nevada and South Carolina.

Preliminarily, in a speech to a historically black college in Houston last week, she also signaled her intent as a Democrat to engage members of the large prospective field of Republicans poised to oppose her in the fall of 2016, if indeed she is the rival nominee.

She pointedly accused Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasichof Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey, along with former Govs. Rick Perry of Texas and Jeb Bush of Florida, of making it harder for minority, ethnic and young voters to cast ballots in their states. It was a clear bid to boost registration and participation in the election among groups who generally vote Democratic.

"What part of democracy are they afraid of?" she asked at Texas Southern University. "I believe every citizen has the right to vote and I believe we should do everything we can to make it easier for every citizen to vote." To that end, she called for automatic voter registration everywhere, with at least 20 days of early voting specified.

Mr. Walker shot back: "Hillary Clinton's rejection of efforts to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat not only defies logic but the will of the majority of Americans. Once again, Hillary Clinton's extreme views are far outside the mainstream."

In raising the issue of restricted voting rights, Ms. Clinton not only sought to throw the Republicans on the defensive. She also was engaging in a deft political gambit of focusing her fire on members of the opposition party rather than engaging in divisive scrapping with fellow Democrats who hope to stall her seemingly clear romp toward the party's nomination.


It's certainly wise right now for her to play nice in her own political playground, ignoring the real or prospective challenges of the likes of Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb. Better for her was picking a fight with the Republicans, and keeping the focus on herself in both races.

Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power" (Smithsonian Books). His email is