Elizabeth Warren was walking with one of her aides between her Hart Senate Building office and the elevators. She was in conversation, but her eyes met mine when she was about 30 feet away. She kept talking as she walked, but kept almost continuous eye contact with me as she approached.
When she was about five feet away, she interrupted her own conversation. “Hi, how are you?” she said with a smile. She didn’t slow down, and immediately after passing me, she continued the conversation with her aide. The rhythm of that exchange, the glint in her eye, the slight smile, and the extended connection combine for what campaign consultants call a “hot connect.”
No real information was exchanged — only feelings, affirmation and endorsement.
Bill Clinton is the modern master of the hot connect. My son and I went to Mac Court to see him when he campaigned for Bill Bradbury. He ended his time by pressing the flesh, and I mean that literally. I left impressed at how fleshy his hand was. My son was thrilled to have touched a sitting president. Hundreds left with the same impression. Add to that — and this is important — we all left Mac Court believing Clinton enjoyed himself.
Clinton’s wife Hillary is not known for her ability to make that hot connect. She much prefers the intellectual exchange, also known as the “cold connect.” She excels at winning arguments, but I don’t believe she would have made anything but momentary eye contact if she had been the one walking toward me in the Hart hallway.
That doesn’t make her a bad person — only a bad politician.
The conversation with her aide would have been what mattered to her, deserving her undivided attention. You couldn’t successfully argue with her otherwise. She’d win the argument but lose the voter.
During a New Hampshire debate in 2008, Barack Obama famously reassured her, “You’re likable enough,” but he may have already been thinking about her as his Secretary of State.
Hillary could be a very good president, but not unless she’s first a successful presidential candidate. That’s where most of the doubt lies.
Last week’s imbroglio was about her emails during her tenure as Secretary of State is the same drama we’ve seen play out over and over again. She obviously prizes her privacy and no one can blame her, after all she’s been through.
But privacy isn’t one of the perks afforded a president of the United States — even less so a candidate for the job. We can’t ask her to give up her privacy, but we can ask her to find a different line of work that will fit her comforts better.
No Democrat dares to run against her for the 2016 nomination, but she and other Democrats know the party would benefit from a campaign that sharpens talking points and raises awareness. No Democrat wants to oppose a woman seeking the highest office in the land, much less one who has coveted the job for her whole adult life.
But there might be a way.
Only three Democrats have the star-power to share the stage with Hillary Clinton: Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and Al Gore. Experts think only Warren can realistically raise enough money to mount a credible challenge, although Gore is now richer than Mitt Romney, so that offers a new sort of intrigue.
But what if one of them could gain Hillary’s consent to challenge her? No one would be asked to throw the match, because both would recognize the winner will be strengthened by the competition. If Hillary could be protected from the downside of losing, she might welcome the struggle with uncharacteristically open arms.
Her devotion to public service is genuine, so what job would give her that comfort?
Imagine Hillary Clinton as a Supreme Court justice — fighting for verdicts behind closed doors, shaping the nation’s direction for the rest of her active life. It could happen only if a president pledged absolute loyalty all the way to a Senate floor vote, but then Hillary would have what Hillary really wants: public service, job security, and near-absolute secrecy.
Don Kahle (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs.