Bob Franken


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After Joe Biden announced that he wouldn’t be joining the Democratic fray, I was asked on TV if it meant that Hillary Clinton was “unstoppable” in her march to the party nomination. Overlooking the fact that Bernie Sanders is quite an obstacle, the reality is that there are all kinds of ways that Hillary could fall flat on her face and not get up.
First of all, it’s way too early to draw any conclusions about anything, certainly about inevitability. The first Iowa caucuses are more than three months away, the nominating convention nine months in the distance, and the general election is over a year forward to the future.
It is certainly true that Hillary is on a hot streak. She performed like a champ in the first Democratic presidential debate, and then before the House Benghazi committee, she took the Republican assailants, chewed ’em up and spit ’em out. She didn’t even have to bob and weave as they flailed away. In fact, as they came across as petulant children, she would occasionally taunt them, like telling one aggressive questioner, Jim Jordan, a hard-right Republican from Ohio, “I’m sorry it doesn’t fit your narrative, Congressman, I can only tell you what the facts are.”
It went on for the better part of 11 hours, but it was her inquisitors who got turned inside out. They didn’t draw any blood, except maybe their own. All the GOP members could sputter at the end is that they will continue with their investigation. But all they accomplished with their marathon confrontation with Hillary was to enhance her chances of becoming president.

In truth, the biggest obstacle to Hillary Clinton might just be Hillary Clinton. But that doesn’t mean that the issue is now “old news,” as the Clinton people like to say when they’re dissing some controversy or another. The polls show that she’s back on course, but there are still those emails lurking, just waiting to be leaked by one investigator or another. The fact that they are even an issue is a reflection on her discomfort with undergoing the kind of relentless scrutiny that public officials must endure, the constant questioning from those of us who aren’t necessarily the brightest intellects.
To put it bluntly, she doesn’t suffer us fools very well at all. She’s surrounded herself with hyperprotective guards who too often bow and scrape before her, while doing whatever it takes to annihilate anyone who dares challenger her. All too often she and they have tried to deflect an inconvenient question by dissembling, or by disdain.
The paradoxical result is that they raise suspicions, the kind that her political enemies can exploit. Besides that, us riffraff journalists are used to being treated like lowlifes, so we’ll persist with our skepticism, at least some of us will. The others aren’t really reporters who understand that we’re supposed to be disliked.
So yes, Joe Biden has pulled out of the race. His pain over the loss of his son is easy to understand. But as he and his family heal, he might have the strength to reconsider if all the poking reveals some egregious scandal that can cause Hillary to fall off her pedestal. The Republicans are certainly not going away, in Congress or out. The press isn’t either. If there is a “there” there, someone will find it. If her backers can’t spin her way out of it, then suddenly the party might be seeking a rescuer, a knight in shining armor to take over when the leader falls.
Who might that be? Bernie Sanders? His campaign has inspired the left. But most Americans are centrists. Like Joe Biden. And Hillary Clinton. She’s survived the flak she’s gotten so far, but now she must solidify her gains and avoid the traps she might set for herself.

© 2015 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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