Hillary Clinton and the Power of Relentless Policy Tedium

Since joining the staff of The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza has generally been tearing things up. But I think this, from his Hillary piece in the current issue, is my favorite paragraph he’s written since starting at the magazine:

Unlike Hubert Humphrey, Al Smith, or even her husband, Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail has never been able to project the image of the happy warrior. There is now, and has always been, a certain joylessness in her bearing. She has been trying to make discipline a selling point since her first “listening tour” of New York State, in the months before she ran for the United States Senate—a device designed to portray tireless commitment to voters suspicious of her carpetbagging and celebrity. After landing in Columbus, the campaign entourage headed by motorcade to Zanesville, a town of about twenty-five thousand, sixty miles away, for what was billed as an economic “summit.” The ninety-minute conversation among Clinton and fourteen politicians and business and labor leaders, and Ohioans with hard-luck stories, had all the drama of a Senate committee hearing. Some no doubt found the discussion riveting, but at one point the former Ohio senator and Mercury astronaut John Glenn, a panelist, was either very deep in thought about college loans, or fast asleep. Scores of audience members were similarly benumbed and fled the event before it was over. But Clinton seemed confident about the electoral power of relentless policy tedium. It was as if the sheer display of iron-pantsed discussion would further underscore her insistent theme: the hollowness of Obama’s charisma. When one speaker offered encomiums to Clinton rather than economic prescriptions, she gently reprimanded her, saying, “We’re going to put a moratorium on compliments.” Then, with the bonhomie of a high-school health teacher, she turned the conversation back toward government programs to help people “quit smoking, to get more exercise, to eat right, to take their vitamins.”

I think this pretty much nails it, but, as a footnote, what seems odd to me is that, with all of Clinton’s policy-wonk bona fides, you’d think she’d be a hit with the wonks of the world. Yet I just don’t see very much of that.