David Frum

04.01.13

Why Democrats Don't Want Hillary for 2016

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images ()

From my CNN column: why Democrats shouldn't want Hillary to run in 2016:

Democrats seem poised to choose their next presidential nominee the way Republicans often choose theirs: according to the principle of "next in line."

Hillary Clinton came second in the nomination fight of 2008. If she were a Republican, that would make her a near-certainty to be nominated in 2016. Five of the past six Republican nominees had finished second in the previous round of primaries. (The sixth was George W. Bush, son of the most recent Republican president.)

Democrats, by contrast, prefer newcomers. Six of their eight nominees since 1972 had never sought national office before.

Obviously, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Democrats chose the next guy in line in 2000 -- Vice President Al Gore -- and they may well do so again. But speaking from across the aisle, it's just this one observer's opinion that Democrats would be poorly served by following the Republican example when President Obama's term ends.

Hillary Clinton is 14 years older than Barack Obama. A party has never nominated a leader that much older than his immediate predecessor. (The previous record-holder was James Buchanan, 13 years older than Franklin Pierce when the Democrats chose him in 1856. Runner-up: Dwight Eisenhower, 12 years older than his predecessor, Thomas Dewey.)

Parties have good reasons to avoid reaching back to politicians of prior generations. When they do, they bring forward not only the ideas of the past, but also the personalities and the quarrels of the past.

One particular quarrel that a Hillary Clinton nomination would bring forward is the quarrel over the ethical standards of the Clinton White House -- and, maybe even more, of the Clintons' post-White House careers. Relying on Hillary Clinton's annual financial disclosure reports, CNN reported last year that former President Bill Clinton had earned $89 million in speaking fees since leaving the White House in 2001. Many of these earnings came from foreign sources. In 2011 alone, the former president earned $6.1 million from 16 speeches in 11 foreign countries.

Is it an ethical problem for the husband of the person charged with the foreign affairs of the United States to earn so much foreign-sourced income? Let's rephrase that question: How much time do Democrats wish to spend arguing the ethics of Bill Clinton's foreign earnings over the 2016 political cycle?

Read the rest at CNN.