Clinton Blew It -- Years Ago

Can't say Hillary Clinton wasn't warned.

Can't say Hillary Clinton wasn't warned. Heck, I warned her, five years ago. In September 2003, months before Democrats rallied around Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry as their 2004 nominee, I wrote for BusinessWeek Online that if she really wanted to be the first woman U.S. President, her moment had arrived. To think she could bide her time and walk effortlessly into the White House in 2008 was "foolish," I cautioned. "The scrapheap of politics is littered with the ambitions of those who thought they could bide their time or wait their turn for a Presidential run." Ted Kennedy, Mario Cuomo, Bob Dole, the list is long.

Of this much I am certain. She had her chance four years ago -- and she blew it. If Clinton had run against George Bush in 2004, she would be president today. Think about it. The 2004 Democratic nomination virtually fell into the lap of Kerry, a relative unknown nationally who was deemed the only safe, sane choice by the party establishment.The rest of the field was remarkably weak (Howard Dean? Wesley Clark?). There was no phenomenon named Barack Obama (that lightning bolt wasn't to strike until the 2004 convention, when Obama first electrified Democratic partisans with his soaring oratory, and planted the seed for his 2008 run).

As it turned out, Kerry narrowly lost to an incumbent president who was highly vulnerable because of an unpopular war and a weak economy. Hillary Clinton had the as-yet-untarnished marquee name, the fundraising prowess and the charged-up following to handily defeat Bush. The magic moment had arrived, and she ignored it. In contrast, Barack Obama had no such blind spot. All the things that were said about him at the beginning of the 2008 race (too green, not enough Washington experience, untested) were uttered about Clinton in 2004. But Obama felt the magic, and acted on it.

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Will Hillary Clinton's time come again? I doubt it. The unseemly maneuverings of the Clintons to push Obama into naming her as his running mate attest to her unquenched ambitions of both the former First Lady and her husband and ex-President Bill. If Obama doesn't relent and then loses to John McCain, you can almost hear her nomination argument for 2012. I would have beaten McCain, she will say. Woulda, shoulda, coulda. Biding your time and waiting your turn is no way to get to the White House. Let 2008 stand as a lesson for all future presidential wannabes. The office chooses you. You don't choose the office.

Douglas Harbrecht
New Media Director,
Harbrecht joined Kiplinger in March 2006 from, where he served as senior and executive editor. Prior to that, he worked in the Washington bureau of the magazine, now BloombergBusinessweek, covering policy, politics and economics. He holds a BA degree from Binghamton University and an MA in journalism from the University of Missouri. He was 1998 President of the National Press Club and a 2010 Kiplinger fellow in social media study at Ohio State University.