Will Hillary Clinton Bring Change to Washington or Politics as Usual?

sen. hillary clinton  speaks at ...
sen. hillary clinton speaks at ...

There was something old in Hillary Clinton's official announcement for president recently. She carried in tow several old scandals -- with regards to her use of personal email to conduct government business and her role in the Benghazi attack while secretary of state. The old Hillary had been dogged by questions of campaign funding improprieties during her previous presidential run and, earlier, by Travelgate, in which she was suspected of lying about her part in the firing of the White House travel staff.

There was something new in the kinder and gentler demeanor she presented to the public, in contrast to the strident and more aggressive tone of her earlier campaign style.

There was something borrowed in the slickness of her announcement in the YouTube video. It echoed the slickness of Barack Obama's own campaign videos, which contained the cinematic crispness of the best TV commercials.

She wore, of course, a blue blazer in that video.

She didn't make it to the altar the last time around, but now she was ready to give it another shot.

Passing Fancy
Many Democratic voters were bitterly disappointed when Clinton surrendered her bid for the White House in 2008 and swung her support to Barack Obama. Obama had surged ahead in the primaries and too many polls suggested that she would lose anyway because Americans were still not ready for a woman president. So she had taken one for the team.

In the years that followed, as the Obama presidency dragged on and he became mired in relentless Republican attacks that completely undermined his effectiveness, voters began looking back wistfully at what could have been.

Quite tellingly, Clinton's recent announcement that she was running for president didn't bring about any ecstatic celebration or overwhelming feelings of euphoria among old supporters. It was more a sense of relief and appreciation, like meeting up again with an old lover and believing that this time the relationship could go much better: Supporters were ready to do the right thing and put a ring on it.

A Safe Bet
Unfortunately, Obama brought too much hope and a certain degree of naiveté to his first term in office; midway through his second term, he seems too disillusioned to continue the fight. He sees his end game as merely to survive to the final round and walk out of the ring with his dignity intact. He will not have won by a knockout, but he would still be champion by default.

If Obama's presidency taught us anything, it was that hope alone can't bring change. But if Clinton's political career offers us a lesson, it is that experience isn't always enough to bring about change either. It can sometimes mean playing it safe. Hillary Clinton is a survivor of the Washington wars; she has proven that she can get down and dirty with the best politician and come out intact. But she has never really been an innovator. Should she win the presidency, will she bring the magic that Obama sorely lacked in his many attempts to bring change -- or will she simply employ the old hocus pocus of the typical career politician?

If there is a lesson to be learned from the disillusioning futility of Barack Obama's struggle to create a legacy, it is that politics is just a game and the winner is the one who plays the game the best.

Clinton has a good chance of winning the presidency because she plays the game well. The question is, what is she playing it for?