By Robert Mann
It’s makeover time on the nascent Hillary Clinton for President campaign.
The New York Times reported recently that Clinton has hired a former aide to First Lady Michelle Obama, Kristina Schake, to help freshen up her image. After more than two decades on the national stage, the Times reported, “Mrs. Clinton must try to show voters a self-effacing, warm and funny side that her friends say reflects who she really is. In short, she must counteract an impression that she is just ‘likeable enough,’ as [then Sen. Barack] Obama famously quipped in 2008.”
Although someone close to Clinton told the Times’ reporter that Clinton has no need for a “life coach,” it’s obvious that Clinton, like any candidate, must consider her image as she begins formally running for president.
As another New York Times’ reporter noted, the future candidate “has been exposed to the full view of the American electorate in one capacity or another for some 20 years now, but the politicians, no less than the voters, are still having trouble disengaging his intertwined assets and liabilities.” In fact, that was an observation from a February 1967 Times story about Richard Nixon, the then-former vice president who had lost the 1960 presidential campaign to John F. Kennedy and was plotting his political comeback.
It’s striking how much Nixon and Clinton have in common. They spent years in the shadows of more popular, charismatic politicians (Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Clinton/Obama). They both lost their first presidential campaigns to younger, more charismatic challengers. Their images, as they began their second White House bids, were indelibly etched in the public’s mind.
Nixon was the shady, press-averse loser – “Tricky Dick” – who followed up his 1960 presidential defeat with a humiliating loss in the 1962 California governor’s race. He was so thoroughly crushed by Pat Brown – father of current California Gov. Jerry Brown – that he left the stage with this bitter farewell to a press corps he despised, “You don’t have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”
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