Not long after I became press secretary for U.S. Sen. Russell Long in 1985, one of his old friends, former U.S. Rep. Joe D. Waggonner, gave me some advice. “Russell is 66,” the retired Shreveport-area congressman reminded me. “Don’t try to change him. He is what he is. Work with what you got.”

That was wise counsel. Waggonner knew that a cocky, 26-year-old former political writer might think he knew more about press relations than a man who had served in the Senate since 1948. Indeed, I sometimes thought I could teach the old dog new tricks. What I quickly learned was that Waggonner was right. I might nibble around the edges, but it was no use trying to turn Long into something he was not. His personality was set. During 36 years in Congress, he had managed nicely without the benefit of my sterling counsel.

My conversation with Waggonner came to mind this week as Hillary Clinton’s troubles with Donald Trump continued making news. If you believe the polls, the race between the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees is a toss-up. Some Clinton supporters – and others simply terrified of a Trump presidency – are offering advice for turning around her campaign.

There is no question she could perform better. For evidence, look no further than her continuing struggles with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won’t win the nomination, but continues to highlight her personal and political shortcomings.

Then, there’s the criticism that Clinton simply isn’t “authentic” enough. In December 2014, I was among those who critiqued her as “wooden in manner and instinctively cautious and guarded. I’m not sure who she inspires, but it’s not me.” I’m not the first or last to note this obvious fact.

Others criticize Clinton because she is not lighthearted. “Can you tell me what Hillary Clinton does for fun?” New York Times columnist David Brooks asked recently. “We know what Obama does for fun – golf, basketball, etc. We know, unfortunately, what Trump does for fun.

“But when people talk about Clinton, they tend to talk of her exclusively in professional terms,” Brooks added. In other words, she is one dimensional, “industrious, calculated, goal-oriented, distrustful.”

Others are brutally specific. In Mother Jones magazine, writer Kevin Drum criticized the quality of Clinton’s voice, an attack Trump has also leveled. Drum quoted a friend, with whom he agreed: “Listen, I like Hillary a lot but she has got to stop this shouting bull—-. It comes across as insincere and phony.” Drum added: “The shouting is part of it but the other part (in victory speeches and ordinary stump speeches) is that she never has anything remotely interesting to say.”

Even some Clinton staffers have worried to reporters about their candidate’s personality challenges. The New York Times reported in April 2015 that Clinton had hired a former aide to First Lady Michelle Obama to oversee an image rehab. As reporter Amy Chozick noted, “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 Obama famously quipped in 2008.

You get the idea: The received wisdom among pundits and political experts is that Clinton needs an extreme personality makeover.

Perhaps, but there are profound problems with such advice.

Continue reading on at this link.

6 thoughts on “Does Hillary Clinton need an extreme personality makeover?

  1. It’s not personality, either with Clinton or with Trump. It’s character, a word Newspeak has almost erased from our language. Both candidates are irretrievably selfish and hungry for power for its own sake—for how it will make them feel, with what it will do for them privately. Neither seems to have a moral framework, a conception of purpose and good, that transcends her or his own ends. You’re right: no one can change that. No frosting will make that cake taste good.

    The thought of Waggoner and Long emphasizes the nasty puniness of Clinton and Trump. Absolute purity of position is rare in politics, which requires compromise of means and sometimes ends, But a people should be able to expect purity of purpose in their governors, a vision that focuses on the good of the nation. And right now—after this present administration and its selfish, divisive identity politics, the nation needs high-mindedness and hymns, not the hog wallow of two unrefinable, self-seeking moral midgets. No make-up can disguise either.


  2. I am old enough to have actually known Joe D. Waggonner. He was a friend of my father’s and his son, David, was a classmate and friend of mine in high school, as was his daughter Carol Jean. They don’t make them like Mr. Waggonner anymore. He was a true class act and his advice was sound.

    Like most everybody else, I have wished Hillary Clinton could come across as more genuine and it isn’t like she always shouts platitudes in her speeches. Her recent attacks on Donald Trump have come across as sincere and both tone and content.

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  3. The reality is she is just dull. But that is not a disqualification. As for campaigning, she should just embrace her awkwardness and make fun of it herself. That is what’s missing—her ability to laugh at herself. To laugh at oneself takes humility, and until she can demonstrate humility she will always be cursed with the “lack of personality” issue.


  4. It’s fascinating that some people overlook Trump’s bizarre appearance with his crazy, dyed hair and a face full of badly done, runny makeup and white raccoon-y eyes, but a mature woman with the honest wrinkles and signs of normal aging is called insulting names. Some people just love Trump’s bombast, constant yelling, insults to everyone who is not kissing his butt, his vulgarity, inappropriate remarks about his daughter’s body and wanting to date her, serial adultery, but have fits when Hillary is firm and decisive, and hits back when attacked.

    Trump is more than just a schoolyard bully, he is vindictive and destructive. He is a pathological liar, a narcissist, probably has borderline personality disorder, and totally lacking in common courtesy. He does not want to do the hard work of being president, he just wants the title (hence looking for a “vice president candidate who can do the work he doesn’t want to do,” according to his campaign manager.) My guess is he would walk away from it early, like Sarah Palin, who did not even complete her first term as governor.

    But Hillary Clinton’s flaws are that she is boring, she is not fun, she shouts (but it’s fine for Trump to shout at everyone), is insincere, not funny, her voice is unpleasant, her clothes are frumpy, etc. etc. etc. Oh, and she wears pantsuits. Well, so do I, and a lot of other women. In fact, I have not worn a skirt suit in over a decade. Maybe two.

    Hillary is not lighthearted and fun. Aw, shucks, do we know what Trump does for fun? Looks like he figures out ways to cheat people out of money and sleeps with women who are not his wives.

    Men get a pass for disreputable appearance and behavior; women get raked over the coals when they are not sweet, compliant and dressed in ruffles and lace.

    Like everyone, Hillary is also flawed, but her deficits are not as horrifying as Trump’s. At least, unlike Trump, she knows how to behave in public.


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