Finley: For Clinton, task goes beyond winning

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Democrats must be feeling mighty smug coming into Philadelphia his week for their national convention.

Having watched the Republican Party’s chronic dysfunction on big stage display in Cleveland last week, Democrats have to believe that Hillary Clinton is on a smooth glide to the White House.

Clinton seems so confident of her ability to defeat Donald Trump that she has done nothing to address her own astronomically high negatives, sticking instead to a focused and relentless assault on the character of her GOP opponent.

She apparently doesn’t feel compelled to address that both FBI Director James Comey and a House investigative committee have exposed her as a bona fide liar. She seems undisturbed by poll numbers that say a majority of Americans don’t trust her to lead the country, don’t find her truthful, and think she should be headed to a courtroom.

Keeping the target on Trump’s character flaws rather than addressing her own may be a winning strategy for November — who can say what will work in this weird election cycle?

But her view should be longer than Election Day. Winning the presidency should not be her ultimate goal. It should be becoming a president who can unite and lead a fractured and discontented nation.

With stronger than usual third party candidates in the field, Clinton’s percentage of voter support, if she does win, assuredly will be among the smallest in presidential history. Forget about the electoral college, which she should win handily. Her popular vote may be far lower than many losing candidates in recent elections.

If her focus is solely on winning at any cost, and not on restoring her own reputation, leading an American people who don’t respect her enough to follow will be impossible.

“What are her two issues? She’s not trustworthy and people don’t like her,” says Howard Edleson, a Democratic consultant from Ann Arbor. “Which is the easier of the two to fix? I think it’s likeability.”

And that’s what Edleson thinks her mission should be in Philadelphia.

“She should stick to positive messaging and vision for the future,” he says. “There are enough surrogates out there who will beat up on Trump. Her job will be to show a softer, kinder, gentler Hillary, and one who is experienced and accomplished.”

As for rebuilding trust, Edleson says that’s a longer term effort, and is accomplished through incremental actions.

“That will always dog her,” he says. “The Clintons have always had self-inflicted issues that center around trust. Can she break that? I don’t know.”

One sure way, of course, would be to stop lying, admit to her past deceptions and conduct herself in a manner that is far less coldly calculating, paranoid and obsessive of power.

Those characteristics didn’t stop Richard Nixon from winning the White House, twice. But they destroyed his presidency.

And they may not keep Hillary Clinton from winning in November, particularly against an opponent as flawed as Donald Trump.

But if she brings them with her to the White House, they will destroy her as well.

Nolan Finley’s book “A Little Red Hen: A Collection of Columns from Detroit’s Conservative Voice” is available from Amazon, iBooks and Barnes & Noble Nook.