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Why Hillary is Ready

January 24, 2007

I’ve been asked, as one who has thrown her own hat in that particular ring, what advice I’d give to Hillary Clinton now that she’s announced her candidacy. But Hillary probably knows more about running for President of the United States than anybody on the planet. After all, she’s been up-close and personal to that experience. I am glad the long period of conjecture is over. It made me crazy because the Hillary Clinton I know never does anything unless she’s very well prepared and has briefed it every way to the moon. This is not a woman to go roaring out there thinking “Isn’t this fun?” She knows what’s in store for her—she has already met the Hillary Haters. And she loves being a senator from New York. She has dazzled everybody by her skills. She really is a wonderful broker in the Senate, a power figure, and will only get more so. If you’re a potential candidate for higher office, people tend to think you’re so shaking with drive and desire you can’t leave it alone. But Hillary Clinton does not do anything half-baked. It looks to me like she can be senator for as long as she wants to be, so the fact that she’s announced her candidacy for President means two things: she really thinks she can win and, more important, she really wants to do it. Because it’s not easy. It takes a tremendous amount of physical stamina, a lot of hard work. You grind down your staff pretty fast. It is a couple of years out of your life, and it’s hard on family. The real advice I have for anybody who would try it is that you have to have a fire in your gut. In my role as president of the Association of American Publishers, I talk to people every day who say, “I want to write a book.” I say, “Do you really? Do you have any idea how hard that is?” When I was making my decision in 1987 about running for president, there were seven guys out there who had been working on it for a long time. Gerry Ferraro had made her historic bid for Vice-President in ’84, and I looked at the field and said, “This is just crazy. There aren’t any women running.” But they don’t give you a discount for starting late, and I said clearly at the time, “If I can raise the money, I will go for this; but if I can’t, it’s crazy to go in there with your hands tied behind your back.” We did raise a lot—our small donors were wonderful—but not enough to be competitive. I thought it was amazing that I kept coming out third in the polls, but I also couldn’t figure out how to move beyond that. Visuals are so important in this country, and the public has had a problem visualizing a woman as leader. People would say to me, “It’s wonderful that you’re in this race. All the others dress alike and sound alike. But you know? You just don’t look presidential.” I think that’s changing. Also, for me, the big donors were just not on the horizon. I remember Shirley Chisholm telling me that when she ran, in 1972, people had said to her, “Oh, you really should run, Shirley, that would be great.” But when she went back to ask for money they said, “Oh, we didn’t mean we’d help you. We just thought it would be interesting.” That isn’t happening to Hillary. Today, women have moved much further up in the political arena, and she’s known the fat cats for a long time. She isn’t a shock to them the way I was. And one thing I’m sure of: Bill Clinton is already being much more supportive of Hillary than Bob Dole ever was when Elizabeth made her short run at the presidency. The next President of the United States, whoever it is, will have a terrible time, because we are in a very deep hole. This President doesn’t seem to know the First Law of Holes, which is, “when you’re in one, stop digging.” Iraq, Iran, the whole Middle East—we have messed everything up. Whoever is President next will have to call all the world leaders, and say, “I’m new. I’m different. I want to talk to you.” I wouldn’t have voted for the war in Iraq, but then I didn’t have 9/11 happen in my state, either. Hillary is asking very tough questions. To me, America has always been about hope, and in the ‘code-red-politics’ days they’ve tried to make it all about fear. I think Hillary Clinton can answer the fear part very effectively, and then move back to the hope. Patricia Schroeder, undefeated as a 12-term congresswoman from Colorado, ran for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination. She is now president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers.

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