The Hills are Alive!


Here it is, folks: The most anticlimactic political announcement since Bob Dole announced he wouldn't run for president in 2000.

Hillary returns to Antarctica.

Whoops, sorry. Here it is:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton jumped into the 2008 presidential race yesterday, immediately squaring off against Senator Barack Obama and the rest of the Democratic field in what is effectively the first Democratic primary, the competition for campaign donations.

"I'm in," Mrs. Clinton said in an e-mail message to supporters early yesterday morning. "And I'm in to win."

If you think that frontrunners are announcing their presidential bids earlier and earlier, you're right. Gov. George W. Bush didn't announce his exploratory committee until March of 1999; Gov. Bill Clinton entered the presidential race in October 1991. Another change: The lack of substance in announcements. Look at this passage from George Bush's 1999 announcement message.

I've described myself as a compassionate conservative, because I am convinced a conservative philosophy is a compassionate philosophy that frees individuals to achieve their highest potential. It is conservative to cut taxes and compassionate to give people more money to spend. It is conservative to insist upon local control of schools and high standards and results; it is compassionate to make sure every child learns to read and no one is left behind. It is conservative to reform the welfare system by insisting on work; it's compassionate to free people from dependency on government. It is conservative to reform the juvenile justice code to insist on consequences for bad behavior; it is compassionate to recognize that discipline and love go hand in hand.

OK, we know this was the prelude to a presidency which has chiefly served to make Democrats feel less rotten about giving us Jimmy Carter. Still: Substance. Bush wanted to cut taxes, reform welfare, put kids in the slammer. He was a "conservative." Now, here's Hillary.

Let's talk about how to bring the right end to the war in Iraq and to restore respect for America around the world. How to make us energy independent and free of foreign oil. How to end the deficits that threaten Social Security and Medicare.And let's definitely talk about how every American can have quality affordable health care.

Yawn. No real conviction there, probably because when Hillary Clinton says "let's talk about health care," it's like George W. Bush saying "I want to hear everyone's plan for Iraq."

Maybe it should be refreshing that the Clinton II campaign isn't starting out with any substance. At its core, the campaign is about restoring the administration of 1997-2001, just like the Bush campaign (and presidency) was about restoring the most aggressive players of the 1981-1993 administrations. (I leave out the first Clinton term because I think the Albrights and Rubins are more likely to return to the White House than the Shalalas and Reichs). Its big ideas on taxes, health care and entitlements will be the big ideas the Clinton administration wanted to work on before its influence was snuffed out in the Lewinsky scandal.

(Hat tip to Jim Geraghty for transcribing the announcement message.)