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Hillary's Martyrdom Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be

I'm all for counterintuitive articles, and John Heilemann's big New York story making the case that Hillary has emerged from her defeat a "more resonant, consequential, and potent figure than she has ever been before" is a good one. But I'd like to take exception to one point Heilemann makes. He writes:

It was only after Bill Clinton’s impeachment ordeal that he became a beloved figure on the traditional left, which had long regarded him warily before his persecution by the special prosecutor and the congressional Republicans. WJC, in other words, was fortunate in his enemies. Now HRC finds herself similarly blessed; in Chris Matthews she appears to have found her own version of Ken Starr. It’s been said before, but it bears repeating once again. Whatever else one thinks about the Clintons, there’s no denying that martyrdom has been very, very good to them.

This is true up to a point, but Hillary's martyrdom differs from Bill's in one key detail: he survived impeachment; she didn't survive the Democratic primary. Heilemann makes it clear that Hillary still wants to be president, but it's really hard to see how she'll ever accomplish that. If Obama wins, she won't be able to run until 2016, when she'll be 69 and as fresh as Hubert Humphrey was in 1968. And if Obama loses, a decent segment of black and activist liberal voters will probably hold Hillary at least partly responsible for his defeat, no matter how hard (and how disingenuously) she campaigns for him this fall. And as Hillary learned in '08, you can't win a Democratic primary without those voters. In other words, Hillary's martyrdom might have made her more resonant, consequential, and potent, but I don't think it's made her more presidential.

--Jason Zengerle