Hillary Clinton hasn’t yet said whether she’s running for president. But you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise over the past week.
Clinton wrapped up a week of stepped-up appearances Friday, delivering what prognosticators quickly dubbed a potential stump speech: a 35-minute policy talk that decried the rising income gap between the rich and poor, touted her husband’s stewardship of the economy and returned to a theme she’d first sounded as first lady.
“I am an optimist, and I believe the time has come for us to begin not only a conversation, but a serious effort to see which big ideas will renew America for our sakes, for our children and, yes, for our future grandchildren,” she said in a populist-themed address to the New America Foundation, a research center in Washington.
“It won’t surprise anyone to hear me say I think it really does take a village,” she added, a reference to one of her books, “It Takes a Village.”
Clinton argued that the income inequality is threatening the basic promise of the United States, noting that workers’ productivity has increased and companies are benefiting while wages for most Americans are flat.
“It’s at the heart of what I believe is the basic bargain of America: No matter who you are or where you come from, if you work hard and play by the rules, you will have the opportunity to build a good life for yourself and your family,” she said.
The increased exposure comes as Clinton prepares to release her upcoming book, “Hard Choices,” about her time as secretary of state. It also comes as Republicans gear up their work to define her – taking a page from the Obama campaign, which successfully focused and hammered on Mitt Romney months before he secured the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
Congressional Republicans have revived an investigation into how the Obama administration – with Secretary of State Clinton then at the helm – handled the September 2012 attack on a diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans dead.
They’ve questioned why Clinton’s State Department failed to label Boko Haram, the Nigerian group that’s kidnapped hundreds of teenage girls, a terrorist group.
Republican strategist Karl Rove even forced Clinton’s camp – and her husband – this week to refute suggestions that she’d suffered brain damage during a fall.
“If she has brain damage, I must be in really bad shape because she’s still quicker than I am,” Bill Clinton quipped earlier this week.
Hillary Clinton, who’d defended her tenure at the State Department in remarks earlier in the week to the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum, said Friday that she’d leave talk of this November’s elections to others.
But she criticized the Bush administration without naming it, saying that rising budget deficits after Bill Clinton left office were what happened “when your only policy prescription is to cut taxes for the wealthy” and wage two wars “without paying for them.” As a senator, she’d voted against the Bush tax cuts. She voted to authorize the Iraq War.
She also called for a return to compromise.
“If we don’t get back into a conversation that cuts across all those lines that divide us, it will be very difficult to tackle the economic and social problems that stand in the way of moving away from inequality toward greater equality, economically and socially,” she said.
Polls consistently find Clinton besting all potential Republican rivals in a 2016 presidential race. A Quinnipiac University poll this week found Gov. John Kasich of Ohio trailing her by 47-42 percent, the best showing of Republicans in the matchups.
Clinton, who mostly stayed off the campaign trail once she became the secretary of state, also stepped back into fundraising, headlining an event Thursday for daughter Chelsea’s mother-in-law, Marjorie Margolies, who’s running to return to the House of Representatives from a congressional district near Philadelphia.
And Clinton made a surprise appearance on “The View,” saluting the retiring Barbara Walters in a show that aired Friday.
So will she run again for president? Walters asked.
“I am running,” Clinton quipped. “Around the park.”
By the 2016 election, Clinton would be a grandmother, and she told the New America Foundation audience Friday that she and the former president are “still reveling” over the news that Chelsea and her husband are expecting their first child this fall.
“I have already learned that when you are about to become a parent for the first time, you can be a little terrified at the prospect and the responsibility,” Clinton said. “But becoming a grandparent for the first time: nothing but joy and excitement, very little responsibility.”
(email: email@example.com; Twitter: @lesleyclark)