Hillary Clinton has some thick skin.
Yet will she, as she puts it, “dare to compete” again?
The explanation may run in the family.
Chelsea Clinton will need that armor, her father says, should she ever embark upon a political career. He doesn’t know that she will, he says. And, for that matter, he doesn’t know that his wife, the former first lady, senator from New York and secretary of state, will run for president in 2016.
“I think she would be the first to tell you that there is no such thing as a done deal, ever, by anybody,” the former president says in an interview airing Sunday on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS. ”“I don’t know what she’s going to do.”
He says he wouldn’t discourage his daughter Chelsea, who has gone to work with mom and dad at the Clinton Foundation in addition to serving as a special correspondent for NBC News, from seeking political office, even though it can be personally grueling, as Bloomberg’s Chris Strohm notes.
“I would not ever advise her not to do it if she wanted to,” Clinton said of his daughter, turning to the facts of political life: “Look, politics is like pro football, it’s a contact sport. If you don’t want to get hit, you should stay on the sidelines.”
— TomGoldstone (@TomGoldstone) September 17, 2013
Hillary Clinton, who sought the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2008, is sort of sidelined at the moment — though her alleged retiree’s speaking tour has a certain still-in-the-game feel to it. She has been talking about her aptitude for that contact sport for years — particularly her thick skin.
Back in December 2007, she was “invoking a mantra attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, ” as Mark Leibovich put it. “Mrs. Clinton likes to say that women in politics 1need to develop skin as tough as a rhinoceros hide.” He quoted her then as saying: “I joke that I have the scars to show from my experiences… But you know, our scars are part of us, and they are a reminder of the experiences we’ve gone through, and our history.”
“I am constantly making sure that the rhinoceros skin still breathes,” Clinton said then. “And that’s a challenge that all of us face. But again, not all of us have to live it out in public.”
A couple of years ago, in her globe trotting as secretary of state for the Democrat who defeated her in ’08, President Barack Obama, Clinton was asked that question about her daughter’s future. She told an audience in The Phillippines that she would not recommend that Chelsea get into politics. And as she often has, she cited Eleanor Roosevelt. “If you get into politics, you have to grow a skin as thick as the rhinoceros, because it can be very painful if you’re not prepared,” she said. “You’re going to be subjected to all these criticisms.”
The relentless speculation about Clinton’s plans for 2016 is spurred in part by her own words.
In a speaking-tour conversation with an audience in Toronto in June, Clinton spoke of the importance of women pursuing politics. “Hypothetically speaking, I really do hope that we have a woman president in my lifetime,” Clinton said. “I hope that we will see a woman elected, because I think it would send exactly the right historic signal to girls, women as well as boys and men. And I will certainly vote for the right woman to be president.”
“Although electing a female president would, according to Clinton, require a `leap of faith’ on the part of American voters,” Forbes noted, “she said that such an historic occasion also `really depends on women stepping up and subjecting themselves to the political process, which is very difficult.”’
Clinton spoke of, who else, Eleanor Roosevelt.
“If women want to be in politics, they need to grow skin as thick as a rhinoceros,” Clinton said in Toronto. “I think there is still truth to that, so you have to step up, you have to dare to compete, you have to get into the process and then the country, our country, has to take that leap of faith.”