Why This Video Makes One Editor Think Clinton Will Run In 2016

Dec 8, 2012
Originally published on December 10, 2012 6:45 am

There's an event held every year in Washington known as the Saban Forum — named for Haim Saban, the Israeli-American media mogul who funds it. It's a night of elbow-rubbing between D.C. and Middle East political leadership, though foreign dignitaries are mostly Israeli.

Hillary Clinton was the keynote speaker at this year's forum, which was held last week. But before she spoke, the audience was treated to an eight-minute video.

It was a sort of glossy, high-end highlights reel of her public life — as first lady, senator and secretary of state — studded with interviews from international bigwigs like current and former Israeli Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Sen. John Kerry. They praised her work, joked about her distinctive laugh and made cryptic comments about good things in her future.

David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, was in the audience. That video and her speech was enough to convince him that Clinton is going to run for president in 2016.

"The combination of the film, the way she gave her speech — which was extremely uncritical of the Israelis, even at a moment when the Israeli-America relationship is, I would say, very troubled — gave one the indication that she is being hypercareful and looking forward to a career that still has politics in it," Remnick told Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz. "And where else is there to go other than a presidential race?"

At the end of the video, Blair delivers a line that Remnick says everyone in the audience was expecting.

"I just have an instinct that, with Hillary, the best is yet to come," he says as the music swells.

It's vague, granted, and Remnick says this kind of political prognostication right after an election is a bit of a stretch — after all, there's a lot that can happen between now and 2016. But he says he'd be surprised if Clinton didn't run in 2016. And, he says the video sure seemed like a push from some in the international community for Clinton to throw her hat in the ring and go for the White House.

At the very least, it gave the international politicians a chance to hedge their bets and say nice things about someone they think could be president.

"I think there's not a single person who appeared in that film who hasn't read Machiavelli," he says.

But even though the video looked like a campaign ad, Remnick says the hypothetical Hillary '16 campaign probably won't be re-running the video as a campaign ad four years from now.

"I'm not sure how many votes in Iowa you get from the endorsement of Salam Fayyad or Bibi Netanyahu," he says.

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Last weekend here in Washington, the Brookings Institution Saban Center held a forum on U.S.-Israel relations. The Saban Center is named after Haim Saban. He's a billionaire Israeli-American media mogul and a big-time contributor to the Democratic Party. Anyway, at that forum, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was honored. And before she spoke, Saban arranged for an eight-minute video tribute to the outgoing secretary. In the audience was David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker.

DAVID REMNICK: And it was incredibly over-the-top complimentary, almost to the point where at the end of the film, you almost expected Hillary to come on and say: I'm Hillary Clinton, and I approve this message.


SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON: Hi, everybody. Welcome to the State Department. How are you?

RAZ: This is a video full of, like, the who's who of Middle East politics and even some others: Henry Kissinger, Tony Blair.


TONY BLAIR: What makes Hillary Hillary is strength - very strong streak of principle.

RAZ: This is, of course, over images of Hillary around the world, Hillary hugging Aung San Suu Kyi in a hijab and...


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: She arrives someplace everybody pays attention.

REMNICK: And doing good works. And, look, let's not be, you know, crazily mocking about this. We're being, you know, very politically knowing. But at the same time, by many accounts, this was a passage in her career as secretary of State that earned her extremely high poll ratings, not just among the international political arena.


PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I've just had the opportunity to work with her to achieve a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I have been - we've been exposed to the Hillary laugh.

REMNICK: Tony Blair's line was basically the line that everybody was thinking while watching this movie. And he said, I still think with Hillary...


RAZ: Anyway, this video had left David Remnick convinced of one thing: Hillary Clinton is running for president.

REMNICK: Look, I couldn't help thinking knowing what I know about politics that it's sure to predict presidential politics four years in advance two and a half seconds after the election. But you couldn't help thinking that there was this kind of almost international or at least at a minimum Israeli-American establishment endorsement of her or encouragement for her to run for president.

And the combination of the film, the way she gave her speech, which was extremely uncritical of the Israelis, even at a moment when the Israeli-American relationship is, I would say, very troubled gave one the indication that she is being hyper careful and looking forward to a career that still got politics in it. And where is there left for her to go other than a presidential race?

RAZ: I wonder if many of those people or all of the people interviewed were thinking ahead to 2016 and thinking we better say nice things about her now because maybe she'll remember us.

REMNICK: I think there's not a single person that would appear on that film that hasn't read Machiavelli.

RAZ: Bibi Netanyahu, at the end...

REMNICK: Included.


REMNICK: Very much included.

RAZ: The Israeli prime minister at the end says: I don't think we've heard the last of Hillary Clinton.

REMNICK: That was the message from everybody in a sense. That was the subtext from everybody.

RAZ: Do you think she will simply recycle this ad as her first political ad in 2016?

REMNICK: I'm not sure how many votes in Iowa you get from the endorsement from Salam Fayyad or from Bibi Netanyahu.

RAZ: Who knows?

REMNICK: Well, it's a very small neighborhood in Iowa.

RAZ: David Remnick is the editor of The New Yorker. He spoke to us from our bureau in New York. David, thanks.

REMNICK: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.