Of Carly Fiorina’s many zingers Wednesday night, the one that offers the best preview of the general election was this: “If you want to stump a Democrat, ask them to name an accomplishment of Hillary Clinton.”
Politico Magazine put that question to the test, and found a slew of Democrats with ready responses. But Fiorina’s quip is like many great political slams—although not factually airtight, it points to a broader truth. The Clinton campaign hasn’t solved the problem of finding a way to communicate just what it is that Clinton has accomplished—particularly during her most recent role as secretary of state, but also in the earlier stages of her career.
The folks Politico canvassed had no shortage of answers, but some are rather thin. Bill Burton, a former Obama aide, cited her “women’s rights are human rights speech,” given 20 years ago; “her role in killing Osama bin Laden” (a nebulous answer, though it’s true she counseled in favor of the raid); and an even vaguer “management of the State Department.”
The multiplicity of answers may reveal the trouble: No one or two accomplishments rise to the top. (The most commonly cited answer is marshaling sanctions against Iran, an essential prerequisite for the nuclear deal that followed, and for which John Kerry has claimed most credit.) Clinton herself has struggled with the question. Last year, when asked what her proudest accomplishment as secretary was, she came up tongue-tied: “I really see my role as secretary, and, in fact, leadership in general in a democracy, as a relay race. I mean, you run the best race you can run, you hand off the baton.”