Every year around this time, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza extends an unwelcome “honor” to an unlucky political figure: the prize for The Worst Year in Washington. As it turns out, in 2015, Cillizza chose two “winners.”
The first, not surprisingly, was Jeb Bush, and the selection makes perfect sense. As the year got underway, the former governor was a top contender for the Republican presidential nomination – by some accounts, the frontrunner – who saw his support steadily decline as 2015 progressed. The Floridian never expected to be doing this poorly at this stage in the race, so it’s hardly unreasonable to think he had The Worst Year in Washington.
But according to Cillizza, Jeb is sharing the award with, of all people, Hillary Clinton. The argument is based almost entirely on the email-server-management controversy – remember that? – which few could explain when it was front-page news, and which appears entirely irrelevant as 2015 comes to a close.
Clinton ends 2015 on a far better note than seemed possible in the doldrums of August. But, like Bush, she took home Worst Week in Washington four times this year. And problems remain.
I understand Cillizza’s case, and the temporary feeding frenzy surrounding the email story over the summer was no doubt unpleasant for the Democrat and her team, but looking back over the year, I’d actually argue Clinton had one of the best years in Washington, not the worst.
This was the year Clinton became the clear frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, arguably becoming the strongest non-incumbent Democratic contender in the modern political era.
It was the year Clinton made her Republican critics in Congress look ridiculous over the course of an 11-hour Benghazi hearing.
It was the year Clinton proved herself a very capable debater, watched Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren pass on possible presidential campaigns, and saw Beltway chatter about “scandals” quietly evaporate into nothing.
Sure, Bernie Sanders – another one of the year’s biggest winners – is a more formidable rival than Clinton expected, and he’s even well positioned to win the New Hampshire primary, but I’d argue the Vermont senator’s rise may have even helped Clinton, pushing her to embrace a more ambitious platform, presenting it in a sharper way, en route to building big leads in national polling.
If you could go back in time and tell Hillary Clinton on New Year’s Eve 2014 what the political landscape would look like on New Year’s Eve 2015, do you think she’d be disappointed?