Hillary happens, but it’s still party that matters

It was surely one of the most widely anticipated presidential campaign kickoff announcements in history. But the lack of suspense did nothing to stop the floodgates from opening for yet another round in the time-honored sport of Clinton deconstruction.

Hillary Clinton‘s effort at a low-key launch that wasn’t overly scripted, and in which she didn’t come off as entitled, seemed so scripted, sniffed some. And no matter how often she says she’s ready to work hard to earn our support, we all know she thinks she’s earned the right to be coronated as the Democratic nominee.  

New York Times reporters Patrick Healy and Maggie Haberman used instant messaging to exchange thoughts on Clinton’s announcement video. They tell us the video suggests her campaign will very much be  “about the Democratic coalition of today,” with its inclusion of a newly-married gay couple, among other demographic groups spotlighted.  It is forward-looking, various accounts of the video have said (is that so surprising?). Haberman points out the video doesn’t focus much on “people steeped in poverty,” but it’s been a long time since there was much attention paid to the poor in presidential races.

Though there is a decided focus on the challenges facing the middle class, there is a clear Elizabeth Warren-inspired concern for those, like the Bay State’s senior senator’s description of her own upbringing, struggling on the “ragged edge” of the middle class.

Scot Lehigh thinks Clinton could suffer the same fate as Walter Mondale — the eminently qualified, but temperamentally plodding, standard-bearer who ends up trying to market herself just a little bit past her sell-by date.

And hanging over all this, of course is that drag-you-down disorder known as Clinton fatigue. (Whitewater! Monica! Vince Foster!) The airline hangar full of baggage she comes with, paired with a gold-plated resume and background, leaves Politico‘s Ben White twisted in knots. “At this point, a Hillary Clinton presidency can seem both inevitable and impossible,” he writes, which seems to pretty much cover all bases.

If you’re already feeling fatigued by all the talk of Clinton fatigue and speculation about how Monica Lewinsky might factor in the race, Paul Krugman offers a welcome tonic. The Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist has this to say about all the psychoanalyzing and “endless thumb-sucking” about her various positions that we will now be inundated with: “Please pay no attention.”

The reason, says Krugman, is that as fascinating as all the personality-politics may be to the pundits and press corps, it all probably matters very little in determining who will become president. In fact, given our current state of stark political polarization, he argues, “there has never been a time in American history when the alleged personal traits of candidates mattered less.”

The positions of the two parties are quite clear — and quite distinct from each other — on major issues facing the country, he says. Krugman ticks off a list of issues on which that is true, including the future of Social Security, the Affordable Care Act, maintaining or relaxing tax rates on the highest earners, views on financial regulations put in place following the 2008 economic collapse, and attitudes toward climate change. He could have thrown in same-sex marriage just to round things out.

If anything matters that can be drawn from the world of punditry and prognostication, it may be the simple phenomenon of pendulum swings that often follow a period when one party has controlled the White House for a full two terms. But even here the storyline may not be nearly as clear as some would have it.

Millions of words will be written about the 2016 presidential contest over the next 19 months, but “the differences between the parties are so clear and dramatic that it’s hard to see how anyone who has been paying attention could be undecided even now, or be induced to change his or her mind between now and the election,” Krugman writes.

That may not get political junkies’ juices flowing, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

–MICHAEL JONAS

 

BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker has ordered a comprehensive review of state regulations with an eye toward easing those that seem too onerous and not necessary. The move is raising alarmsamong environmental activists, consumer advocates, and others. (Boston Globe)

Baker goes toe-to-toe with Vice President Joe Biden over storm relief. Will America’s Uncle be swayed by the governor’s FEMA request that a month’s worth of winter storms be treated as a single disaster? (MassLive) US Rep. William Keating said after speaking with the head of FEMA, he’s confident the state will receive federal aid. (Patriot Ledger)

Baker gets high praise from the Telegram & Gazette for the handling of his first 100 days in office. Wheelock College professor Mary Battenfeld is less impressed, saying Baker is shortchanging poor children and schools. (WBUR)

The MetroWest Daily News argues that Beacon Hill needs to get with it and fix the MBTA before the end of the current session.

Anger keeps growing over a new law requiring drivers to turn on their headlights whenever they use their windshield wipers. The Lowell Sun editorializes against the measure, which passed in an informal session.

OLYMPICS

Joan Vennochi wonders whether former state transportation secretary and one-time MBTA general manager Rich Davey is really the managerial face Boston 2024 wants to put on its Olympics bid. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter, who took the office after winning a recall election in December that ousted former mayor Will Flanagan mid-term, reflects on his first 100 days in office, saying it was like riding a bicycle he was trying to build at the same time. (Herald News)

Tech leaders are glad that Boston has created a “startup czar” position in city government; they are less thrilled that Mayor Marty Walsh has filled it with a 25-year-old loyalist, Rory Cuddyer, with no background in the field. (Boston Globe)

Marty Walsh, pothole fillin’ maniac. (Boston Globe)

A protest is being planned in Worcester to urge officials to drop charges against members of the group Black Lives Matter for blocking traffic in Kelley Square. (Telegram & Gazette)

Tom Callahan and Esther Maycock-Thorne remember housing activist Florence Hagins.(CommonWealth)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Three-quarters of those receiving some form of public assistance are members of a family headed by a worker. A new report notes the government programs — including the earned income tax credit, which state officials on Beacon Hill want to buttress — subsidize families but also the companies that employ them. (New York Times)

The city comptroller in New York City says the municipality’s five pension funds over the last 10 years have paid out more than $2 billion in fees to Wall Street money managers and received almost no value in return. (New York Times)

The Republican-controlled Florida House of Representatives has passed a measure to allow private adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples on religious or moral grounds. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

ELECTIONS

Game on for Hillary Clinton. The Fix mulls over the weak field of possible challengers. (The Washington Post)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Poverty rates for women in Fall River and New Bedford are twice that of the statewide average, according to a new national study. (Standard-Times)

The SEIU’s Veronica Turner, on the eve of a “Fight for $15 rally,” notes that Boston is the nation’s third-most inequitable city. (CommonWealth)

EDUCATION

Shades of Breaking Bad: A highly respected fourth-grade teacher in Haverhill is arrested on drug charges. (Eagle-Tribune)

For the second time in less than a month, both Brockton and Whitman-Hanson Regional high schools were closed on Monday after threats were made against both schools. (Patriot Ledger)

Strange but true: The Boston Globe Sunday magazine and the New York Times Sunday education supplement carry what amount to almost the exact same story, reported by two different journalists, including lots of overlap in specific students profiled and quoted. The piece focuses on the challenges faced by low-income, first-in-their-family college goers who attend Ivy League schools.

Tommy Chang doesn’t officially grab the reins until July 1, but Boston’s incoming schools superintendent is already in town and on the job. (Boston Globe)

With the Salem State University Assistance Corp., the school can buy and sell property without having to comply with state bidding laws. (Salem News).

The Globe reports that almost three-quarters of all federal investigations of allegations that colleges have mishandled sexual assault cases end up getting dropped, often because so much time has elapsed since the events.

HEALTH CARE

An Associated Press analysis shows the Veterans Administration Hospital in Brockton, which received national attention after reports last year of patient neglect, has the shortest wait times for patient appointments among all 20 VA facilities in the state. (The Enterprise)

Salem may be home to the state’s first open-for-business medical marijuana store — though the sale of weed wares is still a couple of months off. (Boston Herald)

TRANSPORTATION

Ari Ofsevit says Larry DiCara is all wrong about banning buses on downtown Boston streets. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Swampscott officials want to aggregate all of the town’s residents in a bid to buy electricity more cheaply by buying in bulk. (Item)

Solar power advocates say a statutory cap on net metering, which was reached in March, is putting a damper on further solar energy projects. (Herald News)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Herald reports that steep budget cuts have severely hampered the Suffolk DA’s office witness protection program.

Governing examines the experience of the Chesapeake, Virginia, police force in using body cameras.

MEDIA

CBS says chief political director John Dickerson will take over from retiring Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation. (Time)