On the last night of November in the last year of her service as secretary of State, Hillary Clinton played headliner at a star-studded foreign-policy shindig: the annual Saban Forum in Washington, D.C. The combination of boozy holiday bonhomie and HRC’s conspicuous residence—bags packed, pumps tapping the floor impatiently—in Foggy Bottom’s departure lounge gave the evening the feeling of a leaving party, with an atmosphere mixing reverence and reverie in equal measure. After watching a glowing video tribute, Clinton took the opportunity to engage in some familiar self-deprecation (were you aware she’s had a lot of hairstyles?), polite candor about the failings of the Israelis and the Palestinians, and wistful musings about what soon awaits her: “As I prepare to trade in my post … for a little more rest and relaxation, I look forward to returning to Israel as a private citizen on a commercial plane, walking the streets of the Old City, sitting in a café in Tel Aviv, visiting the many Israelis and Palestinians I’ve gotten to know over the years. And of course, it’s no state secret that I hope to become a grandmother someday!”
Anyone finding Clinton’s sketch of her impending life of languor either too bland or too saccharine to swallow needed only to consult the web to locate the requisite fistful of salt. For at that very moment on Politico’s home page was a story about a different sort of post–State Department plan of hers, contending that Hillary’s aides were busy putting out the word that, although she felt too constrained in her role as Madame Secretary to voice her true feelings on the subject of same-sex marriage, after reentering private life she would find an opportunity to make her views known. And that they would be identical to those of her husband, daughter, current boss, and—oh, hey, whaddya know?—virtually every credible potential presidential aspirant in 2016 on the Democratic side.
And so it begins: the endless circus of speculation about Hillary’s intentions and ambitions, her dreams and schemes, to place herself back inside the White House, only this time as the gal in charge. Now, to be sure, it’s not as if that carnival ever really folded its tents; for the past four years in Washington, it has been doing a brisk business, thank you very much. But the moment that Clinton returns to Chappaqua, the big tent will again envelop our fair homeland—but not just because of her. Throw in Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie, and it’s abundantly clear that for the foreseeable future, the tristate area will once again be the nation’s capital of presidential intrigue—restoring the right, just, and proper order of the universe, it should obviously go without saying.
Among professional Democrats, the congealing conventional wisdom holds that the Democratic nomination will be Clinton’s if she wants it—the only question is whether she does. Her intimates say (with no small degree of incredulity) that she believes that she has at least a year and maybe even two before she must decide. “I love her, but she is totally deluded,” says one longtime Clintonista. “The rest of the field is frozen until she makes up her mind. So the pressure on her from the party is gonna be intense, and it’ll start real soon—early next year.”
Nobody’s breath is more baited or brow more furrowed than the repository of New York’s other dynastic Democratic dreams. Governor Cuomo and his people have made no secret of their designs on the Oval Office—or of their frustration over the holding pattern that Clinton has imposed on them.
No Hillary-esque impediment stands in the way of a Christie bid, but there are plenty of other problems. The brash New Jersey governor made himself no friends in the national GOP with the bear hug he threw around Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Yet Christie’s post-storm popularity is stratospheric, which should help him mightily in clearing the first and crucial hurdle he faces before a 2016 presidential run: securing reelection next year at home.
Watching the maneuverings of Clinton, Cuomo, and Christie over the months ahead will be a perfect hoot—a better show than anything on Broadway, including even Barry Manilow. Here’s hoping one or more of the triumvirate not only takes the plunge but becomes his or her party’s nominee. Because after the airless, bloodless election we all just suffered through—with two contestants who seemed to be competing to be viceroy of Planet Vulcan—American politics could use nothing more than the operatic grandeur of Clinton or Cuomo versus Christie in 2016. And because, hey, New York is due. It always is.