Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shake hands during their meeting in Jerusalem in 2012.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
“I’m the most experienced one out there. Security credentials? Check. Economic credentials? Check. Executive experience? Check. I have spent years and years serving the country, longer than almost any other leader in our history.
“And you know me. Am I the perfect candidate? No. But you’ve seen me before. You know that if you elect me, our country will be safe and our economy will be stable. I am the sane, responsible choice. Vote for me, and your life won’t be in danger. Your children will have something better to look forward to.
“(Besides, my opponent is craaazy.)”
Welcome to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for president of the United States.
Or Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2015 campaign for prime minister of Israel.
Yes, Netanyahu is center-right and Clinton is center-left.
But Hillary and Bibi have a lot in common.
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Each has been a polarizing figure on the national scene for more than two decades, dodging a string of scandals along the way. Not surprisingly, each of them is widely disliked by voters.
You’d think that might be a problem. Yet Netanyahu keeps on winning and polls show Clinton with a commanding lead.
Their secret? Both have presented themselves as the safe, experienced choice against a reckless, unprepared opponent.
Clinton’s most effective pitches this season have been her warnings against what Trump might do if elected. Take her ad showing children viewing Trump’s inflammatory comments, or her admonition that “a man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.” One of the most well-received speeches of the convention was Michelle Obama’s telling viewers Clinton is the right choice for America’s children.
Similarly, much of Netanyahu’s campaign focused on attacks portraying Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog and his partner, Tzipi Livni, as reckless, left-wing extremists. He claimed that Herzog would partner with the Joint List, an Arab-Israeli party. One of his ads claimed Livni would “give away everything for free.” And his most famous campaign spot posed him as a babysitter — or Bibi-sitter
— the one you want taking care of your kids.
And when they address voters, Clinton and Netanyahu both face the same conundrum: their base sees them as ideologically compromised and their opponents see them as ideologically extremist.
Republicans see Clinton as everything wrong with the Democrats — a 1960s culture warrior and corrupt, out-of-touch elitist who will put their country’s national security at risk. Her base, meanwhile, faults her for being a warmonger who has been insufficiently progressive on social issues.
In Netanyahu’s case, his opponents lambaste him for being a champion of the settlers who won’t take risks for peace and who has done nothing but fight unproductive wars in Gaza. But his base admonishes him for building too little in the settlements, being too willing to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority and for not being aggressive enough in Gaza.
And they’ve both responded by throwing red meat to their bases to increase turnout. Netanyahu famously reneged on his commitment to a Palestinian state two days before last year’s election. And on election day, he warned voters, ominously and incorrectly, that “Arab voters are going to the polls in droves.”
At the Democratic Convention, Clinton took a similar tack: She adopted key policies of her primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, from advocating mostly free public university to attacking corporations and Wall Street.
If current polling holds, both Clinton and Netanyahu will be in office come January 2017. While they may disagree on many things, from peace negotiations to the Iran nuclear agreement, they’ll be able to reminisce about similar campaigns.
And if that’s not enough, there’s one more thing they share in common: Neither of them was too happy with Bill Clinton in 1998.
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