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Ex-Obama speechwriter: electing Clinton is more important than electing Obama was

(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

It's more important to elect Hillary Clinton in 2016 than it was to elect Barack Obama in 2008, former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau wrote in a column published in the Daily Beast on Friday.

In an impassioned essay that reads very much like a speech, Favreau tries directly confronting the public perception of Clinton as inauthentic, cautious, and more motivated by polls than by genuine convictions.

To do so, Favreau turns to anecdotes that he says demonstrate Clinton's personal generosity:

Most of all—and you hear this all the time from people who’ve worked for her—Hillary Clinton is uncommonly warm and thoughtful. She surprises with birthday cakes. She calls when a grandparent passes away. She once rearranged her entire campaign schedule so a staffer could attend her daughter’s preschool graduation. Her husband charms by talking to you; Hillary does it by listening to you—not in a head-nodding, politician way; in a real person way.

... Your eyes are rolling. You don’t often see or read about this side of Hillary. You don’t doubt her fierce brilliance when she’s debating policy with Bernie Sanders. You don’t doubt her stamina or tenacity when she’s sitting through hour eleven of the Benghazi Kangaroo Court. But when it comes to nearly everything else, Clinton can seem a little too cautious and forced—like she’s trying too hard or not at all, preferring to retreat behind the safety of boilerplate rhetoric and cheesy soundbites.

This is something that people who know and have worked with Clinton say over and over: that she is genuinely caring, and that the public would love her if only they got a chance to see the true Clinton — beyond the campaign spotlight.

The problem is that this is essentially impossible to prove to a wider audience. Clinton has been seeking higher office for so long that nearly everything she does is interpreted through the lens of her personal political calculation. Over time, it's become difficult for the public to see her any other way.

This is intensely frustrating for Clinton's friends and co-workers, who insist that it doesn't reflect her true character. Unfortunately for Clinton, the small circle of people who have seen her outside the context of a campaign also tend to have been around Washington, DC, for quite some time.

Favreau's essay offers one attempt to counter this by talking about Clinton's reason for running for the presidency:

About a month ago, BuzzFeed’s Ruby Cramer asked Clinton a simple question that, for some strange reason, no reporter or staffer ever thought to press her on: Why are you doing this? What truly motivates you?

Her response was not to talk about fighting for this constituency or that issue. There is no pablum about real solutions for real people with real problems, or the poll-tested garbage about coming from the middle of America with the middle class at the middle of her priorities (I can no longer remember if that’s a joke we used to make as speechwriters or an actual line.)

There is only this, from Hillary: "love and kindness." She mentioned it for the first time after the shooting in Charleston, and then expanded on the theme a few weeks later: "I want this campaign, and eventually my administration, to be more about inspiring young people, and older ones as well, to find that niche where kindness matters, whether it’s to a friend, a neighbor, a colleague, a fellow student—whether it’s in a classroom, or in a doctor’s office, or in a business—we need to do more to help each other."

It's refreshing to see Favreau admit the vacuity of "poll-tested" rhetoric about the middle class. And he probably believes, given what he says about Clinton's character, that she is sincere in her commitment to "love and kindness."

But if you're already disposed to not like Clinton, then that line is probably more likely to sound like self-serving campaign rhetoric — as some of the responses to Favreau's essay on Twitter suggested.

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