There’s only one way to say that you’re not running for president: “I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected.”
Boom. Done and done.
That’s what Union Army Gen. Tecumseh Sherman said in 1884. President Lyndon Johnson used similar language when he announced in 1968 that he wouldn’t run for re-election. “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.” In 2006, Vice President Dick Cheney quoted Sherman exactly as he dispelled notions that he’d run in 2008.
And former Rep. Mo Udall (D-AZ) made no bones about whether he’d run for president in 1984, with a bit of added hyperbole. “If nominated, I shall run to Mexico. If elected, I shall fight extradition.”
THAT is how you announce you’re not running for president.
But Hillary Clinton didn’t say that — not by a long shot.
Asked by a reporter at News 12 Long Island what her 2020 intentions are, she said this: “I’m not running, but I’m going to keep on working and speaking and standing up for what I believe.”
The Clintons are great at this kind of non-denial denial, this kind of semantical word play. When Bill Clinton was caught up in a scandal over having a sexual affair with a White House intern his daughter’s age, his lawyer, Robert S. Bennett, told a judge overseeing the case that “there is absolutely no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form, with President Clinton” and Monica Lewinsky.
When Clinton himself was asked about the veracity of his lawyer’s statement, he said — under oath, mind you — “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If the — if he — if ‘is’ means is and never has been, that is not — that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement.”
Ah, Bubba. By then, of course, Clinton was no longer having sex “of any kind in any manner” with Lewinsky.
So Hillary’s answer can certainly raise questions. “I’m not running” can mean, at least to the Clintons, that she’s not currently running for president. And that’s true, she’s not.
While the story was everywhere — and always definitive (“COUNT ME OUT!” said the blaring Drudge Report headline) — the whole tale took another turn a few hours later.
“Spoke to someone close with Clinton in contact with her today. They say she wasn’t trying to be emphatic and close the door on running when she spoke to a local reporter yesterday, and that she was surprised by how definitively it played,” New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman wrote on Twitter.
“The person also says she is extremely unlikely to run, but that she remains bothered that she’s expected to close the door on it when, say, John Kerry isn’t. She has told her team she is waiting at least to see the Mueller report.”
Now that sounds like a Clinton.