As Hillary Clinton appeared in Beverly Hills on Wednesday to accept an honor from the Pacific Council on International Policy, there was but one, vague reference to her potential future as a 2016 presidential candidate. It was when Mickey Kantor, longtime friend and veteran of Bill Clinton’s administration, noted that she was “the subject of some speculation.”
After a brief pause, the line drew some cheers at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel ballroom. In the audience were Los Angeles politicians, foreign policy academics and a smattering of entertainment industry figures, including actor Leonard Nimoy, former Ticketmaster chieftan Fred Rosen, producer Lawrence Bender, writer-producer Howard Gordon and former Walt Disney Co. executive John Cooke.
Clinton herself didn’t broach the topic of her future. Nor did she mention Benghazi, the subject of a Capitol Hill hearing earlier in the day. What she did deliver was a 25-minute speech focused on Asia Pacific relations and the legacy of Secretary of State Warren Christopher. The Pacific Council was honoring her with the Warren Christopher Public Service Award.
She spoke of how Christopher gave her some advice when she took the job as Secretary of State: “Never count on taking a planned vacation, especially in August, because there’s always a crisis in August.” And she talked about the photo she had on the wall of her office in Foggy Bottom, of William Seward, “who ran against Lincoln and lost. To his surprise, he turned out to be his Secretary of State.”
When it comes to 2016, there has been very loose talk among show biz donors of what a Clinton run would look like and who would be raising money, with expectations that she would do very, very well. Kantor, in a bit of nostalgia, noted that the Beverly Wilshire ballroom was where they held an early fundraiser for Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, with “half the crowd” of the Pacific Council event, and “that half was comped.” “At the time, Bill Clinton’s poll numbers weren’t anywhere near where yours are today,” he said to Hillary Clinton, sitting in the audience.
Otherwise, when it comes to speculation, it’s all about reading the tea leaves.
She was introduced by Marc Nathanson, chairman of Mapleton Investments and former CEO of Falcon Cable, who was a major fund raiser for her 2008 campaign. Then again, he’s also on the board of directors of the Pacific Council.
Her speech contained a line fit for the stump — “American leadership is not a birthright; it must be earned by every generation” — although she used it even when she was Secretary of State. Her husband has been a booster of the idea, but, asked at a conference in Washington on Tuesday whether she’d run, said, “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I do know this: That is the worst expenditure of our time.”