In 2006, The New York Times tempered its endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the Senate with the following caveat:
The real question is not whether she can turn in continued good performance in the Senate, or even whether she can run a smart campaign for president. It is whether she can put some great idea ahead of her own political upward mobility, whether there is a cause so important to her that she will risk her political security for it. We are waiting for a profile-in-courage moment, a sign that she is something more than a very competent politician.
What’s notable is the extent to which the Times’ now uses Clinton’s status as “a very competent politician” as justification for today’s presidential endorsement, without addressing its previous longing for her to eclipse the very label. It applies the “real question” of 2006 haphazardly, answering it with bromides about her wins in New Hampshire and Nevada and “her new openness to explaining herself and not just her programs” (not quite the materials from which “profile-in-courage moments” are made). It uses her resume to paper over Clinton’s and Obama’s differences, which, it assures us, are not as substantial as they seem. Thus, without any argumentation, it asserts that somehow Clinton is as likely as Obama to “end to the politics of division of George W. Bush and Karl Rove.” (Later it exposes the hollowness of this very point by urging Clinton “to take the lead in changing the tone of the campaign. It is not good for the country, the Democratic Party or for Mrs. Clinton,” who, it notes, “is often tagged as divisive.”)
There is nothing inherently wrong with the Times’ supporting Hillary on the basis of her political experience, but given that just two years ago it desired for her to transcend it – something which has not happened, unless maybe you are willing to count a few since-evaporated tears in New Hampshire – I think it is fair to ask why, suddenly, are they willing to settle for less?