As it is Women’s History Month, it would be a real shame to let it go by without comment on the second attempt to crown former First Lady, US Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the next President of the United States. Only, this attempt at coronation has been underway literally since the week after President Barack Obama’s reelection in November ’12.
We have at least sixteen months before the campaigning for the ’16 election cycle heats up to luke-warm seriousness, and yet the Hillary-ites (my name for her branch of the Clintonites) have been out in force proclaiming Clinton to be the most qualified, the most deserving, with the most diverse set of experiences necessary to be the forty-fifth POTUS. And, by the way, she’s a woman, her supporters seem to emphasize at every turn, as if her gender alone makes her deserving of the office.
If it comes down to it in thirty-two months, I will hold my nose while voting for Hillary Clinton over her potential GOP opponent (as it’s as likely as a man-made black hole that the Republicans would put up a progressive the equivalent of a Teddy Roosevelt). But I cannot in good conscience support any effort to have her become the next president. It’s not about gender for me. Despite the Zionism she represented, I admired Golda Meir, not to mention, Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan, Benazir Bhutto and Indira Gandhi. Really, my issue with Hillary Clinton comes down to what two other people represent — the late Margaret Thatcher, and Mrs. Clinton’s husband, President Bill Clinton, our forty-second president.
My issues in detail:
1. Hillary Clinton’s election is a victory for American women. This bothers me more than any other argument. It’s similar to the argument for Obama that came out of the ’08 election — that this would be a victory for Blacks and forward-thinking Americans — especially for supporters who had no idea about his agenda. In Obama’s case, his agenda was a difficult one to know or articulate — he’d only been on the national stage for four years, and his excellent memoir Dreams from My Father (1995, 2004) didn’t often match his policy-specific proclamations (that is, on the infrequent occasions in which he made them).
In Hillary Clinton’s case, we have a record of her statements and policy prescriptions, going back to the mid-1990s. Despite the wishes of many Hillary-supporting feminists, Mrs. Clinton’s record on issues as far-ranging as reproductive rights, equal pay, women serving in the military, really, any progressive issues that affected women, has been inconsistent. Since the universal health care debacle she experienced in ’94, Clinton has spoken little in public about these issues. She proposed few bills related to women’s rights while serving one and a third terms (eight years) in the Senate, and wasn’t exactly front and center on issues like repealing DADT or DOMA or the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of ’09 during her time campaigning or during her years as Secretary of State.
Maybe there’s a really good argument to be made for supporting Hillary Clinton, but seeing her as a vanguard of feminism or progressive social justice shouldn’t be one of them. It seems that her supporters may be confusing femininity with feminism.
2. Hillary has lots of political experience for the office of President. Sure, she has experience, but I wouldn’t go so far to argue that Hillary Clinton’s experience is above and beyond anyone else’s. Despite her work on the universal healthcare bill in ’94, we shouldn’t count her time as First Lady. It’s not an elected or appointed office, which was one reason why Mrs. Clinton found herself in an antagonistic relationship with Congress and the American public.
So, that leaves her time in the Senate (which I commented on in 1.) and her time as Secretary of State. In the former position, there’s still the fact that she voted for action in Iraq in ’02. In the latter position, there’s the theme of inaction in terms of Iran, the Arab Spring, and yes, despite the right-wing hyperbole, Benghazi. It seems that John Kerry as Secretary of State has found himself doing a lot more in one year than Mrs. Clinton did in four. I’m not sure that Hillary Clinton’s experience is one that should be used as justification for a four-year-long victory lap conducted on her behalf by her supporters.
3. Hillary Clinton has a unique set of experiences that make her preeminently qualified to be President. No. Not buying this argument. Without a gun to my head, I can think of people whose combination of direct political experiences and diverse set of life experiences would be good potential candidates for President, even in ’16. Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Patty Murray, and Tammy Baldwin, and that’s just the Vice President and the US Senate. That Hillary Clinton learned how to be President by osmosis from being married to Bill isn’t comforting at all. If she follows POTUS 42′s strategy of testing-the-wind-with-right-index-finger triangulation, we will all suffer for it. Plus, by this definition, shouldn’t Michelle Obama run for President in ’16 also?
Would Hillary Clinton be a terrible choice? No. But she would be an uninspiring one, one whose organizational and management skills would be in question from day one, precisely because of the political and other experiential baggage she’s carried for more than twenty years. The office of President is already one that’s been bought and paid for in recent decades. The coronation of Hillary Clinton, if successful, will continue this trend, and to the detriment of every ordinary American, male, female and transgender.