Let’s start with the good stuff. I confess to a sense of pride that a fellow alumna of Wellesley College could become the nation’s first woman President (as she put it in her rally speech on Saturday, she may not be the youngest candidate, but she would be the nation’s youngest female President.) First Lady. Senator. Secretary of State. The pressures of the White House wouldn’t be her first rodeo. She is very smart, experienced and tough as nails, which, of course, a President must be. And, at this point, she’d probably make better Supreme Court appointments than any of her Republican rivals.
Her commitments early in her career (Children’s Defense Fund activist and prominent education booster from her days as First Lady of Arkansas,) speak to longstanding, authentic values. So, too, with her prodigious support of women’s empowerment around the world.
The times I have interacted with her (including her appearance at a Wellesley College 125th anniversary celebration and a 2011 State Department briefing for editorialists) I have been impressed by her sparkle, intellect and charisma.
Then there’s the baggage, everything from the early Whitewater deals and her “misremembering” landing under fire in Bosnia when she was First Lady to the recent, highly questionable financial relationships of the Clinton Foundation to optics-challenging donations by foreign powers even when she was Secretary of State. Throw in her opacity in conducting State Department business by emails on a personal server based in her Chappaqua home, then deleting tens of thousands of them to avoid public disclosure.
Poll-driven, she’s been slithery on policy as well, most notably on the Trans-Pacific Pact, which she unequivocally boosted as Secretary of State but has dithered on as a candidate. She has also been AWOL on how best to deal with ISIS and related issues. It’s ironic that, despite her Foggy Bottom experience, only three percent of her kickoff speech yesterday was devoted to foreign policy.
Hillary calls herself the champion of ordinary Americans, those who play by the rules and work hard to get ahead, but the Clintons have made clear by their behavior that the rules were made for other people and not for them. The first stage of her campaign comprised a series of “listening events,” in which she talked to “ordinary people,” pre-selected and stage-managed. (There have also been fund-raisers, three in Massachusetts last weekend, and the price to participate was pretty steep.)
Particularly offensive has been her near refusal to answer news media questions. It’s more than aggravating and seems related to what Nixon biographer Evan Thomas on Meet the Press this morning called her chronic “sense of aggrievement.” Remember her conviction that she and her husband were the target of a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” She seems to share this attitude with her husband, and, despite his political agility and seductive charm, who really wants him back in the White House?
We are months away from the first primary vote. Right now, the Democrats are talking more about jobs and the economy; the Republicans, national security. The issues of 2016 are complex, and likely will comprise both foreign and domestic. In a world of problems not given to easy sound-bite answers, no pundit or so-called expert has the answers – or even perhaps the questions.
Likability may be overrated as a prerequisite for a President. George W. started out eminently likable, and look where he left us. When you don’t know what issues may arise, character is paramount, and things may boil down to whom do we trust to do the right thing. Hillary has to worry that a recent poll showed 52 percent of the people find her untrustworthy. Still, at this stage, a majority of people would still vote for her, even if they don’t trust her.
As the presumed nominee, she will be a better candidate against whomever the GOP taps if her Democratic challengers make her really work for that nomination. I’d like to see her get a lot better.
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