Monday, January 28, 2008

The Case for Hillary Clinton

I thank Diane Marie Amann for inviting me to put the case for Hillary Clinton.
My timing isn’t perfect.
But the results from S. Carolina make it vital for Democrats to examine our two leading candidates with extra care. Why do I prefer Hillary’s policies and think she will do a better job than Obama? I needn’t repeat what the NY Times has said in endorsing her for the Dem nominee. Instead, I’d like to bring up a few issues that IntLawGrrls might want to think about.
1st
, it is said that Barack Obama’s election would change the world’s perception of America at a stroke. Believe me, the election of any Democrat would bring a giant sigh of relief among all our former friends and allies. After that, they will wait to see our policies. So it will come back to policies – accomplished, not promised.
2d, it’s said Hillary is divisive, she is hated, and won’t be able to get things done. Yet she has worked effectively in the Senate, promoted a stream of legislation, and proved that she can work with moderate Republicans to get results. Similarly, when overwhelmingly re-elected to the Senate, she carried much of Republican upstate New York, persuading independents and moderate Republicans to back her. Some people do hate her. So what? The 30% of Americans who still think George W Bush is doing a good job will never change, never like her, and go on hating Democrats; probably as many Dems loathed GWB but he was (re?)elected in 2004 anyway.
A personal impression: I heard HRC speak at a fund-raising luncheon when running for re-election and I happened to be in New York. The charge that ‘she’s a robot’ is nonsense. She was a warm, funny speaker and the 300 women and men in the audience responded fervently. We heard a winner. I don’t doubt she has ‘charisma’, but I suspect she learned, as did most women of her generation, not to let it show too much. She’ll undo that, I think, as she swings into the election.
3d, she hasn’t really had her own Experience (Oh, 'Grrls, should we be denigrating good work because it’s done by a Wife?). As First Lady, HRC travelled the world, meeting with leaders and oppositions, while helping to launch such initiatives as the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Do you remember her speech in Beijing at the UN World Conference on Women in 1995 (despite the Chinese government and some American staffers trying to shut her up)? – when she declared that "human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights". If you’ve forgotten, take a moment to read about it at the link above.
Now in her 2d term as Senator, she has built up an impressive legislative record on progressive issues – some high profile (e.g., the recent battle with GWB over extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program ) but much of it gritty, unglamorous, plain hard work. She has introduced, sponsored and co-sponsored legislation on Women’s issues, Education, Health care (with the scars to prove it), Civil rights, and joined other senators in submitting a friend of the court brief supporting U. of Michigan in its court battle to maintain affirmative action in 2003.
On the home front, a Democratic President will have the monumental task of putting back together a competent, problem-solving government, while keeping America this side of fiscal bankruptcy. Where does one even start? How about by knowing how the national government works (or used to work)? No pep talks, please, or hands-off management.

Now, Iraq. I know, Obama always opposed the illegal, immoral, and ruinous war. But he didn’t have to vote for or against it since he wasn’t in the Senate at the time. Now he is in the Senate and has voted the same as HRC on Iraq funding and war-related bills. No one wants deny our troops when they are ‘in harm’s way’(a weak euphemism for killing and being killed). Anyway, that was then. Now both candidates want to get out.

Who can handle that better? If you thought leaving Vietnam was messy, just wait for Iraq. Not enemy tanks rolling down the road but plenty of blood, chaos and a grinning Iran. There is also Afghanistan going down the chute, and we may now be slipping sideways into a third war in Pakistan. Good will and calling for Unity is really not enough. Unity with whom? No one on the other side is waiting to grasp Obama’s hand. Rather, can’t you already hear the accusations of 'Who Lost Iraq?'

Whoever takes this on had better be tough. And knowledgeable. HRC is the the 1st New York Senator to serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee . She has introduced two relevant bills in 2007, the Congressional Oversight of Iraq Agreements Act – to require the President to get Congressional approval for any bilateral agreement extending the U.S. military commitment, and the Iraq Troop Protection and Reduction Act – to halt the President’s escalation and to end the war before he leaves office. Hillary is a learner. Just as she learned from the collapse of her first health coverage plan – and has now crafted a plan that could get the job done – she has come to the right side on Iraq (and hands up, all of you, who swear you had no doubts even in the beginning. Good for you. It took me a little longer). Even with HRC as commander-in-chief, it’s going to be incredibly difficult, politically dangerous, and (I’m sorry to re-emphasize) very bloody.

My last point is electability. I do not believe Obama can be elected. I need not tell IntLawGrrls how critical it is that the next President is a Democrat (think of those two Supreme Court seats coming up, and tremble).

But we want Change, you say. The election of the first woman President is not a Change?

We, too, have waited long enough.

6 comments:

Jaya Ramji-Nogales said...

Thanks for a thoughtful post, Judith. Your points are well taken!

Irene said...

Judith, while Hillary Clinton's command of the issues is impressive, she has one big Achilles heel, by the name of Bill Clinton, which could affect her electability greatly.

At least if she has John McCain as opponent. So let's wish for wishy-washy Mitt Romney.

And I'm not so sure that Barack Obama cannot be elected. There is something about him which even a conservative like David Brooks senses and his columns and commentary on the NewsHour.

Judith Weingarten said...

Irene, I agree that Bill should learn to be the spouse and let Hillary lead. Admittedly, they have few role models (I don't think Margaret Thatcher and her silly Denis really fit the Bill; sorry for the weak pun).

I don't fear a Hillary-McCain confrontation half as much as I do Obama-McCain, which will show up Obama as the lightweight he is. And that's before the Republicans start Swiftboating Obama, playing the black card and the Muslim card (rumors are already circulating; knock one down, the next pops up). If anyone thinks they wouldn't stoop to those depths, they haven't been paying attention these last eight years.

Why do you think so many conservatives are saying such nice things about him?

Diane Marie Amann said...

Although I understand the spirit of concern in the last comment -- that it was not meant actually to _play_ certain cards, I feel compelled to say this:
What has outraged me even more than the repeated association of Senator Obama with the word "Muslim" is not that it states a falsehood about his religious affiliation, though it does, but that it implies there is something wrong with _being_ Muslim. Any such implication must be resisted and rejected every time it is raised. Ours is a country of many nations, many peoples, women, children, and men from many traditions, believers and nonbelievers alike. Each of us deserves to be treated as an equal human being, and the groups to which we belong, into which we were born, or to which our parents and ancestors belonged, deserve equal respect.
Every person of every political party, every independent, should condemn any contrary suggestion, and not fear to fight all such suggestions. It is by combating them that we will, one day, overcome them.

Judith Weingarten said...

Unfortunately, Diana, that you and I are utterly opposed to such low-life tactics (and the thinking behind it) is not the point. Certain of our opponents will 'play' on the prejudices and fears of different parts of the electorate.

Someone is already targeting American Jews with the Muslim story; others are saying that his church is dedicated to Africa, not to America; and this is just the beginning. It will get a lot sicker.

Perhaps that makes me a negativity nabob. But I am old enough to remember the enthusiasms of the McGovern campaign (1972), and the unhappy results. Obama's real weaknesses will be shown up in the ongoing campaign ... I just hope in the primary and not the presidential campaign.

Irene said...

Judith, I still have a McGovern button . . . ==grin==

I think though that Hillary Clinton will be as much swift-boated as Barack Obama. I'm still more sanguine than you overall.

Let's see what super-Tuesday will bring.

(Meanwhile, here in CT, we have Joe Lieberman stumping for McCain.)