I’m attempting to deconstruct my animus toward Hillary Clinton so as to be “Ready for Hillary” and her inevitable nomination in 2016.
My dislike dates to 1992 and the 60 Minutes interview in which then-candidate Bill Clinton denied having a 12-year affair with Gennifer Flowers while Hillary, clutching his arm, nodded vigorously. Bill wasn’t lying, exactly, if we believe that the affairhe later admitted in sworn testimony to one sexual encounter, which Hillary undoubtedly knew aboutdidn’t last 12 years. You know, what the definition of “is” is?
Bill and Hillary acknowledged problems in their marriage, said they loved each other, and Hillary opined that if the two of them could change the subject to the “real issues … the country’ll be OK.” With them, she meant.
It was uncomfortable, I recall, watching the Clintons tell a tale that was palpably not the whole truth but not provably false either. Four years later, when William Safire, the late, great columnist for The New York Times, labeled Hillary Clinton “a congenital liar,” I had to agree that when facts clashed with her ambitions, she was only zealous about the latter.
Later still, I bet my sister, a Hillary confederate, that self-respect would prompt Hillary to divorce Bill when they left the White House. Even if it meant she’d never be president. Lost that one.
But seriously, I’m anti-Hillary because of her marriage and old lies?
Yes, partly. But mainly it’s her unwillingness to take on the “real issues” in campaigns from ’92 to now. As with her private life, when it comes to tough issues Hillary’s instinctive response isn’t truth-telling. It’s guarding her future “electability.”
Start with the seemingly diabolical trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Where’s Hillary?
The hollowing out of our economy and the steady degradation of labor in America was an issue in ’92. It’s a huge issue today. Global financiers are stealing our lunch with outsourcing and trade deals like NAFTA (a George H.W. Bush/Bill Clinton production) and the still-secret TPP. That’s issue No. 1. No. 2 is climate change. Third is war.
On these three, Hillary Clinton has been wrong sometimes, as with her 2002 Senate vote to invade Iraq. More troubling is that she’s never right, never out front as a leader on the fundamental issues of our time. The one exception is her lifelong advocacy of equality for women. And to be fair, if women were equal, perhaps economic and environmental reforms would follow and the military-industrial complex would be curbed.
The tricky thing, moreover, is disentangling Hillary’s actions from Bill’s and, for six years, from President Obama’s. Hillary and Bill made a mess of health care reform in 1993-’94, with Hillary in the lead role trying to cut a deal with the medical-industrial complex. Her predilection for secrecy and closed-door meetings didn’t help, because when the effort flopped, the public was in the dark about how actual reform might’ve worked.
Hillary’s failure to educate was one reason why Obama started from square one on health care 16 years later.
Worse, putting Hillary in the lead was politically inept, because when negotiations founderedas every ward healer knew they wouldPresident Clinton was unable to send in a fresh team without firing his wife. Which he was unwilling to do because, again, her ambition.
Remember, when we elected Bill, we got “two for the price of one.” His words. So should we blame Hillary for NAFTA? Or the disastrous repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which led directly to the financial meltdown of 2007-’08? She’s slippery on those subjects. But the economic growth in the ’90s wasper her 2008 campaigna credit to their co-presidency.
Obama’s foreign policy successes will similarly be Hillary’s, as his first secretary of state. Failures, however? His.
From their days in Arkansas to now, and throughout their White House years, the Clintons have been awfully solicitous of the rich and corporations. Hillary was on the board of Walmart for six years, for goodness sakes, and “always proud” of it. Her ties to Wall Street are legion. It’s hard to escape that she and Bill prefer rubbing elbows with billionaires.
And don’t forget their “third way” prescription for Democrats to win elections, which is to split the difference between actual Democratic policies and what the Republicans want. It’s been the undoing of Democrats in most of the country.
Meanwhile, actual Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist, have been fighting for progressive change.
Sanders, who last week announced he’ll challenge Clinton for the Democratic nomination, is leading the fight against the TPP, the provisions of which have leaked in dribs and drabs as Obama’s corporate advisers wrap up negotiations with China and other possible trading partners. Warren is opposed, as is organized labor and most Democrats.
But Wall Street and the corporations are all for it. And most Republicans.
Clinton can’t duck this one much longer. When she finally takes a stand, it will say a lot about where she is on the “real issues,” and about her political instincts. And be a tip-off as to whether she’s Ready to Lead, or just ready to be president for the rich.
This article appeared in print with the headline “Acquiescing to Hillary.”