Saturday, November 22, 2008

No To Hillary Clinton

According to recent media accounts, Hillary Clinton will be nominated as Barack Obama's Secretary of State. At one time I admired Hillary Clinton and often told friends I wished she was president instead of her husband. Whereas Bill Clinton was an undisciplined and feckless founding member of the DLC, Hillary Clinton appeared tough minded and principled. As a New Yorker I was thrilled when she became my senator after the 2000 election. I hoped she would be cut from the same cloth as Robert Kennedy: a steadfast advocate for economic and social justice at home and peace and human rights abroad.

Instead, Hillary Clinton opted to position herself as a hawkish/corporatist centrist and didn't even read the ninety page National Intelligence Estimate prior to supporting George W. Bush's folly in Iraq. I won't rehash the entire 2008 presidential primary campaign but Clinton's conduct prior to the Iraq war was the principal reason I didn't support her candidacy this year. Hence, even as I don't question her intellect or ability, I find it difficult to feel any enthusiasm for Clinton as our next Secretary of State.

Indeed, this sentence in Clinton's infamous October 10, 2002 Senate floor speech supporting Bush's war against Saddam Hussein forever damaged her credibility with me:
"He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001."
There was zero evidence of any relationship between Saddam and Al Quaeda and saying "apparently no evidence" of his involvement in 9/11 suggests some revealation was lurking just around the corner. Other Democrats like Joe Biden also wrongfully enabled Bush's war and apologized for their poor judgment. But Hillary Clinton did more than that. Her speech helped reinforce the Bush/Cheney false narrative about Iraq and 9/11. I for one can neither forgive nor forget. Hillary Clinton's support of Bush/Cheney fear mongering made her unworthy as a presidential candidate in my eyes. For damn sure it makes her unworthy to serve as America's voice to the world.

Another concern I have is that Clinton will staff the State Department with her own cronies. Certainly she would never accept the position without assurances about autonomy to pick her own staff. In fairness, Clinton should not be expected to accept such a post and be gelded like Colin Powell was with people inside the State Department who undermined him at every opportunity. Of course Clinton should be surrounded by personalities she trusts. And yet one can easily envision a soap opera in which the National Security Council contains Obama loyalists while the State Department becomes perceived as a fifth column serving Hillary Clinton. That is a recipe for disaster both at home and abroad.

Oh I can see the logic of it. In terms of raw politics, with one stroke Obama neuters a potential rival power base inside the Democratic party while giving both Bill and Hillary Clinton a stake in his presidency. Furthermore, Hillary Clinton's celebrity can be an enormous asset on the world stage and allow Obama to focus on domestic issues during a time of economic crisis. Her appointment adds to Obama's image as a self-confident post partisan leader who unlike Bush doesn't need to surround himself with rubber stamp cronies. I acknowledge those points. Perhaps it will work out for the best. I hope so but I have my doubts.

Also, even though I voted for Clinton's primary opponent in her 2006 Senate re-election campaign on principle (yes she really did have a primary opponent), New York can't afford to lose her now. Clinton is understandably frustrated by her lack of seniority in the world's most deliberative body. Yet I believe Clinton underestimates just how much clout she truly has. Hillary Clinton emerged from this year's campaign with a distinct political brand as the voice of working people who garnered 18 million votes. It may not be a powerful committee chair but that kind of demonstrated constituency means leverage. Other Senators hope to cut deals with figures possessing that kind of brand to enhance their stature and benefit from political cover.

Now more than ever New York needs that kind of clout. Even though a Democrat will occupy the White House, reliable blue states such as New York will still have to compete for their share of federal aid with traditional battle ground states. True New York's senior Senator Charles Schumer is no shrinking violet but following Wall Street's implosion the Empire State needs all the clout and leverage it can muster.

So as both an American and a New Yorker I hope the media is wrong about Hillary Clinton becoming Secretary of State. Others can serve Obama just as ably but few New Yorkers can accomplish what Hillary Clinton can for our struggling state.


Anonymous said...

I thought that the American people voted against her. I am sad and disgusted that she will have that much power. What is this county thinking. I also thought that Mr. Obama wanted change? Oh well, it looks like another 4 years of the Clintons.

christian_left said...

Good post. What a disaster--we get the worst of both worlds: Obama's cautious approach to health care and Clinton's hawkish approach to foreign policy.

thepoetryman said...

I certainly hope she makes things happen now that it seems likely or sure that she will be SOS. Funny, that acronym, huh?