I had been thinking recently about trying to wrap my mind around Sen. Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate. As a NY state resident I had the opportunity to vote for her back in 2000, which I did happily. Since then, I have for the most part turned my back on her, not least for her early and continuing support for the invasion of Iraq. I have found it hard to be sure what she stood for on other matters-- she is hardly a doctrinaire liberal, certainly not one in the monochrome hue that right-wing political graffiti uses to deface her. It has not helped to watch Sen. Clinton now at the distance of a resident in Illinois; but I am finding myself similarly unclear regarding about our Sen. Obama here.
In any case, much as I like (the new) Al Gore and any number of other potential candidates, none have yet presented an absolutely compelling combination of policies/values/platform and
electability. And it occurs to me that Hillary could yet define herself for me in a way that could gain my support. She does not have to present an exact match to my specifications, any more than would any other candidate.
By a nice coincidence, the Washington Post today offered an intriguing and very helpful profile
of Sen. Clinton, and several parts of it were hopeful, to me. A few snippets:
In recent weeks, Clinton has moved to clarify her agenda with major speeches on the economy and energy. Later this summer she will help present a new strategy for the Democrats. . . . But she has yet to wrap up her ideas in a kind of package like the "New Democrat" philosophy her husband, former president Bill Clinton, used in his 1992 campaign. . . .
To the contrary, she made clear in a telephone interview on Friday that her governing philosophy may never be easily reduced to a slogan. "I don't think like that," she said. "I approach each issue and problem from a perspective of combining my beliefs and ideals with a search for practical solutions. It doesn't perhaps fit in a preexisting box, but many of the problems we face as a nation don't either."
The first thing she needs to do, alright, is to "clarify her agenda" (one might say, simply to set
one): I don't think she wants support as Mrs. Clinton
, nor simply as a woman candidate, and so we need to hear that agenda, desperately.
Apart from that, I like
the fact that she resists "slogans" and "boxes": but again people will happily create boxes for her, and she needs to find ways to communicate
those "beliefs and ideals", as well as her pragmatic approach, to the public. She needs to find ways to cut through the sound-bite media culture, and to neutralize the vitriol of the brownshirts on the right. (Here may be one adavantage to being married to the Big Dog-- he was pretty good at it.)
On balance, most of those around Clinton say that her hard-to-pigeonhole profile is a political asset -- the product, they say, of a curious intellect, the absence of rigid ideology, an instinct for problem solving and a willingness to seek consensus even across party lines. Her detractors see her career as the work of an opportunistic politician who has sanded the sharp edges off her views, so much so that there is little sense of authenticity when she speaks.
Curiosity, intellect, absence of rigidity, problem-solving, consensus-building: now if only she can project those qualities
. After 8 years of "Chimpy"!! I could vote for that.
Almost now, her stance regarding Iraq makes sense:
On Iraq, she has tried to be a critic of Bush without renouncing her support for the resolution that authorized him to go to war, as other Democrats have done. She opposes a timetable for withdrawing troops and an open-ended commitment.
. . . "I've said many times I regret how the president has used his authority," she said. "But I think I have a responsibility to look at this as carefully as I can and say what I believe, and what I believe is we're in a very dangerous situation and it doesn't lend itself to sound bites, and therefore I have resisted going along with either my colleagues who feel passionately they need to call for a date certain or colleagues who are 100 percent behind the policy and with the president and [British] Prime Minister [Tony] Blair. . . . I know I take criticism from all sides on this, but I've tried to work my way through it as clearly and responsibly as I can."
But I still think that she must eventually go back and explain
her initial vote-- if only to fault the faulty intelligence and official deceit of the Regime-- and to further explain her thinking here. Attributes of "intellect" and "lack of rigidity" and honesty
could have prevented the global and national security disaster of the invasion and these are now much needed in its aftermath, to try to work our way out of the military and political morass The Regime has created.
Finally, she does win a Democratic merit badge:
But a Congressional Quarterly analysis found that she has voted with a majority of Democrats 95 percent of the time and has consistently recorded one of the highest percentages for opposing Bush on legislation of any of her potential 2008 Democratic rivals.
It would be interesting to compare this record with those of, say, John Kerry and Russ Feingold. And it doesn't help us evaluate her stands vis a vis Al Gore.
But still, Sen. Clinton-- I am ready to listen. Please speak up!