Clinton. The name brings fond memories for some. For Democrats, it means the Dot-Com Boom, a greater emphasis on diplomacy, and a guy who let you know what type of underwear he had on his person. Good Times. For Republicans, it brings up Whitewater, Travelgate, Vince Foster, Jim and Susan McDougal, Paula Jones, and, of course, that blue dress.
For Conservative and Liberal alike, it brings almost instant recall of the “Contract with America" and a Republican sweep of Congress.
The name Clinton has been brought up yet again, only this time, it's the one that neither side remembers in a particularly fond matter.
When Bill took over the White House, and charged her with healthcare reform, there was a stir. She had overstepped the bounds of the First Lady. Hillary was supposed to be reading books to children, not “reforming" healthcare. She was automatically branded as the one who wore the pants in the family. People accused her of helping run the White House, and she roundly denied any accusations that she did so. Bill had, during the campaign, promoted a “two-for-one" White House. Many called for Hillary to step down from her very public involvement in policy. The honorary office of “First Lady" had never been a cabinet level position, and vocal criticism from the right assured that it would not be in the future.
When her initiative was greeted with extreme opposition, she abandoned her prominent role as Chairwoman of the Healthcare Reform Commission , and did what she was supposed to: Read books to children at the library. Travel to Africa to speak on AIDS. Speak on women's rights in Beijing. Redecorate a few rooms in the White House. Even then, she was not exempt from censure. Her manual for raising children “It Takes A Village" managed to raise ire among Conservative critics, who received it as a manifesto for a government “Nanny State".
Then the Lewinsky scandal hit, giving credence to past allegations of *** misconduct by President Clinton: Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers. Mrs. Clinton was noticeably silent during these times, save for the occasional refrain of “Stand By Your Man". In what could only be deemed a state of denial, Mrs. Clinton denounced criticism of her husband as a “. . . . vast, right-wing conspiracy". Feminist groups and Conservatives alike were aghast at the fact that Hillary was so supportive of her husband. Others asked what Mrs. Clinton stood to gain. They saw Hillary as a strategist, the cold logic behind Bill's charismatic personality. It would be a few years before her motivations became apparent.
After the Clintons left office, Hillary announced that she would run as a Senator in the state of New York. In a move that elicited a sizeable outcry, the Clintons purchased a house in Chappaqua, NY to fulfill the residency requirements of the election committee. This seemed to matter little to voters in New York, as they gave her a handy victory over her Republican opponent, and native New Yorker, Rick Lazio. The 12% margin of victory was lauded as a mandate for change in Washington, although Hillary's politics were not entirely dissimilar from her predecessor, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. If, as many pundits suggested, the Senate seat would be used as a stepping-stone for the Presidency, then it stood to reason that her votes would not be the test of a legislator. They would instead, be a forecast of future policies.
Her voting record has given mixed results, for both sides of the aisle. While Sen. Moynihan had been pro-choice, his views on acceptable termination of pregnancy met their end when it came to partial-birth abortion. Hillary had no such qualms, and her votes, so far, have helped her gain a rating of 100% from NARAL. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mrs. Clinton's legislative interpretations of the 2nd Amendment garnered a large, red “F" from the NRA. Her ACLU score of 75% is the one area that makes people do a double-take. With a superb human rights record at Wellesley College -and throughout her career, for that matter- one has to wonder why they docked her 25 points. Many are surprised to find out, that during college, Mrs. Clinton headed up the young Republicans for a bit. A minor 5 point violation.
The other 20 points were probably subtracted for her break with Progressives in a single area: National Defense. She voted for the war in Iraq and for the Patriot Act, which the ACLU has wholeheartedly lobbied against. Then she voted for the resolution that labeled the Iranian National Guard “a terrorist organization". This managed to upset the anti-war wing of her party, which has grown considerably larger in the past few years. An condemnation of Iran is seen as supporting the Bush administration's perceived move towards a pre-emptive military strike. While they love her social stance, her silent agreement with the foreign policies of the Bush administration has hurt her badly with the MoveOn.org/Howard Dean branch of the party. While she later said that she disapproved of Bush's handling of the war, and voted against the surge, her refusal to call for immediate withdrawal has alienated an important faction of her party.
Problems From Within. . . . Problems From Without
While the war remains a hurdle along her path to the Presidency, it appears that it will not be the greatest obstacle. Of late, her campaign has taken hits from people who were staunch allies. Michael Moore fired the first shot in his documentary “Sicko". In the movie, he puts forth the assertion that Mrs. Clinton has forsaken the best interests of the public to raise campaign money from HMO's. George Soros has quietly funnelled his own personal finances, and that of various 527's (aka Political Action Committees) to the campaign of Barack Obama. Former Clinton advisor Dick Morriss has long been critical of Hillary, and now counts Republican Dark Horse Mike Huckabee among his friends. The final blow came from an unlikely source: another woman. This past week, Hillary's campaign seemed demoralized, as the most influential woman in America (maybe the world) came down on the side of Barak Obama. Oprah is on the campaign trail, eroding the key demographic that Hillary has always boasted belongs to her: Women. Now, John Edwards is in a dead heat with her in Iowa, campaigning as the champion of the poor and disenfranchised. The latest numbers from the Public Policy Poll now show him as the national leader in the Democratic race.
Sometimes, the damage has been self-inflicted.
Her showing at the Philadelphia Debate opened some wounds in her campaign. That night found her accused of her of double-talk on Social Security, illegal immigration, and fending off heavy attacks from the other candidates. Focus groups composed of Democratic voters gave her low marks for her often cold demeanor, and evasive answers. Afterwards, Hillary complained of ill treatment by the moderator, Tim Russert, and that other candidates were piling on the abuse, simply because she was a woman. She changed her tune, after accusations flew that she was just playing the “gender card. At the Nevada debates Mrs. Clinton had this to say:
"They're not attacking me because I'm a woman, they are attacking me because I am ahead. "
While this line debuted to very great applause, she would have been better served if she had used the line earlier in the campaign.
You can practically hear the Republicans warming up the “flip-flops".
The Republican's Greatest Ally
In all of this, there seems to be little commentary coming from the Republican camp. It must be hard to maintain such composure, given the fact that a Clinton candidacy could be the single best thing to happen to their party this decade.
While the Democrats have at least two people who have raised significant hopes for their party, at present, the Republicans have none. With a list of candidates increasingly trying to stay towards the centre, and no clear frontrunner to energize the base, things have looked less than promising. The one glimmer of hope that Republicans have is a Clinton nomination. The looming fear of a third Clinton term would drive the Republican faithful to the polls, and a heavy turnout could bring a Congressional takeover, at the very least.
An even greater opportunity exists for Republicans with Independents and Moderate Democrats. Hillary has never tested well with Independents. While a good deal of them sided with her husband in previous elections, they are almost certain not to swing her way for this one. So-called “Blue Dog" Democrats in Southern states will also determine Mrs. Clinton's fate. These Democrats are social conservatives who tend to be loyal to the party locally, but are swing votes in a national election. Bill Clinton ran as a moderate Democrat, and carried this group easily during his last election. He will have a harder time convincing them to vote for his wife. These people are anti-immigration, pro-gun, and pro-life, for the most part. The best Hillary could hope for is that they all stay home the day of the election.
With the highest negative ratings of any candidate nationally, encroaching pressure from opponents, and a campaign struggling to gain traction, the collapse of the Clinton campaign looks imminent. The only question is: When will it happen? Right now, it appears that she will not fair well in Iowa or New Hampshire. The Clinton's are surprisingly resilient, and to pre-judge their success has never been a good idea. I predict that, while he currently leads, John Edwards falls prey to a " Howard Dean " moment. Hillary and Obama battle it out for Presidential nominee, and Clinton comes out on top. To quell any post-campaign criticisms, Obama is made Vice-Presidential nominee. Mrs. Clinton then goes on to lose in a landslide, to either Giuliani or Romney. The Republicans take the House, but not the Senate. Future female forays into the Presidency are irretrievably damaged, and a woman is not seen in the field for at least another decade.
While these predictions may be considered either dire or ludicrous, hopefully the veracity of this statement rings true:
Democrats should think twice before fielding Hillary Clinton, and Republicans should pray that they don't.
Kurt Hartman is a student of the free markets, and a fan of laissez-faire economics. In politics, he is often found playing Devil's Advocate, although many feel he should be banned from practice.
At his day job, he is a market forecaster for a firm that sells otr tires (or otr tyres , depending on what part of the world you hail from. )