…if she is the Democratic nominee. Hillary is the most qualified candidate in the race. There may be nobody in the world who is better qualified, other than someone who has already been President.
The problem with Hillary Clinton is not her qualifications. The problem is that she is not a leader. Like her husband, she is averse to taking tough stands. She does not make the American public take its cod liver oil. The one time I saw Bill Clinton speak in person, he called for supporting disabled children and railed against deadbeat dads. Hillary continues in this non-offensive tradition. She employs the finger-to-the-wind method of governance. That makes her a follower.
There is an excellent article about Hillary by Joshua Green in November 2006’s Atlantic magazine. Green shows how Hillary learned from her health care reform experience and how she has become a successful Senator who is respected on both sides of the aisle. Green confronts her with the criticism that she has not taken any tough stands, despite the fact that she has a long record of accomplishment in the Senate. As Green puts it:
After we’d gone through her positions and policies in some detail, I suggested that for all she’d been busy doing in the Senate, I couldn’t find an instance where she had taken a politically unpopular stance or championed a big idea, like health-care reform, that might not yield immediate benefits but that was the right thing to do. Interviews with colleagues and observers seemed to imply an unspoken disappointment that her talents promised a record of more height and substance than she had displayed. The one consistent criticism I heard was that her record was marked by overwhelming caution. Could she refute their doubts, and point to a few examples of politically brave votes?
After dancing around the issue a bit, here is how she answers this critique:
“Everything I do carries political risk because nobody gets the scrutiny that I get,” she said finally. “It’s not like I have any margin for error whatsoever. I don’t. Everybody else does, and I don’t. And that’s fine. That’s just who I am, and that’s what I live with.”
It’s true that she is watched more than others. It’s true that she has less margin for error. But is that a good excuse to not act like a leader? She has long been a lightning rod for the conservative bashing machine. But now, the fact that she is a front-runner for President is why she is so watched and has less margin for error. Like all the serious candidates, she cannot make mistakes for fear that the media will magnify them into massive blunders, but why can’t she show leadership?
Watching the debate last week in South Carolina, she seemed the most Presidential of the candidates. My guy Barack Obama, on the other hand, was disappointing. He seemed amateurish and showed his political inexperience. A few people have commented to me about my Obama bandwagon post, saying that they like him but wish he had more experience. I do too! I’d like to see him serve several more terms in the Senate before he runs for President. The Presidency is or should be the pinnacle of one’s career. One should train one’s entire life to be President and then run at just the right moment. (Not too soon, not too late.) I don’t think Obama has reached that moment. But after reading Obama’s policy book, The Audacity of Hope, I’m convinced he’s a leader. He wants to change the world, not game the current system. And the world needs changing.
If the choice is between an inexperienced leader and an experienced follower, I think I’d rather vote for the inexperienced leader. But if Hillary is the nominee, I will vote for her. Regardless of who the Republican candidate is, he will bring too much Republican baggage with him. We need to recover and rebuild after the Bush hurricane, particularly when it comes to our democratic institutions. Maybe the country needs a good “caretaker” President like I imagine Hillary Clinton would be.