Can Clinton 44 Be Anything Bigger Then Clinton 42?
Guess who's running for president?
After remarks about the House of Representatives being run like a plantation, Hillary Clinton switches gears and does her best Condi Rice impression. She accused the administration of downplaying the threat posed by Iran (contrary to her position that the Administration mislead us into the Iraq war by trumping up false intelligence), and for not being confrontational enough. But given the fact that her husband's treatment of the Department of Defense significantly diminished our ability to engage in and win three simultaneous engagements across the globe, as was our strategy under Reagan and Bush, how does she expect a military stretched so thin by such poor planning on his part to be able to address the Iran and possibly even the North Korea problem? These are matters which she must address, as the threats we now face were known when she and her husband were in the White House.
But those are discussions for another post.
I think Hillary is playing a very dangerous game that should have been learned from Howard Dean's activities of 2003 and 2004: when you are the Democratic frontrunner, shut up and do your job. Anything you say can only hurt you.
Hillary has potentially a two-way gambit. She is trying to seem tough on terror, and is appearing to hold the Administration's feet to the fire on Iran, but is leaving herself some wiggle room. If Bush invades Iran, she can say that she meant for him to use diplomatic pressure, not to once again invade another nation who took no aggressive act against us. And if he fails to do it, she can obviously accuse him of dropping the ball on terror-supporting regimes. And while that sounds clever, the approach is by no means novel, is only partially believable, and carries risks that can outweigh the benefits she is trying to realize.
Hillary has excellent faux-moderate credentials which are certainly enough to give her credibility with the same Iowa voters who left Howard Dean's candidacy to painfully die in a fallow wheat field, because he proved to be just a little too insane to be electable (which he confirmed later that evening with the scream heard 'round the world). But if she plays the fence a little too much, she stands the risk of looking confused, which only turns off voters. And it is a bit hard to run to Bush's right on the terror war. Accusing him of not being confrontational enough on Iran, while accusing him of doing too much in neighboring Iraq, is just a little too inconsistent, and more than just a little silly. It doesn't divorce her enough from the "party of no" image that the Democrats have cultivated over the past six years.
But the other problem is the 230 pound (or so) one that will gain her huge numbers of votes in the primaries, but which could be costly in the general election...Bill. He can help her sweep the primaries with not the least bit of problem. Black voters love him , and he knows how to energize his base for anyone who will allow him. But he carries with him quite a bit of ethical and moral baggage, not to mention that his legacy is being continually reevaluated in light of many national security and foreign policy developments. 9/11/01 was the beginning. Allowing Jimmy Carter to broker a useless agreement with North Korea that turned out to be little more than an opportunity for Kim Jong Il to construct a functional atomic weapon, coupled with the same blackmail coming out of Iran is the most recent sign of the wanting legacy of Clinton. The other problem is that Bill Clinton can never operate in the background. He is a camera hog, and the primaries will become more about Bill than his wife--just what the Republicans want. It's the dilemma that faced Al Gore. He wanted the votes that Bill Clinton could deliver, but he also didn't want the liabilities that a recently-impeached and morally despised president would carry. And he didn't want Bill as the star of his own campaign, having already sat second chair to the aforementioned Hillary for the better part of the Nineties.
But for Hillary, Bill carries other liabilities. He cheated on her. Whether he actually "inhaled" with Monica (among others) or not, I doubt that few wives would find his behavior to be anything less than an outright betrayal. And to have him be her booster is just a tad unseemly, as it lends to the perception which grew during Bill's presidency that they are more business partners than marriage partners.
However it is played, though, and despite both of their very effective media manipulation skills, I doubt that any campaign for a Clinton 44 can escape the stench left by Clinton 42. Between a feckless and therefore dangerous foreign policy of ignoring threats, and a domestic policy that was more or less nonexistent, he did the name of Clinton no real good except among the Georgetown elite. And while the skeletons in Bill's closet(s), if donated to science, could stock every biology and medical school classroom across the nation, Hillary does not approach the White House in her own right with clean hands either. The travelgate problem where she was involved in the firing of the staff of the White House Travel Office, replacing them with cronies, the Rose Law firm and Whitewater (yes, that again), the cattle futures gold mine, the health care takeover plan, and under the category of "she had to know about it", the pardons, packing up White House property, and the Animal House trashing of the place as a welcome for the new Administration. Then there is the guy who otherwise would have been, and may still be her Secretary of State: Sandy Berger. He breaks the law regarding classified documents in order to protect his own rear and Clinton's "legacy". In short, Hillary is someone with some pretty significant ethical baggage, despite the fact that she has spent the past five years trying to seem more moderate than she is.
And she must cross these hurdles in the court of public opinion in order to show America that any Clinton 44 presidency will be something greater than what increasingly seems to be a wasted eight years. In other words, and pardon the poor grammar, but she has to convince America that where her husband and her failed, she and her husband will not.