Lately there havve been some attacks on Hillary Clinton. The main line of attack these days: she says she’s experienced, but she’s not as experienced as she likes to pretend she is. Obama even went so far as to say that he wonders since when “First Lady” is considered experience for a presidential candidate. Republicans have basically adopted the same line of attack and we can expect these attacks coming from both Clinton’s Democratic and Republican enemies to intensify in the coming weeks and months. It sounds nice, Obama scored some points when he said what he said about Clinton putting First Lady on her resumÃ©, but I believe that critics of Clinton are wrong to pretend that her having been First Lady doesn’t ‘count’ as valid experience.
What’s remarkable is that many of those who now criticize her for not having so much experience since she was just a First Lady, are the same ones who criticized Hilary Clinton when she was First Lady for having too much influence: two for the price of one and all that. Suddenly, these people seem to have forgotten (and conveniently so) how much power and influence Hillary had as first lady. She wasn’t the average First Lady. She wasn’t a First Lady like Laura Bush. She was a First Lady who had an agenda of her own and who actively supported her husband(‘s policies). If you read books about the Clinton presidency, whether those books be written by the Clintons themselves or by independent observers like Van Natta and Gerth, one thing becomes very clear: Hillary Clinton wasn’t as much a First Lady as she was a second and powerful Vice President. In effect you could say that Bill Clinton had two VPs which is exactly why Hillary and Al Gore couldn’t stand each other. They were rivals.
Hillary Clinton was the one who made health care her issue. Bill Clinton wanted to reform the health care system and he put his wife in charge of the project (to do this). Sure, she failed, but it did give her a lot of experience and taught her some valuable and important lessons. One of the lessons she learned, as she often says herself, is that she learned that in Washington, you need to take your time if you want to change things. Pushing through legislation as fast as possible often doesn’t work. You’ve got to compromise, you’ve got to listen to the other side and you’ve got to give critics something in return for their support. This project alone gave Clinton more experience than Obama has collected in his entire political life (same goes for Edwards).
Besides, health care wasn’t the only issue she was involved in. She did more than that. She was also actively involved in Bill Clinton’s project to reform the welfare system. She was also actively involved in foreign policy decisions her husband made. Bill Clinton made his own decision, but Hillary was his most trusted adviser. When he wasn’t sure about what policy or strategy to pursue he asked her and she gave him her opinion. Whether he did what she advised him to do or not, point is he relied as much on her political wisdom and intelligence as on anyone else’s.
I think it’s time to put the experience issue to rest. Obama and Edwards have far less experience than Hillary Clinton. Not only was Hillary Clinton active before she married Bill Clinton, after their marriage she continued to be active in politics and help her husband. The Clintons are a team. This resulted, in the end, in a First Lady who was more like a VP than a traditional VP. As First Lady she gained more experience and she even led big projects. After the Clintons left the White House, she became Senator from the State of New York, which she has been now for 7 years. If she becomes president, she’ll have been a very influential First Lady for eight years and Senator for eight years as well. The only Democratic candidate with as much or more experience as she has is Bill Richardson, and Richardson has no chance of winning the nomination. No, if you believe experience is an important issue, Clinton would be a sound choice.