Bush Clinton

Peter Beinart has an article on A Unified Theory of Hillary in today’s issue of National Journal.The entire article is worth reading but one line really sums up the article and my overall opinion of Hillary Clinton: “Hillary does learn from her mistakes. But only after the damage is done.” He also pointed out how her tunnel vision “might produce a presidency more stylistically akin to that of George W. Bush.”

Beinart does have also have some praise for Hillary Clinton as being tough-minded, and does feel she might have a better chance of dealing with Congress than other recent Democratic presidents. Looking back to the years when Bill was in the White House, and even earlier, he had this to say:

From their days in Arkansas, Hillary took the lead in combating the scandalmongers who threatened Bill’s career. Her default position was single-minded and relentless. She repeatedly urged her husband’s advisers to meet attacks on Bill’s character by going after the character of his opponents. (According to Bernstein, in 1992 she urged the campaign to fan rumors about George H.W. Bush’s infidelity.) It was Hillary who called in Dick Morris when Bill was losing his bid for reelection as governor in 1980, and who became Morris’s point of contact when the Clintons entered the White House. According to Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr.’s biography Her Way, when a liberal Arkansas staffer objected to Morris’s presence, Hillary responded, “If you want to be in this kind of business, this is the kind of person you have to deal with.”

Tough-minded, but also showing the lack of principle she is known for.

Clinton has a history of making big mistakes on the big issues, such as her handling of health care reform:

Hillary’s failure to see that her model, which she had developed in Arkansas, was not working and needed to be altered midstream. As in Arkansas, Hillary—now aided by Magaziner—kept tight control of the process. At task force meetings, Bernstein notes, participants were forbidden from copying draft documents or, in many cases, even taking notes. The secrecy alienated not only members of Congress, health care activists, and the press, but key figures in the Clinton administration as well. Hillary and Magaziner both knew a great deal about health care policy. But neither knew as much about health care politics as Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, or Office of Management and Budget Director Leon Panetta. Yet because of the task force’s secrecy, and because they feared directly confronting the president’s wife, Bentsen, Panetta, Shalala, and others in the administration often felt marginalized. As Haynes Johnson and David Broder document in The System—their indispensable book on the health care battle—Clinton officials angered by their lack of influence repeatedly leaked damaging information to a press corps angered by its lack of access.

Her biggest mistake was in getting her husband to agree to promise to veto anything other than what Hillary wanted, despite the fact that the Republican counter-proposal was extremely similar to the Affordable Care Act passed under Barack Obama, and would have served as a point to negotiate from at the time rather than having to wait until just recently to achieve health care reform. Some Clinton staffers recommended considering more modest proposals from moderate Democrats when it became clear that her entire package could not pass in Congress.

But Hillary resisted switching course, and she and Magaziner won the day. In his State of the Union address the following January—at Hillary’s urging and over Gergen’s opposition—Bill pledged to veto any health care bill that did not provide universal health coverage, even though key figures in his own party already believed that was the only kind of health care bill Congress would pass.

Hillary proceeded to move to the right to counter the false impression spread by the right that she was a left-wing radical.

IF HILLARY’S FAILURE to improvise contributed to the demise of health care reform, it also contributed to her greatest foreign policy blunder—her support for the Iraq War—and her subsequent loss to Barack Obama in 2008.

As with health care reform, Hillary’s transition from first lady to elected official relied on a clear plan, a key component of which was: Disprove the caricature of herself as a left-wing radical (an effort made easier by the fact that the caricature had never been remotely true). In her New York Senate race, Tomasky notes, Hillary ran to Rudy Giuliani’s right on abortion: She supported parental-notification laws; he did not. In the Senate, she cosponsored legislation with former impeachment champion Sam Brownback to study the effects of mass media on children and hired a staffer to reach out to abortion foes.

Clinton has also come under criticism recently for not supporting marriage equality until 2013, long after this became the politically safe position to take. She has most recently received unfavorable criticism for her handling of an interview with Terry Gross on this subject, although after listening to the interview I did not feel she did as badly as many others have written.

For the right to call Hillary Clinton a left-wing radical is even more absurd than their current claims that Barack Obama is a socialist. How would they respond if an actual leftist were to become president?

Beinart went on to describe how, after 9/11, Clinton joined Joe Lieberman on the far right of the Democratic Party, going as far as to claim 9/11 as justification for the war in Iraq and failing to recognize her mistake until virtually everyone else had abandoned her original view:

Almost as soon as the twin towers fell, Hillary began staking out positions on the right edge of her party. On Sept. 12, from the floor of the Senate, she warned—in language similar to George W. Bush’s—that regimes that “in any way aid or comfort [terrorists] whatsoever will now face the wrath of our country.” As Gerth and Van Natta detailed, Hillary did not just vote to authorize war with Iraq—something most other nationally ambitious Democrats did as well—she justified her vote by citing Saddam Hussein’s ties to al-Qaida, a claim echoed by only one other Senate Democrat, Joe Lieberman.

Even once it became clear that governing postwar Iraq would be far harder than the Bush administration had predicted, Hillary gave little ground. In a December 2003 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, she called her Iraq decision “the right vote” and insisted that “failure is not an option.” As late as February 2005, when Iraq was already in civil war, she drew attention to the “many parts of Iraq that are functioning quite well” and warned that it “would be a mistake” to set a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops.

In bucking her party’s liberal base, Hillary almost certainly believed she was doing the right thing. She was “cursed,” she declared, when explaining her refusal to join John Edwards’s 2007 call for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, “with the responsibility gene.” Hillary’s intellectual failure lay in her inability to recognize that the definition of “responsibility” she had developed during the 1990s, with its emphasis on American freedom of action and the utility of military force, was being abused and misapplied in Iraq. Her political failure lay in her inability to see how dramatically the center of gravity in her party was shifting away from her point of view.

As the situation in Iraq went south, liberal activists—enraged at the Democratic Party’s ideologically hawkish, politically submissive leaders—launched an intraparty rebellion. The first sign came in 2003, when blogs like Daily Kos and activist groups like MoveOn.org powered Howard Dean’s stunning insurgency against a field of Washington Democrats who had backed the war. Yet during that period, Hillary and her top advisers were remarkably slow to recognize that the ground was shifting underneath their feet, and that the centrist strategy they had laid out at the beginning of her Senate career was now dangerously outdated.

Clinton’s failure to recognize how the Democratic party was changing could be seen in her choice of Mark Penn to be chief strategist for her campaign: “Hillary put her fate in the hands of a consultant who not only discounted their influence but loathed them.” Her presidential campaign only reinforced suspicion of her among many liberals:

But while she may have had no good way to discuss her Iraq vote, Hillary could have at least signaled to angry liberals that she would act differently on Iran. Instead, she picked a fight over Obama’s willingness to meet Tehran’s leaders without preconditions, a fight that to many liberals confirmed that Obama would change Bush foreign policy while Hillary represented more of the same.

More broadly, Hillary’s campaign failed to adequately recognize that her Iraq vote had convinced many liberals that she lacked the courage of her convictions. As an actress playing Hillary quipped on Saturday Night Live in January 2007, “I think most Democrats know me. They understand that my support for the war was always insincere.” In that environment, Hillary’s unwillingness to embrace controversial liberal causes for fear that they’d be used against her in the general election became a character issue. Arguably, the key moment in Hillary’s demise came at a Drexel University debate on Oct. 30, when she refused to forthrightly endorse New York state’s plan to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and was slammed by her opponents and the press for trying to have it both ways. Eleven days later, in perhaps his most important speech of the primary campaign, Obama wowed a Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Iowa, declaring that “not answering questions because we are afraid our answers won’t be popular just won’t do.” At a time when Democratic primary voters were hungry for authenticity and backbone, Penn’s efforts to inoculate Hillary against right-wing attack convinced many liberals that she lacked both.

Beinart concluded (emphasis mine):

NONE OF THIS is to suggest that Hillary would be an ineffective president—only that her successes and failures would look different from Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s. Bill’s failures often owed to indiscipline. Obama’s have stemmed in part from aloofness. If past is prologue, Hillary’s would stem in significant measure from unwillingness to change course. Hillary does learn from her mistakes. But only after the damage is done.

Her successes as president, on the other hand, would likely result from the kind of hands-on, methodical, unyielding drive that both Bill Clinton and Obama struggled to sustain. In her wonkishness and her moderate liberalism, Hillary has much in common with Obama and her husband. But her “tunnel vision”—in the words of a close friend quoted in Sally Bedell Smith’s For Love of Politicsmight produce a presidency more stylistically akin to that of George W. Bush. For years now, Democrats have yearned for a leader who champions their causes with the same single-minded, supremely confident, unwavering intensity that they believe Republican leaders bring to theirs. For better and worse, they may soon get their wish.

For better and worse. While undoubtedly far better than a presidency in the hands of any imaginable Republican opponent at present, I also feel that Democrats who are now so willing to hand her the nomination will also see the worse aspects.

Other controversies also surround Clinton at present. Matthew Contenetti has raised criticism this week of Clinton’s early defense of child rapist. See Doug Mataconis and Steve M for responses.

Even a simple question from The New York Times Book Review has created controversy as it reinforced views of Clinton as being calculating and dishonest:

If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

At the risk of appearing predictable, the Bible was and remains the biggest influence on my thinking. I was raised reading it, memorizing passages from it and being guided by it. I still find it a source of wisdom, comfort and encouragement.

Gawker’s reaction was that, “Some people like Hillary Clinton. Other people dislike Hillary Clinton. However you feel about Hillary Clinton, it is difficult to deny that she is one of the most cold and calculating political figures in all the land.” This led to a link to a 2013 article on Clinton’s Cowardice As a Political Philosophy, which looked at her views on Iraq and gay marriage.

The Daily Banter responded:

But does Clinton calling the Bible her most influential book tantamount to a political calculation?

Yes it does.

It would be one thing if Clinton meant that the Bible has been the most influential on her because it’s had a profound impact on the course of human history for more than 2,000 years. However, she wasn’t talking about the book’s cultural and political impact, but rather the influence it’s had on her personally as a reader of it.

Because if the book with the biggest influence on Hillary Clinton were truly the Bible, she would never have gotten to where she is. The Bible, however beloved it may be, is not a book conducive to thinking. Rather, the Bible deals in revealed wisdom written by men of antiquity who probably knew less about the natural world than a contemporary American fifth grader. Without question there are passages in the Bible that may very well have given her a modicum of wisdom, comfort, and encouragement, but for every such excerpt there is one or more that couldn’t be more disturbing and anathema to what we today call common decency.

There is no time to air all the dirty laundry of the Bible here. Besides, most Americans are familiar with its horrors, yet many seem to accept it as a sort of general guide on how to live by focusing on passages they find agreeable while discarding the rest.

The “rest” would include the multiple instances of mass killing in the Old Testament, including the great flood started by god that wiped out nearly all of humanity. Homosexuals, witches, and Sabbath-breakers are ordered killed. The Ten Commandments say that one must only worship Yahweh, who judges people merely for what they think. Interestingly enough, rape is not mentioned in the commandments.

In the New Testament, we come to learn that those who do not accept that Jesus was brutally tortured and killed for their sins will suffer in hell in anguish for all eternity simply for not believing. This is founding principle of Christianity.

And yet this is the text that Hillary Clinton — a Yale Law School-educated former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State — says is the book that’s had the biggest impact on her life.

You can believe it if you like. And if you do, there’s a bridge near me I’d like to sell you.

While hardly the biggest campaign issue, this also underscores Hillary Clinton’s lack of self-awareness, failing to understand how a dishonest and calculating answer such as this does nothing to appease the right while reinforcing reservations about her from the left.

Originally posted at Liberal Values

Ron Chusid
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Copyright 2014 The Moderate Voice
  • sheknows

    Wow, you’ve convinced me Ron. IF your last article about her book didn’t do it..this sure has. You’re right…she is just a rotten person. Oh, that’s right, this is just another ” objective” opinion by another writer used to “inform” everyone…like the book critique. ( and this from a man who claimed ” I do not hate Hillary”). Toooo funny!!

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    We all get it by now that you don’t support Hillary Clinton.

    But could you explain in your own words .”…showing the lack of principle she is known for.”?


  • sheknows

    “The Clinton health plan required each US citizen and permanent resident alien to become enrolled in a qualified health plan and forbade their disenrollment until covered by another plan. It listed minimum coverages and maximum annual out-of-pocket expenses for each plan. It proposed the establishment of corporate “regional alliances” of health providers to be subject to a fee-for-service schedule. People below a certain set income level were to pay nothing. The act listed funding to be sent to the states for the administration of this plan, beginning at $13.5 billion in 1993 and reaching $38.3 billion in 2003.”

    Sound familiar Ron???!!
    Your precious ACA wouldn’t exist today of it weren’t for the continual efforts of HC. It was vehemently opposed by the insurance companies, pharma, and conservatives and it harmed her politically .

  • Dorian, the items in the post provide examples of Clinton’s lack of principles, and I’m sure a Google search on views of Clinton would show how this commonly this description is applied to her. I also have many older posts on Clinton which address this in more detail.

  • sheknows,

    It was Clinton’s mishandling of health care reform which prevented passage until Obama was elected, and if Obama hadn’t managed to beat Clinton we probably would still not have health care reform. Her insistance on passing exactly her program or nothing led to nothing, despite the Republicans offering something very similar to the Affordable Care Act as their counter-proposal to Hillary’s plan. If the Democrats had taken up the Republicans on that, and used it as a basis of negotiation, we could have been very close to the ACA in the 1990’s and progressed from there.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist


    I have read and seen more than sufficient so-called “examples of [Hillary] Clinton’s lack of principles,” from the conservative/Republican hate-besmirch Hillary crowd.

    I was just curious as to your — as an objective and moderate Democrat — version of her lack of principles.

    (If i don’t comment on any of your examples for a while, it is not that I have lost interest, just that I have some more important things to do)

  • Dorian,

    It is ironic that both left and right have come to the same assessment of Clinton’s character. I think that happened because Clinton frequently abandons liberal principles for what she perceives as political gain, turning off both those on the left who feel betrayed by her and those on the right who do not see her taking conservative as sincere but as a dishonest way to increase support.

    For the most part I think this stems from being a pragmatic politician who is willing to be dishonest and unprincipled for political gain (and is quite effective at that based upon her position in the polls), but to some degree it might also come from her truly being conservative on many social issues. It is so hard to say for sure where she stands as everything she says comes across as being calculating for political reasons as opposed to a sincere statement of her views. This lead to the type of frustration from liberals as seen with the way Terry Gross tried so hard to pin her down on her views on gay marriage in her recent interview. (Clinton received a lot of criticism for how she handled herself in that interview but I think that the criticism really stems from her views and calculating nature, and not necessarily for the way she handled herself in the interview).

    I totally understand being busy with other matters. That reminds me of the counter position of getting overly involved in internet debates: http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/duty_calls.png

  • sheknows

    ” Her insistance on passing exactly her program or nothing led to nothing, despite the Republicans offering something very similar to the Affordable Care Act as their counter-proposal to Hillary’s plan.”


  • sheknows,

    That is exactly what happened. The Affordable Care Act as well as RomneyCare are both based upon the Heritage Foundation’s counter proposal to HillaryCare in 1993 which was adopted by the Republicans. Clinton had a bad plan and did a terrible job selling her plan, setting back health care reform for about two decades.

  • sheknows

    Opposition to her plan, which by the way is the EXACT model for ACA, came from heavy lobbying and subsequent influence of congressional Republicans by the insurance industry, the medical community of the day and.the pharmaceutical industry. That and that alone is why it failed and couldn’t pass!!
    If you will read your history, you will see that ALL Republican demands for change would have gutted it to an unrecognizable plan which benefitted no one but those insurance, medical and drug industries. Oddly…the same arguments that were faced with Obama had to be placated. And they were….she didn’t care to sell us out…he took what he could get!

  • sheknows

    “The Clinton health plan required each US citizen and permanent resident alien to become enrolled in a qualified health plan and forbade their disenrollment until covered by another plan. It listed minimum coverages and maximum annual out-of-pocket expenses for each plan. It proposed the establishment of corporate “regional alliances” of health providers to be subject to a fee-for-service schedule. People below a certain set income level were to pay nothing. The act listed funding to be sent to the states for the administration of this plan, beginning at $13.5 billion in 1993 and reaching $38.3 billion in 2003.”

    You might want to reread this until you understand it. Then read it again.

  • sheknows,

    I don’t have to read history–I followed the issue at the time. Clinton’s plan had superficial similarities to the ACA but the devil is in the details. Quoting one paragraph means nothing. It was a poor plan, while it was the Republicans who countered with what became the model for the ACA.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Thanks Ron and apologies for appearing to be a bit flippant with my “I have some more important things to do,” but I was really referring to watching the USA-Portugal soccer game, which I just found out is not til 5pm CST.

    Anyway, thanks for your explanation, but I have to to totally disagree with your equating Hillary’s political posturing, sometimes vagueness, sometimes ambivalence, calculating ways, even shrewdness, etc., to — and let me quote some of your characterizations — “lack of principles,””dishonest way,”and what you quote from others — and I assume you agree with: “intellectual failure,” “Cowardice As a Political Philosophy,” criticizing and ridiculing her for “calling the Bible her most influential book,” etc.

    I have my own disagreements with and questions about some of Hillary’s statements, views, policies, etc., but knowing the dirty fight she will have to fight against some of the biggest liars and bastards on the other side, I will give her some leeway and will not call her unprincipled, dishonest, political coward, etc.

    Just out of curiosity, whom would you support for the 2016 presidential campaign?

  • sheknows

    Oh BTW….We are seeing the results today of those “wonderful” Republican changes and how they keep trying to REPEAL the entire law.
    Makes you wonder just how cooperative they were back then, that she screwed up and didn’t take their version of a plan! DUH….. Your argument Ron rins into the mudsling category by those who are still now facing the repeal efforts by this oh-so- compromising party of yours!!!

  • Dorian,

    If there is a serious contender to Hillary then I will consider supporting them. Unfortunately at present there is nobody presenting a serious challenge, but it is quite early.

    If there should be a serious contender, I think they will arise out of the 2014 midterms elections–either someone who wins impressively or someone who banks political favors by doing a good job of campaigning for others.

  • sheknows,

    The Republicans totally changed their positions once Obamacare came near to passing, moving to their new position of opposing everything, even their old positions, which came from Obama.

    That is totally irrelevant to the way in which Clinton botched her efforts at health care reform in the 1990’s. The Democrats should have passed something comparable to the Affordable Care Act back then when it was possible, as both Republicans and moderate Democrats saw this as far preferable to Clinton’s plan.

    These are the facts, not mudslinging.

  • dduck

    All this is Hillyarious, Dems.

  • sheknows

    “That is totally irrelevant to the way in which Clinton botched her efforts at health care reform in the 1990?s.”

    No Ron, she didn’t “botch” any efforts at all. The Republicans were bought and paid for and incalcitrant, favoring the wishes of their industries.
    You conveniently ignore the industry opposition to her healthcare plan, and FYI I was there too. I was working in medicine and took a great interest in it.
    The mere fact Ron, that in the article you wrote about her book, you actually had the nerve to accuse me of ” misunderstanding you” and ” not being fair” when I accused you of obviously disliking her. Then the next article you write about her….voila!
    That tends to make any accusation of Hillary you may have completely suspect to me and most certainly says something about your ability to honestly critique her..about anything.

  • sheknows,

    I am not ignoring the industry opposition at all. As a consequence of all the opposition, including from industry, the Republicans offered what was essentially the ACA as a counter proposal and Clinton botched that by refusing any compromise.

    When looking at the opposition to her health care plan, it is also significant that organized medicine strongly opposed Hillarycare but backed Obamacare.

    You are making up quotes from me, but you did distort what I was saying in my post on Hillary’s latest book. It is a simple minded view to describe it as to whether I like or dislike Clinton. I have been very clear that I wish the Democrats would come up with a different nominee, even though that appears unlikely to happen.

    I have had many posts on her, both critical and in other cases defending her against some of the more ridiculous attacks from the right. The criticism of her in this post, while coinciding with much of my criticism, is based upon the works of others, primarily a significant article published on her in The National Journal this weekend. Like it or not, these are the facts of her career and the questions which many liberals have about her. While I doubt that this article will change the near inevitability of her nomination, it is also likely that this will become a major article which is referred to in future liberal criticism of Clinton.

  • dduck,

    As a Republican you must be accustomed to the long history of infighting among Democrats, considering the wide variations of views in this big tent party. For a long time we have not seen this degree of internal disputes in your party. Unfortunately the old fights between Rockefeller Republicans and the dominant conservative Republicans have now been replaced by disputes between far right wing Republicans and totally bat-shit crazy Tea Party Republicans.

  • sheknows

    What??! ” am not ignoring the industry opposition at all. As a consequence of all the opposition, including from industry, the Republicans offered what was essentially the ACA as a counter proposal and Clinton botched that by refusing any compromise.”

    The Republicans offered (essentially) the ACA as a counter proposal???

    Yes, those Republicans are sure peace makers alright. Always trying to find a way to compromise for the betterment of humanity. It was just stubborn old Hillary that refused (essentially) the ACA…which Republicans thought of then……..,and now spend every waking moment trying to repeal today.
    Yes, if it’s one thing we all know, the Republicans always worked hard for real, meaningful changes to healthcare in this country. Why….just look at how they support and fought to have Medicare and Medicaid in this country!!!

    Please…..just stop now.

  • Saying the same thing over and over again won’t change the fact that the Republicans offered what was very close to the Affordable Care Act as a counter to Clinton’s program which involved far more government control. Hillary Clinton got Bill to agree to say he would veto anything other than Hillary’s proposal.

    You can deny it all you want, but that is what happened, and what any objective source which looks at the history will say, including the article I linked to.

  • SteveK

    Clinton health care plan of 1993

    Opposition to the Clinton plan was initiated by William Kristol and his policy group Project for the Republican Future, which is widely credited with orchestrating the plan’s ultimate defeat through a series of now legendary “policy memos” faxed to Republican leaders.
    Conservatives, libertarians, and the health insurance industry proceeded to campaign against the plan, criticizing it as being overly bureaucratic and restrictive of patient choice.

  • dduck
  • JSpencer

    Thanks for the excellent post Ron. Understandably people are desperate to find and anoint a champion, but we allow suspension of disbelief to be a part of the process at our peril. As I’ve said before, I would be willing to vote for Hillary but only in a lesser of evils capacity. This means (given the lay of the land) that she will likely get my vote, but I won’t have any illusions about who she is, her record, her failings, or her abilities. I would love to vote for someone who I honestly believed was the best candidate, but don’t expect that opportunity to arise any time soon.

  • JSpencer,

    Totally agree re voting for Hillary as lesser of two evils but preferring better. The one exception might come from consideration of the electoral college. If she looks certain of winning my state, as is usually the case for Democratic presidential candidates, then it is possible I might decide there is no need to vote for the lesser of two evils to block the greater evil which the Republicans are bound to nominate.

  • dduck

    A better good, rather than evil, is John Kerry. Today he blasted the Egyptian government for sentencing Al Jazeera reporters to a seven years in prison. Obama hasn’t done that and I doubt HC will either.

  • I’d definitely prefer Kerry, who has a stronger record as both Senator and Secretary of State than Clinton. Unfortunately it is very unlikely he will get another chance to run.

  • dduck

    Today’s NYT’s front page has an article on Kerry’s blast of the Egyptian governments suppression of the press.

    And also today in the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/24/world/middleeast/egypt-conviction-in-sectarianism-case.html?_r=0

    This time directed against Christians.

    Time for Obama to speak out publicly as has Kerry.

  • JSpencer

    Kerry had his shot and blew it. Next!

  • dduck

    Ahem, so did HC. Next squared.

  • An incumbent during time of war is very hard to beat and I believe that Kerry came closer than anyone else in the past in such a situation. It is common in other countries for a losing candidate to continue to run after losing an election, and we have also had cases in the past of losing presidential candidates running again. That said, I think it is very unlikely Kerry will get the nomination.