No, Hilary, we don’t want "a firmness"
This is going to be an interesting election cycle in our house I think. I don’t think I’d be overstepping my bounds to say that my wife is leaning towards supporting Hilary Clinton in the Democratic primary race. For my part I am undecided, but decidedly less enthusiastic about Senator Clinton, though I remain willing to be convinced. I’d like to see a woman in the White House, but I remain unconvinced that Senator Clinton is the right person for that role.
Recent discussions regarding Clinton’s position on the Iraq war in 2002 and her current explanations of her original vote have left me cold. Sunday’s New York Times article about Clinton’s recent reiteration of her position (ironically forwarded to me by my wife) leave me less than cold; Clinton’s position as portrayed in that article have convinced me more than ever that she’s the wrong candidate for the next Democratic presidency. Some choice bits, all quoted from the NYT article:
“She wants to maintain a firmness, and I think a lot of people around her hope she maintains a firmness. That’s what people will want in 2008.”
This is a statement of one “advisor,” one who falls on the non-apology side of the discussion that apparently recently took place within Clinton’s circle of advisors. Personally, I’m not sure a “firmness” is the only thing “people” will want from the next president.
As a candidate, Mrs. Clinton likes to think and formulate ideas as if she were president — her “responsibility gene,” she has called it. In that vein, she believes that a president usually deserves the benefit of the doubt from Congress on matters of executive authority.
This particular statement actually worries me even more than the overly simple “firmness.” My feeling, one I think shared by many Democrats, is that Congress has given the current house-sitter in the White House too much “benefit of the doubt.” Far more than he deserved.
“She thinks she will be president and will have to negotiate on the nation’s behalf with world leaders,” said one Clinton adviser. “She thinks we’re likely to still be in this mess in 2009, and coming onto the campaign trail and groveling and saying at every opportunity that you made a mistake doesn’t actually help you solve the problem.”
Um, no, it doesn’t help you solve the problem, but a certain amount of humility can go a long way in working with others, at least in kindergarten, and I imagine also on the world stage.
I know that Senator Clinton is targeting her election machine on November 2008 and as such is thinking not only about primary issues, but also about the issues she would face in the general election. However, it seems to me that she’s misreading the single greatest lesson of the last 6 years under George W. Bush and his cronies. That lesson is not that the war in Iraq was/is wrong, or that lying your way into war isn’t a reliable strategy for victory. The most important lesson to be learned here isn’t the Iraq debacle; its that overbearing arrogance and an unwillingness to admit your mistakes is not only unworthy of the leader of our country, but also dangerous, not just for America, but for the world at large. I can think of no way that any of us, men or women, Americans or Africans, Arabs or Jews are safer now than we were before the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, and I would argue that we’re, most of us, demonstrably less safe.
Instead of acknowledging that a presidency gone wild has put us in greater danger, and that a stronger balance between the Executive and Legislative branches would be better for us all than the run away arrogance of the current administration, instead of showing herself able to take responsibility for blindly and mistakenly following what seemed, even at the time, to be trumped-up evidence, Senator Clinton seems to be telling us that she’d act in much the same vein if she were president. If she found herself on the wrong side of a mistake while she’s in the White House, will she wield her executive authority to change course, to acknowledge the mistake and learn from it, or will she continue on, unable to admit her own fallibility? And if the latter, as she seems to be indicating, I want even less for someone with her apparently expansive opinion on executive authority to be president. While she might wield her power in much more benevolent ways than the current president, she might well plod blindly on long after it’s become clear to others that the path itself is wrong. No, for my vote, a candidate’s ability to say “I was wrong” is more important than almost anything else.