Clinton’s Achilles Heels, Ctd

Feb 5 2014 @ 1:45pm

Yesterday I asked readers:

What have been Hillary Clinton’s major, signature accomplishments in her long career in public life? What did she achieve in her eight years as First Lady exactly? What stamp did she put on national policy in her time as Senator from New York? What were her defining and singular achievements as secretary-of-state?

One response:

Hmm. Let’s see, she was a senator for the 8 years while W was President. Not a lot of opportunity there, but if you look at her sponsored or co-sponsored legislation during that period, she was amazingly productive. (I’m sure she had some help, but still.) About her record as First Lady, she attempted a wholesale reform of healthcare and was beaten back by the Republicans – not an “accomplishment” perhaps, but her experience in this area would be invaluable as the ACA matures. And she served as Secretary of State during a challenging time – that is certainly an accomplishment in itself and gives her experience that no other candidate has.

Weak. Lame. Notice the absence of any specifics. Because there aren’t any:

The first thing that came to mind was her work, internationally, on human rights: particularly women’s and LGBT rights. Here’s her 2011 speech to the United Nations on LGBT rights. This was really important! To say these kinds of things to the international community matters, even when we’re still sorting out the details at home. And she’s been doing this kind of thing since the beginning of her career in public life. Here’s her similarly historic speech as First Lady on women’s rights that she gave in China in the ’90s. I get that she doesn’t have a perfect track record on human rights, given US policy during her tenure as Secretary of State. That being said, it’s my opinion that women’s rights and LGBT rights have been her top priority whenever she’s had the chance.

There’s a difference between what she has said and what she has done. John Kerry has done more in one year than she managed in four at Foggy Bottom. A common retort from readers:

You ask for Hillary’s accomplishments? What does it matter? What were Barack Obama’s accomplishments in 2008? Voting against the Iraq War is not really a “major, singular accomplishment.” I think that being the first woman president along with her “long career in public life” will be enough.

But Obama had been in the national spotlight for only four years in 2008, while Clinton has had almost two decades to tally up specific accomplishments. She’s running on experience. And her record is close to invisible. Another reader:

Her signature issue, what she will run on, is her tenacity and defense of the Democratic principles. She will fight for her agenda, and it will be a classic Democratic agenda, but she will do so with the tenacity and will to win the President has not shown. The President is simply too willing to compromise and his default position is to be bipartisan. Clinton will be clearly and unabashedly partisan. She will be the Democratic’s Democratic. Honestly, if she needs to pull the still beating heart out of Chelsea’s chest on national television to pass a stimulus or extend unemployment insurance, I know she will do it. Essentially, her issue is she will kick Republican butt and not take prisoners.

Funny how I don’t remember the Clinton presidency as anything like that. Au contraire, actually. Another is more succinct:

Because, fuck Republicans.

I need no other reason. They’re going to hate and demonize whoever is occupying the Oval Office. Given that, I might as well have a president who will be fierce enough to fight back, who will take no prisoners, and who, to some extent, will probably deserve their hatred and fear. I want Clinton to brutalize them and make them think of 2008-2016 as the good ol days.

About that ferocity:

I would agree that her caution poses a real danger for her – something which can be gleaned in this NYT piece about AIPAC’s retreat on the Iran sanctions bill:

On Monday, 70 House Democrats sent Mr. Obama a letter backing his diplomatic efforts and opposing new sanctions. Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton added her voice to those urging no legislation.

Clinton was silent on the AIPAC bill until it was safe for her to take a stand. A stand which – surprise! – is now the safe position within the Democratic establishment. For someone wanting to lead the country, this is (though characteristic of the Clintons) more than a little underwhelming.

But another reader liked her record in New York:

Two words for you: Bread and Butter. Hillary was my Senator, and I still remain impressed with her relatively quiet, modest, bread-and-butter focus. She was all over the GOP-leaning Upstate, where I am from, helping keep factories from moving, helping with Post 9/11 redevelopment in NY. She was a frequent visitor to Rochester, and was well-versed in the local economic issues (impressing my dad when he chatted with her at a small potatoes university engineering conference). She was really popular even in Republican areas, because she stayed away from the hot button issues, and just showed she cared about people of all stripes.

When you look at the Republicans running for Congress, it’s all about the big flashy issues, some of them popular, but how often do you ever hear of any of them actually helping people? Just like in Ohio in the last election for Obama, factory jobs trumped guns and God and race and all the rest of it. I mean, climate change, are you kidding me? Voters want better-paying jobs and growing economy. And as a woman, with the legacy of the Clinton economy, and a very successful small-bore bread-and-butter focus as a Senator, I think she is very well positioned.