Last week saw Hilary Clinton end speculation and declare herself as a candidate for President. This caused both cheers and a lot of groans from both those on the right and quite a few on the left. I don’t think many in the UK realise what a derisive figure she is. I recall how Top Gear‘s James May drove across the Southern States with Hilary Clinton for President written on his car and was lucky to live, having been chased across several counties by banjo playing hillbillies for it!
Firstly, one has to comment on the fact the Hilary has been quietly campaigning for President pretty much since she left here secretary of State job in 2013. Given that the election won’t be till 2016, this means she could spend as long trying to become President as she might actually spend doing the job. And many of her likely rivals are in a similar boat. Several of the Republicans, such as Rich Perry and Mike Huckabee are into multiple campaigns now, so again they could spend many times longer trying to get the job than they spend doing it. Which is sort of a damning indictment of the shortcomings of US politics.
But I digress, what is so controversial about Hilary? Well to understand that you have to remember who she is and her role during the Clinton administration. Hilary, unlike many previous first ladies, was much more willing to get involved in politics, rather than perform the traditional first lady role of flower arranging, generally looking pretty and respond to any question of politics by saying something about world peace.
This is not to say there hadn’t been intelligent women with strong opinions in the White House before. Jackie Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt and Patty Nixon (to name a few). However by and large there has been a certain role Americans, particularly those on the right, have come to expect a President’s wife to perform (a Stepford wife!). Its worth remembering that for all its propaganda to the contrary America is a very backward and conservative country compared to Europe. Consider that they don’t even have any women on US bank notes!
So along comes Hilary and not only does she get political, but she starts proposing things like universal health coverage. Now you may well say, why that sounds like a great idea, why didn’t any of her male colleagues think of that one? Well because they knew that if they proposed the same thing they’d end up with a burning cross on their lawn by the following morning! As the assumption in the US is (thanks to this thing called “fox news”) that this is socialism :>.
Now to be fair, its not really correct to call such a policy as socialist. As this video blogger points out the US spends more of its taxes subsidising private health care than most EU nations, even though its system is fully private and the Europeans get universal coverage. And to be clear I’m referring now to only what the US pays for healthcare via taxes, which adjusted for inflation (America is richer than the EU, we’d expect them to pay more in absolute terms), is much greater than what any Europeans pay. On top of this US citizens pay several thousand or more each per year, overall spending many times more than Europeans for less service that covers fewer people.
If that’s what Americans define as socialism then I assume socialism means something very different the other side of the pond, cos it seems to mean being very sensible with money.
But again, I digress. This and similar statements by Hilary (gun control for example) led to her being labelled a socialist. And the right were quite critical of her because of her husband. The traditional tactic of republicans up till then had been to try and paint democrats as big government socialists who ran up debts. However, Clinton was very much to the right of the democratic party. Plus he’d managed to do what every Republican president has promised to do but utterly failed to do he balanced the US budget and started paying off the deficit. Mention this to Republicans and some will literally start rolling on the ground and chewing the carpet.
But suffice to say, it mean they couldn’t tar Clinton with the socialist brush, so they went after his wife. As Adam Curtis discusses in the second episode of his series the power of nightmares, Clinton’s neoconservative enemies, aided by their allies in the right wing media also began creating a series of myths and conspiracy theories around the Clinton’s. Virtually all of which was completely fiction, as an insider to the smear campaign, David Brock, later revealed.
Of course, the President had committed some misdemeanour’s, which notably led to the Lewinsky affair. Now while I’m not going to apologise for Clinton’s actions, but if the bar for impeachment is screwing you’re secretary and lying about it, well I presume G. W. Bush should have gotten the electric chair then for his numerous crimes (lying to congress, an illegal war or two, worse financial crisis in history). And what about Ronald Reagan and the Iran Contra affair…which may have involved high treason charges being brought against him had he been caught! And of course the sexual exploits of JFK are practically legendary.
But again I digress. What really infuriated the Republicans was how Hilary stood by her man. Now this is hardly surprising given that they’d spend the last couple of years accusing her of being everything under the sun. Although one has to question why she’s still doing so 15 years later. But either way, its easy to see in this context why she’s viewed in the way that she is. And why Republicans seem to go into some sort of berserker rage whenever her name is mentioned.
Again this is not to say there aren’t legitimate reasons to criticise her. Contrary to the rumours she’s much more of a centrist than other democrats. Also one has to wonder that the reason she hasn’t dumped Bill is for political reasons. So one has to ask whether someone who is that desperate for the job of President that they’d stay in a loveless marriage, is really the best person for the job.
Certainly the opinion polls do put her out in front, but then again most of those on the Republican side who’ve declared are the usual gallery of Tea Party ghouls, nut jobs like Rand Paul or Ted Cruz.
Its possible that the Republicans could mount some serious challenge, for example Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell or Rudy Giuliani. However most of these candidates either bare the taint of G.W. Bush, or they would be unacceptable to the Tea Party….because they ain’t batshit crazy enough!
Of course if its Hilary v’s some random nutter, then its very likely to be her in the White House come 2016. However, given her history, it would be a bit of a gamble for the democrats to pick her for the nomination. Actually my main hope is that she’ll scare the Republicans straight. They’ll realise the only way they can stop her is by putting forward someone vaguely sane. This will force the Republicans to confront the Tea Party and hopefully run them out of the GOP. That could result in Hilary getting a run for her money, but at least it would mean we in Europe won’t need to worry about getting some nutter in charge of the nuclear briefcase.