My first thought was, “I guess she’s running,” when I heard about Hillary Clinton’s highly publicized criticism of President Obama’s foreign policy in The Atlantic.
My second thought was of Dick Cheney—not that Hillary’s comments are in the same league as Cheney’s relentless attacks. But there’s the same failure to take responsibility for a mess both helped create in launching war against Iraq. Plus a knee-jerk hawkishness and reliance on the illusion of American exceptionalism. This dismays me about Hillary even more than her dissing of the President.
My third thought was to wonder if Joe Biden is really too old, his candidacy truly unviable. Or if a bid for the presidency by Elizabeth Warren would make Nixon’s 1972 rout of George McGovern look like a cliffhanger.
I want to be pragmatic, to bank on winnability. That’s why I was not an early supporter of Obama, believing that a black man whose name rhymed with Osama bin Laden could never be elected President. Gradually I saw how this view was less pragmatic than borderline racist and certainly self-defeating, enabling the very views I abhorred. I became a fervent admirer of Barack Obama, and worked hard for his 2008 and 2012 victories. I thought highly not only of his policies, but also of his intelligence, calm demeanor, decency, and capacity for nuanced thinking and self-reflection. Most of all, I loved that Obama appealed to the better angels of our natures.
Now I am not so confident that the better angels of our natures can prevail. It is a futile endeavor, but one I undertake anyway, to wonder if President Hillary Clinton might have succeeded where President Barack Obama has been stymied. Mostly I think not—the economic and foreign policy disasters are too immense, the virulence toward Hillary almost as strong as the virulence toward a black man. Perhaps there would have been no difference.
But the one thing I reluctantly come back to again and again is that Hillary might have done better because she is more hard-nosed. She would not have wasted time and energy trying to make friends with a Republican Party hell-bent on destroying her. She might also have more room to maneuver as a white woman than as a black man in a country that is arguably more racist than sexist.
Pragmatism counts, and Hillary is nothing if not pragmatic. She’s smart, hard-working, dedicated, and, unlike faux feminist candidates like Sarah Palin, a true champion of women’s issues. Some of her personal qualities, however, give me pause as well as hope.
I’m not sure I’m ready for Hillary. But what are the alternatives?
How do you feel about Hillary and the presidential prospects for 2016?