American Presidency And Hillary Clinton’s Candidacy – Analysis


The world has to wait another 15 months for the election of 45th president of the United States and two more other months for her/his inauguration. Likewise, both Republican and Democratic parties have yet to finalize their nomination, but John Hudak of the Brookings Foundation, has advised all the aspirants of the presidential nomination to form a transition team as soon as possible.

Yes, the top executive of the world’s most powerful military and economy – that has led the longest period of continued peaceful world order only after the Vienna Congress (1815), and has the responsibilities to satisfy the expectations of its fellow citizens, allies, and people all over the world. The leadership of every country on the earth if knows the major vision, policies and programs of the potential candidate with his whole team, it may start creating favorable space for the new administration from the very beginning.

The logic behind Hudak’s suggestion has a striking reason. The new president has to make political appointments of some four thousands people to take responsibilities from similar numbers of officials from the outgoing administration to lead and manage the administration of millions of civilians and military employees. Failures at making right choices for all such appointments “from the highest echelons down to seemingly anonymous, yet critically important, slots”, sends wrong signals among the people in the country and for its allies abroad. This makes the friends and allies of America feel unsecured and challenged while invigorating the enemies to develop their strategies to hit American and allies’ interest based on such initial image.

Not giving proper time to make the backgrounds check of all such political appointments, many times, the presidents and the appointee themselves had to withdraw the names and that has damaged the credibility of the president.
Hudak is also quite right to hint that earlier the presidential candidate organizes his transition team , the more he is supposed to serve her/his duties in a more sensible and responsible way. Undoubtedly, that is a sign of a good leadership. This helps members of the team to start their policy homework, develop strategies and programs for running the administrations, and smoothen the transition.

There is nothing to disagree with John Hudak and a transition team formed earlier cannot be taken as premature or pretentious. If the American public, media, and the opinion builder can see the candidates surrounded by better-qualified aides and advisors with unquestionable integrity, it can better serve the purpose of the candidate and help them at presenting better image among the electorates.

The Experience Verifies Hudak Logic

In his book, Worthy Fights, Leon Panetta the former CIA chief and Secretary of Defense of Obama administration and Chief of Staff during Bill Clinton presidency as well, has mentioned that Bill Clinton had not given “great thought” in selecting his White House staff for such transition. Rather than appointing them by judging their level of expertise and commitment, he collected them hastily and with less consultation. This in result created a mess followed by “structural gaps and some obvious weak spots”.

A White House Chief of Staff for the best service of the president and the country – must be a tough person to lead all his staff focused, disciplined, and result oriented. Every meeting in the White House among the top cabinet officials and their assistants including presidential aides is to be well structured to produce clear decisions and effective implementation of those decisions. This also helps the other major issues move smoothly. But when Bill Clinton missed this chance, the earlier days of his administration were run in a quite opposite way and the decisions taken at the White House leaked to the press to the inconvenience of his administration.

President Clinton after one year in office realized the chaotic condition of his administration and told Panetta that the “White House is falling apart”, therefore, he wanted him to work as his Chief of Staff.

The Chief of Staff of the White House is supposed to organize daily meetings of top US officials responsible for national defense, homeland security, foreign affairs, intelligence, and economy pursued by other senior officials with specific charges under the top officials. He also works as a liaison between the White House and Congress and informs the president with all the deliberations, the conclusions of all such meetings, advises the president and seeks president’s opinion on them. He is also responsible at passing them to responsible officials and accommodates them accordingly as per the opinion of his boss.

President Clinton’s efforts brought results, Panetta worked for him as his Chief of Staff, and subsequently, there is no need to say that after Leon Panetta replaced Mack McLarty as Chief of Staff, the White House administration reached at a new height.

Similar was the case with President Barrack Obama. According to Robert Gates – one of the most respected Defense Secretaries of the United States has written about the first meeting of the Obama administration in the Situation Room where half of the participants “had their mobile phone turned on during the meeting, potentially broadcasting everything that was said to foreign intelligence electronic eavesdroppers”.

The situation mentioned above is not specific only to Bill Clinton or Barrack Obama- this way or that way, it happens almost with every president and his appointments. The leadership quality of the president, the depth of knowledge of his job, working in team, and abilities to manage differences with his top aides or among the top officials or the aura and charisma of the personality of the president might have minimized the risks. However, the problems exist because with the huge number of officials that a new president brings with him, problems arise unless a serious homework could be made months before the election is held or nomination finalized.

Justification for Hillary’s Candidacy for 2016 Presidential Election

Hillary Rodham Clinton is considered as the prominent and possibly the most popular presidential candidate for the 2016 election.

Major issues that will dominate the election will indisputably be the American foreign policy, national security, US – Russia and China policy, Islamic terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and national economy. Hillary as a former first lady, Secretary of State and a Senator, commands deep knowledge and experience on all these major governing issues.

Comparatively, economy could be taken as an area in which Hillary has not adequate knowledge and expertise, but according to the Forbes magazine (July 16, 2015) Hillary gave the most substantive economic address of the 2016 campaign to date and the magazine considered it as a great speech on US economy. The New York Times (July 14, 2015) and reputed American economists including Joseph E. Stiglitz a Nobel laureate in economics have expressed similar views.

Japan’s former Defense minister Yuriko Koike in one of her article in Project Syndicate, has claimed that Hillary Clinton’s visit to Hanoi – Vietnam to attend the 16th ASEAN Summit in April 2010, may one day be seen as the most significant visit to the region. The weight of this visit according to Koike was only next to the Henry Kissinger’s secret mission to Beijing in July 1971. She further concludes that Kissinger’s Beijing visit triggered a diplomatic revolution that ultimately shifted the global balance of power – that later inspired China to open its economy. Kissinger’s visit also played as a main catalyst for the peaceful dissolution of Soviet Union and rise of China as a major economic and military power of 21st Century.

Clearly, Clinton’s Hanoi visit and her refusal to accept Beijing’s claim over the ownership of Spratly islands group in South China Sea as its area of core interest – that by China’s definition is similar to Tibet and Taiwan, brought new dimension in international relations. This has furthermore, become a major irritant in China’s relations with United States as well as with its regional neighbors.

During her Hanoi visit, Hillary proposed an international mechanism to mediate the clashing claims by all the off shore countries of the South China Sea – China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia. As expected, all the countries except China accepted Hillary proposal.

The differences between the two visits made by Kissinger and Clinton are obvious—one was meant to control the growing power and influence of Soviet Union while another was to withdraw from the earlier policy initiated by Kissinger and draw new alliances to contain the rising military power of China.

President Obama’s Asian Pivot was mainly sketched during Hillary’s this visit and she elaborated it in a well written article – America’s Pacific Century, in which she claimed that the future of global politics will be decided in Asia and the United States will play its central role aptly and confidently to suit Asia’s growing importance. Likewise, Hillary also played a critical role in persuading American allies in East and South East Asia that in case of troubled relationship between China and its neighbors in the region and if need be, United States shall not remain neutral and hence will apply every means including military for the security of its allies and partners.

Leslie Marshall a well-known American journalist has listed Hillary as the First Lady to hold a post –graduate degree, the First Lady to run for the elected office, and the first former First Lady to serve as the Secretary of State and even the first women to win a major party’s presidential primary.

In an age of advanced communication – presidents, prime ministers, and foreign ministers can communicate with other world leaders from their desks. However, direct human connections make deep impacts. Therefore, meeting them in their country, discuss, and speak with them as well as with different section of society is the bests diplomatic practice based on some ground strategies to understand the situation in the real contexts as well as from the person with roles affecting the policies in real terms. This was Hillary’s style of diplomacy and that made her the most travelled Secretary of State totaling some 112 countries and had meetings with some 1700-world leaders in her four years term. Probably this is the lone record in world history too.

Opportunities and Challenges for Hillary Clinton

Throughout her professional and political career, Hillary has proven the dignity of her leadership and the level of her commitment, courage, patience, and confidence. This has greatly influenced the legendary figure like Henry Kissinger to speak his mind – while presenting her the Atlantic Council leadership Award in a gathering of more than 700 guests from political, military, diplomatic area from some 33 countries. During the event, Kissinger endorsed her as the next president of the United States. Kissinger also reminded her that there were some five secretaries of state who were later elected as president and Hillary can graciously join that list.

Among all other candidates, she is eminent and well known all over the world. Her role as the Secretary of State speaks itself that – she can maintain and promote American global leadership to secure American interests more aptly and honestly. In all the opinion polls conducted by major American news agencies, she has beaten all other democrat aspirants.

Moreover, diplomacy is a skill of changing behavior of others to ensure that it is in the best interests of the country.

According to former Secretary of State and a renowned scholar in Foreign Policy and diplomacy – Madeleine Albright – Hillary Clinton has an unusual quality to work in a most adverse situation and make people stand on her position with her diplomatic skills and competency. In present day world, diplomacy accounts much to maintain and promote American global leadership.

Hillary as Secretary of State, exploited her full potential and exhibited terrific energy in her job. Experts agree that she was not an acclaimed scholar of foreign policy and diplomacy as her predecessors like Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice, but she demonstrated remarkable grasp of diplomatic knowledge and skill needed to become a great diplomat. Consequently, for that reason, analysts have compared Hillary with great names as John Foster Dulles, Henry Kissinger, and James Baker and well ahead of other predecessors such as Warren Christopher, William Rogers, Madeleine Albright, Dean Rusk, Condoleezza Rice, or Colin Powell.

However, Hillary has bigger challenges to face. In his second term, President Obama has become one of the most unpopular presidents in American history. In the remaining term, if he fails to regain his popularity and demonstrate the decisiveness and confidence in pressing domestic and foreign affairs, Hillary has to bear that burden in her electoral campaign. The Republican Party, naturally, will not miss any opportunity to capitalize out of it and make aggressive political campaign to dampen her chances of being elected.

Indubitably, Hillary has an outstanding global image, but it may not help her among the American people who make the decision. Besides, although she seems most popular among the aspirants of democratic nomination, any clear picture of the Republican candidates is yet to appear. Quality of leadership of a Republican nominee inevitably decides her fate.

If the Republican candidate can catch the heart and mind of American voters in a much better way than Hillary herself can, this will simply turn the tide opposite. Moreover, she has to face some of the controversy linked to her job as Secretary of State.

One major controversy is regarding the funds donated by some foreign government to a nonprofit organization headed by Bill Clinton – her husband. The donation as claimed by her opponents was meant to buy Hillary’s favor as the Secretary of States. This could pose a moral challenge to Hillary. Including this, the militants during the Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi attacks in Libya had murdered American ambassador Christopher Stevens. During the period, she had received some personal emails that contain private intelligence reports on the Benghazi attacks. Hillary had passed them to her aides in State Department and they are being investigated by a House panel if that had violated any US laws.

The Republican Party, naturally, will not miss any opportunity to capitalize out of such controversy and make aggressive political campaign to dampen her chances of being elected.

On the light of these scandals, some people in the Democratic Party have begun to find alternative candidates in place of Hillary Clinton. Most probably, none of the contentious issues will make any legal or moral case against Hillary’s candidacy, but if it goes against her, a highly deserving woman candidate of the world’s most powerful country will misses the opportunity to hold the most powerful position of the world. It will be a great loss for women all over the world – and equally it has every possibility to rob the chance for a democratic president to lead America for another 8 years – a rare chance in American history.

Keshav Prasad Bhattarai

Keshav Prasad Bhattarai is the former President of Nepal Teachers' Association, Teachers' Union of Nepal and General Secretary of SAARC Teachers' Federation. Currently, he is the Advisor of Nepal Institute for Strategic Affairs (NISS). Mr. Bhattarai has also authored four books -- two of them are about Nepal's Relations with India and one each on educational Issues and Nepal in global Geopolitics.

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