By Ivan Eland
More than 50 percent of the electorate are women and the United States hasn’t had a woman leader in a long time, thus many voters want to re-elect Hillary Clinton. Although given that her track record during the two years that she was in charge of the country was disastrous, if re-elected, she probably wouldn’t be any worse at being president than George W. Bush. Of course, that is damning her by very faint praise. Nevertheless, Hillary deserved better than the abuse and demagoguery she got at the Benghazi hearing in the House of Representatives.
Before people think that I learned American history in a parallel universe or at least at the University of Mars, I should clarify my previous text. Conventional wisdom is that the United States has never had a female leader, which is just not true. During the almost year-and-a-half from October 1919, when then-President Woodrow Wilson had an incapacitating stroke, to March 1921, when his second term expired, his wife, the un-elected Edith Wilson, secretly ran the country. The reins of power should have passed to the vice president, but Mrs. Wilson hid the extent of the president’s medical debilitation from Congress and the American people and essentially assumed the powers of his office clandestinely.
More important for this discussion, although the United States has never formally elected a woman as president, Hillary Clinton served informally as co-president during Bill Clinton’s first two years in office, and many analysts think that she was the dominant of the two Clintons during that time.
Most of Bill Clinton’s advisers at the time were horrified at Hillary’s “Rube Goldberg” (journalist Evan Thomas’s description) healthcare scheme that made even the later abysmal Obamacare look efficient and cost-effective.
Also, Hillary, again contrary to the advice of Clinton’s best advisers, demanded that this complex and costly scheme be considered by Congress before Clinton’s proposal for welfare reform. His advisers convincingly thought that passing welfare reform on a bi-partisan basis would make passing health care easier, given the good will engendered among Republicans. Hillary would have none of it and insisted that her health care concoction be taken up first and that President Bill threaten to veto any compromise that didn’t provide coverage for 100 percent of Americans. Strangely, Bill went along with all of this, even in the face of congressional proposals providing coverage for between 91 and 95 percent of Americans. Like Woodrow Wilson’s failure to compromise on his beloved League of Nations proposal during his wife’s rein, Hillary’s similar arrogant refusal to compromise fortunately led Congress to reject her health care monstrosity.
Also, again against the wishes of Bill’s staff, Hillary refused to publicly release the records from her time at the Rose law firm while Bill was governor of Arkansas. The records likely showed embarrassing things about the shady Whitewater land deal, overbilling of clients, Hillary’s earning a 1,000 percent return on a sweetheart deal in cattle futures, and her flouting of conflict of interest rules in failing to recuse herself from representing clients doing business with the Arkansas state government. If she had released such documents, there never would have been an independent counsel appointed to investigate Whitewater. Ken Starr then would never have been able to abuse his power as independent counsel and try to entrap Bill in his unrelated sex life after Starr’s investigation of Whitewater failed to pan out. Thus, Clinton wouldn’t have been impeached by the Republican House for lying and obstructing justice over personal sexual matters that had little to do with governing the country.
According to historian William H. Chafe, Bill’s letting Hillary run wild on health care and on her refusal to publicly release Rose law firm records resulted from him owing her for his election in the first place by supporting him in the Gennifer Flowers sex scandal and Hillary’s subsequent backing of him during other sex scandals. Also, Hillary’s choices for Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General flamed out; she fired the White House travel office and then claimed no involvement; and hating the press (which she still does), she closed them off from the White House press secretary’s office, thus ruining an important relationship for quite some time.
And Hillary’s bad judgment and questionable honesty transcended her two years as co-president into her years as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. As a senator, she voted for Bush’s moronic invasion of Iraq in 2003, the primary reason that she lost the race to be Democratic nominee for president in 2008 versus Barack Obama, who was smart enough to have voted against it. Her defensiveness and evasiveness about her private e-mail server as Secretary of State should remind people of the failure to release the Rose law firm records. Her arrogance that norms and rules don’t apply to her is demonstrated by her doing all her business on a private e-mail account housed on the private server.
Lastly, more pertinent recently, after the quagmires of Afghanistan and Iraq, she was, as Secretary of State, gung ho about toppling another oppressive regime in Libya, again creating chaos, civil war, and terrorist havens. However, what has now saved Hillary is that instead of focusing on her continued unbelievably bad judgment on key decisions, the Republican-led House Benghazi committee continued to focus on the tragic killing of four Americans in Benghazi. Yes, security at the U.S. diplomatic installation in Benghazi could have been better but the Secretary of State is not usually involved on a day-to-day basis with each of thousands of U.S. overseas facilities, and the White House may very well have tried to spin the attack as not being an organized terrorist attack to look better for the upcoming election. It is tragic that the four dedicated Americans died, but this type of spinning was after the attack had already occurred. When compared to George W. Bush’s lying the nation into an unnecessary and ill-fated invasion of Iraq that cost roughly 4,500 American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, it is small potatoes.
If the Republicans had wanted to criticize the four deaths as resulting from the chaos induced in Libya by using military force to overthrow Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi in the first place, that would have been more acceptable. But the Republicans couldn’t criticize Hillary’s vociferous support for the aggressive policy toward Libya, because most of them were equally enthusiastic about vanquishing “bad guy” Gaddafi.
The Republican buffoons on the committee, their political witch hunt exposed by their own majority leader and a former committee staff member, played right into Hillary’s hands and proceeded to hand her the Democratic nomination. In the constricted American political system, a voter only gets two real choices for president, so it all depends now on who the Republicans put up against her. Will it be a carnival barker or a serious candidate? Somehow, in the end, I doubt that the American people will be given a sensible choice for whom to vote.
This article was also published at The Huffington Post and reprinted with permission.