Friday, May 11, 2007

In Defence Of Hillary From Two Criticisms

This last weekend we were dining out with friends and the talk turned to why one of them, a Democrat / Independent so disliked Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate. She said she not only found Hillary to be "calculating" but more than that she couldn't forgive her for sticking with "that creep" Bill Clinton after what he did with Monica. I happen to like the creep but that's beside the point. I'll just talk about these two observations without any broader discussion of preferences regarding the candidates.

I had read about this last criticism (mainly by women) in news articles but it remains beyond me why Hillary's act of forgiveness is held against her. The critics say she isn't doing it for love but out of convenience or to further her ambitions. How do we know? A person wronged has to weigh all the factors before deciding what to do, but since when do we supplant sympathy with scorn for her? Aren't commitment to marriage and forgiveness supposed to be virtues? Few would ascribe Hillary's "failure to act" at that time as a result of a weak will - she's proved herself plenty tough in that department. I personally think better of her for having faced all the pain and public humiliation with grace and dignity, and recovering from it all.

The other criticism about Hillary's "calculating" nature was also echoed by our younger daughter recently. I find nothing wrong with a leader (or person) being calculating if that means coolly assessing what can work best and considering all the odds and options before deciding how to proceed. It does not mean being unscrupulous or throwing away one's values or changing course only out of expediency. I don't believe Hillary is guilty of any of these last three. Yes, Hillary may well act with her head, but why should that be considered to preclude her from having a good heart? Here's a post from last night of a Hearst columnist that says a lot of things for me aside from commenting on the most recent polls showing an uptick for Hillary after the first Presidential debate (though polls of course keep changing and it's way too early):


kenrod said...

Hillary's problem is she is a Democrat. The Dems only get elected when they are charismatic, observes Sen. Bill Bradley. Hillary is too structurally sound and would have done well as a GOP. Look at the Dems that have made it to the WH. Roosevelt, JFK,Carter Bill Clinton... all charismatic. Look at the Dems who have failed, LBJ, Kerry, Mondale... all brainy, stodgy types. The GOP are the brainy boring types, and the Dems are supposed to hand out candy and make plenty of promises. The only way Hillary can win is if she says her husband is charismatic and hide behind his charm.

david mcmahon said...

Hi Sandip,

Thanks for that perspective. It's a tantalising prospect either way.


Viranjit said...

There is a difference between being calculating and having scripted answers that provide no data. Bush has always had scripted answers as well and with politicians like that, I have no way of judging where they will stand on issues of importance to me. I like the idea of transparency in government and some of it starts with transparency at the top. To vote for Hillary because some third party nods and winks that she will take care of my concerns when she is elected isn't my style, even though her background suggests her viewpoints would be that way. I'm done with politicians who hide behind meaningless labels like "compassionate conservative" and don't reveal their agenda.

Sandip Madan said...

Thanks for an interesting perspective - I hadn't thought of Republicans getting away with being stodgy so long as they have brains (but where does bush fit into this "brains" thing? :-) ) Or of Dems needing to be charismatic. Though if that is the shallow criteria that Dems use, then how do these duller Dems make it through the primaries?

As for Hillary I guess beauty also lies in the eyes of the beholder. I find her acceptable in the Charisma department but others (perhaps including you and my brother Viranjit) don't. :-)

Sandip Madan said...

David and Viranjit (aka Kaku, my liberal kid brother and a great improveemnt on his sibling),
Thanks both for your comments.

Kaku, I find Hillary's stand on most issues to be clear enough for this early stage, and think she will get more specific as her platform evolves. On the other hand I see Obama presently as little more than a good talker. Yes, he didn't vote for the Iraq War but he wasn't in Congress then so who knows which way he'd have voted? He has the potential to force Hillary so much to the left in the Primary process as to hurt her in the general election even if she gets nominated.

Or may be you are comparing Hillary to someone else like John Edwards who has a well laid out health plan. Haven't thought much about him. I tend to respect Hillary for not apologizing for her earlier Iraq War authorization vote and only saying she would have voted differently had she known the facts as she does now.

kenrod said...

I,too, respect Hillary for her persistant stand on her vote on war in Iraq. At least it is one issue she hasn't vacillated on. I think Edwards is the perfect Dem candidate. He has the charm, $400 haircut, silk tongue... but is too far left on taxes. He started his campaign on poverty elimination. Come on John Edwards! There are very few poor people in America. There are so many other issues like job security, health insurance,or global warming.
I like Obama because he's a uniter; Hillary is divisive. But she'll win the Dem nomination because of the piggy bank. It Giuliani vs Hillary in the finals. Anyone want to bet?

Sandip Madan said...


I do wonder why people consider Hillary to be divisive. She's a centrist and yes, a strong woman, but don't we need someone like that to keep us in shape? :-) I think she'll be more agreeable and less abrasive than Rudy G. in foreign affairs, and thus make for better foreign relations.

John Edwards' trial (personal injury) lawyer background is a bit of a turn-off for me. But more than that I was disappointed in his campaign performance in 2004.

Obama has so far raised almost as much money as Hillary. He's a good talker and keeps his head, but that's it so far. His jumping on the anti-Imus, overly PC bandwagon has further turned me off. Plus Bill C. comes free with the Hillary deal, not with Obama. I think I'd prefer Rudy G. to Obama.

But there's lots of time and uncertainty at this stage - let's see what happens... :-)

jadra said...

It's interesting you mention Hillary as calculating. That is not a bad trait for a leader especially if it is done for the benefit of the public. LB Johnson was calculating but used his black book to get the votes to pass bills. Nixon used it to get elected. I find Johnson's tactics acceptable but not Nixon's. LBJ was reported to call up FBI to get the dirt on senators and blackmail them to voting with him. But look at his legacy...Medicare, Civil rights etc.(None of which I like but LBJ got the job done)
Going back to Greek history, we have two leaders that contrast...Leonidas and Themistocles. Leonidas was hard charging,"patriotic", honest with his people. Themistocles was calculating and deceptive. Leonidas got his army massacred albeit for a heroic cause at Thermopylae. Themistocles deceived his people into giving up their silver (about $2000 per citizen) into building the fleet. He lied about seeing the Persian ships but he knew they were coming after losing at Marathon. The US Congress would have impeached him today, but he got the job done in his time. The question is which leader would we choose? Leonidas or Themistocles? While I may not vote for Hillary I find a calculating leader preferable to one who is merely frank and honest.(Carter again anyone?) Of course I would have Carter for a personal friend rather than Hillary.

Sandip Madan said...

Jadra, interesting and a kind of a "left-handed" defense of Hillary. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.

I don't believe she is "calculating" in the way you perhaps imply, which is by being deceitful. Any examples of her deceit that you can think of? I think of her as being tough, shrewd and capable of thinking through all angles before taking a step. And she can still have a good heart (I believe she does), just not lead impulsively from it.

I can see myself valuing her as a friend, may be having a crush on her. (Anita, Wife, Honey, I only mean in a cerebral kind of way!...) :-)

jadra said...

Let me ask you if "calculating" qualities in a leader are a pardonable sin. Was Themistocles right in lying about the "impending" Persian fleet, taking away his citizen's silver, and preparing his country for a distant future battle? He never saw any fleet but knew Xerxes would come to avenge his father's defeat?

Would the US, or the world, have cared if there was or wasn't WMD in Iraq if the war on terror had gone successfully? The fact of the matter was it was the wrong war and terror threat is up. I think Saddam should have been kept in power since he was the glue that held the three warring factions together. People didn't object to the Afghan war on the Taliban. I think we will allow our leaders to tell white lies as long as the outcome is honorable.

We consider Churchill a statesman knowing full well he was deceptive as heck. He kept the enigma machine codes in his underground office, sacrificing several British cities to prevent the Nazis from knowing the truth. As the cliche goes, "Do ask how sausages or politicians are made."

Sandip Madan said...

No Jadra, I don't believe that the end justifies deceptive means, but that's beside the point. "Calculating" is a term used by Hillary's detractors, not by me, and I'm merely playing along with their terminology. Even they don't say "calculating" means "deceptive" or have exposed any deception on Hillary's part.

The deception I've seen has largely been on the Bush Administration's part - overbuilding the WMD case for the Iraq War; linking Iraq to 9/11; understating the impact of tax cuts on the deficit by showing all cuts ending in 2010...

Anonymous said...

Obama has argued that Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton is no change. We need change because Washington becomes engrained and corrupt unless the musical chairs are shuffled. Obama is not scripted. He doesn't cater to just one constituency like Hillary. And Hillary cannot give fiery speeches and doesn't fill into the shoes of a Dem.

Notice that all Dems in the past have been able to capture and rapture audiences. Reagan was the exception, but then again he started his life as a Democrat. But her piggy bank and Bill C will see her through the primaries.

Sandip Madan said...

What else would you expect Obama to say? That experience and a past record of success is important, so he should not be elected? I personally prefer action and logical thinking to eloquent speeches. And I'm not averse to the return of the Clinton years. :-)

kenrod said...

Sandip, thank goodness your attraction to Hillary is celebral. She must have been so bad Bill had to call in Monica to do the job. As for First Daughter Chelsea, puh-leez, I put her picture in the bathroom when I run out of laxatives.

But besides these superficial issues, Hillary is divisive because she doesn't seek any common ground with the person she's debating. She'll say something like, "If you don't like it don't vote for me." A unifying figure like Obama would never answer like that. I'm not saying I'll ever vote for Obama but he does try to see things from the other guys' perspective. Polarizing figures are okay. Nothing worse than one who tries to pander to all sides. But they have to make their points with a sense that they listened to the other guy, not with a air of arrogance. Reagan was divisive but he always did it with a sense of humor and purpose. GWB is polarizing but he does it with a smirk and that makes it annoying. Hillary comes off as having an air of superiority, and if you tell her that she'll say, "So what?"

As for the GOP being the brainy types, nature always has exceptions and freaks. GWB, why didn't you run as an independent? You don't fit any profile.

I don't mind a return to the Clinton years if it means fiscal conservatism espoused by Rubin, and social liberalism. Hillary strikes me as someone who would blow the budget and be socially extreme liberal. If Bloomberg marches in around October, the show will get really exciting.

Sandip Madan said...

Kenrod, you shouldn't hate and/or distrust Hillary (and her daughter Chelsea) so. :-)

I can't figure out if you are a liberal (since you like Obama) or a moderate Republican (you like Giuliani and Bloomberg.) Show thyself. :-) I too have a favorable opinion of Bloomberg at this point.

Seeing continuing interest, may be it's time to start another post on this subject...

kenrod said...

I think labels are too narrow. That's why I think we should have a credible third party candidate like Bloomberg to run. Each party seems to be in collusion with the other and there aren't enough checks and balances.

In terms of Greek history, I think Bloomberg and Hillary are like Themistocles... calculating and stealthy. Giuliani and Obama are like Leonidas... brave, hard charging, ideological and the rallying kind. In a leader I prefer the calculating kind because the latter can get a nation into battles they can't get out of.

However, Sen. Bill Bradley who is one of the smartest politicians around, says Hillary is one of the best things to happen to the Dems. The Liberals have so far relied too much on charisma without structure. Therefore they come into office and lose more and more ground. Look at Bill Clinton. After he left office the Dems had lost the House and Senate and the WH. We need some brainy liberals.

If Hillary didn't want to take over the healthcare system I'd vote for her. The USA doesn't have the money to take over the insurance system. The system called Medicare that the feds took over since 1965 is bankrupt with doctors over billing and seniors over using.

Sandip Madan said...

Perceptions (and adjectives) lie in the eyes of the beholder. Hillary a liberal? She's more centrist than the other major Democrat contenders. What's "cerebral and coolheaded" to her supporters is "calculating" to her detractors. And what's "stealthy" about her?

Universal coverage can go a long way in solving US healthcare woes, instead of being a problem. Even Repubs like Romney and Schwarzenegger recognize this, though their plans are not as good as John Edwards'.