This has been a very difficult post to write, for reasons I'm not entirely sure of. But here are some of my failed opening ideas:
- How often do people vote for a candidate as much as they are voting against a candidate?
- How well does a campaign suggest what a candidate would actually do in office?
- I spent one semester in junior high school with Chelsea Clinton and was in A Christmas Carol with her, but I don't know her very well. But I remember the Secret Service operative who was backstage during rehearsals and performances; he was nice.
- I have a hard time understanding people who feel emphatically positive about Hillary Clinton as a candidate or a potential leader.
So why not Hillary? Criticizing her outside the context of why I'm voting for Barack Obama might seem a little odd, but I don't want to break the Internets with a too-long post. Plus, I don't necessarily think she'd make a bad president; honestly, though, I'm hard-pressed to say what makes a good president. I'm ambivalent, at best, about Bill Clinton, I actively dislike both Bushes and Reagan, and I only lived through a year of Carter's presidency. And I don't trust the idolatry-based view of American history, where putting faces on coins and hillsides serves as a shorthand for greatness.
But here, in no particular order, are what I see as the major strikes against her:
- She campaigns badly. Her state-by-state organization has failed, in large part, because she didn't expect a serious primary challenger. She assumed for a long time that she would be the nominee, even saying so to Katie Couric in November. Also, her higher-ups make spurious claims against Obama, she and her staff disparage voters on a regular basis, and she overreacts to criticism of her or her campaign (though I admit that, given her history with the media, I understand why she overreacts). All these campaign problems stem from what I see as another strike against her:
- She's been a candidate for president because of who she was married to. That may seem crass; it's a long, disparaging way of saying she has acted entitled to the nomination. Obama's opponents criticize him for his lack of experience, but few people mention that she's not had much legislative experience, either. Early on, her high polling numbers had more to do with name recognition than anything else.
- She blatantly lies, and badly. In last night's debate, she claimed that Obama said he would bomb Pakistan. Two days after calling his campaign's tactics Rovian, she completely divorced something Obama said in response to a hypothetical question last year, and she only did so (as has McCain) to attempt to discredit Obama on foreign policy. She probably wouldn't have done so if she weren't behind in the polls.
- Her health-care plan has no chance. I admire the legislative work she's done in making health care more widely available, but she simply hasn't shown that she can sell her plan to Congress, whether it's led by Democrats or Republicans. As she showed with her first attempt at universal health care in the nineties, she's very reluctant to compromise on the issue; her critiques of Obama's health-care plan and her insistence that this is no time to be bi-partisan suggest that she won't be able to persuade initial opponents of her plan. She's simply not savvy enough. Also, if she were to take office, massive government debt, driven by the war in Iraq, would stand in her way. Her plan requires tax increases (which, as long as they focus on the wealthy, I support) and major spending increases. Ironically, she claims that Obama wouldn't be able to lead as she could on Day One, but her plan assumes fiscal conditions that don't bear out.
- She voted for the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, which suggests she hasn't learned from her mistakes. That amendment was a thinly veiled attempt by the Bush administration to move closer to war with Iran. If not for the National Intelligence Estimate stating that Iran stopped its weapons program in 2003, we would likely be close to war with Iran right now.