Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hillary's Experience and Good Intentions

In the lead article in yesterday’s Salon.com, Walter Shapiro praises Hillary Clinton’s preparedness and competence, and then in an accompanying interview, he emphasizes her experience. Well, maybe she does prep well for campaign appearances. But experience? True, she has been a Senator for seven years. That’s a bit longer than her main rivals, but not nearly as long as some of the others. What has she accomplished in that post? No one could claim a great deal; certainly nothing that would give her an edge in the experience department. No, for Shapiro and others, her experience comes from have been First Lady. But since when is that a qualification? Nobody ever thought it was until now: not even in Eleanor Roosevelt’s case, not to mention Bess and Mamie, Jackie O, Lady Bird, Pat (recall JFK’s “we can’t stand pat”), Betty or Roslyn (two perfectly fine ladies), the Lady Gipper (who is said to have kept her actor husband from doing even more harm than he did) or, horror of horrors, Barb. Isn’t it telling that, with the Republican field of candidates so comically weak, no one suggests Laura? Yet somehow Hillary is different. Well, not that different. Like all the rest, she wasn’t any kind of official, not even an unelected one; just an official wife (doubtless more official than most).

This raises the question of how well she did the one time when, at her spouse’s behest, she actually did act in a semi-official capacity. In interviews publicizing the imminent release of his movie “Sicko,” Michael Moore, conceding that Hillary is now as much or more in the pocket of the health industry as anyone in Congress, claims that her heart is (or was) in the right place -- and that the problem in 1993 was that she was too nice and therefore didn’t take on the big insurance companies. To these and similar emanations from those who are still grasping at straws in the hope of supporting a female candidate, all I can say is – “huh?” Hillary Care was all about serving mighty corporations. It was a pure expression of Clintonism (see “Combat Clintonism!”, April 27). The reason it failed was hardly that its proponents were too nice for their own good. It failed because the mighty corporations the Clintons favored turned out to be not mighty enough when lesser beneficiaries of the status quo ganged up on the Clintons – and not loyal enough to their faithful servants when it became clear that they didn’t have to settle for nearly a full loaf, since they could get the whole thing.

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