Revisiting my concerns over a Hillary Clinton presidency

On election day in 2012, I attended an event called "Election Night Gathering" at The Independent in San Francisco. There I got into a discussion with a woman who has been one of my wife's best friends for many years, during which she explained that she had been a strong advocate for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 election. I was a bit taken aback by this. I had come to view it as almost common knowledge (at least, among the net-enabled and highly educated) that Clinton had stooped to some appalling tactics during that campaign. I felt she had revealed aspects of her temperament, judgment, and honesty which were cause for legitimate concern if she were to become President. After a somewhat uncomfortable conversation about this, I pledged to put my thoughts into writing soon thereafter. What follows is the, admittedly off-the-cuff, email I sent to my friend.

I was thinking about our recent political talk at the Independent, and it prompted me to go back to old emails I exchanged with other political fanatics in the 2008 primary election. It was a slap to the face. I was powerfully reminded of how worried I was about the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency. I think of myself as someone who puts a tremendous, almost obsessive amount of thought into my political positions. I've spent much of the past six years promoting electoral reforms which I believe would improve human welfare more than anything since the invention of democracy in the first place. So I felt compelled to share some of the things that shaped my views at the time. This stuff really matters to me, and I hope you'll give this some serious consideration.

In no particular order:

Clinton voted for the authorization to use military force in Iraq (a move that gave Bush the power to, declare war, even though the Constitution says that only Congress can declare war). Meanwhile, Obama had been actively speaking out against it, saying that he does not oppose all wars but he does oppose "a dumb war". Note this speech he gave back in 2002:

As Mike Gravel pointed out in the Democratic debates, Hillary supported the neocon saber-rattling, and drumming up the support for a possible "second Iraq", by also voting to declare Iran a terrorist state. See this video where he confronts her about this in the debates, and then she laughs at him.

A little background on Mike Gravel is in order. He has been a tireless advocate for freedom and non-violence, for decades. He's known for divulging the lengthy texts of the leaked "Pentagon Papers" into the Congressional record for permanent posterity, in an effort to end the Vietnam war.

The prospect of killing hundreds of thousands more in a second Iraq was a deadly serious matter for Gravel, and whether or not Clinton's justification was valid, her belittling laughter in the face of such a grievance was tremendously disappointing to me. (And I have my doubts about the justification: an account at the time countered, "None of the other Democratic senators running for president supported the measure, arguing that it helps President Bush build a case for war with Iran.") And note that Gravel's no Obama lover—he dings Obama only a little less for not voting one way or the other.

On the general subject of character and temperament (which I understand is very subjective) there were a number of comments from Hillary Clinton in which the tone and content struck me as overly zealous, and lacking the kind of calm that I think is essential in a pragmatic and effective leader:

1) Here's a piece by noteworthy GOP activists Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, addressing Clinton's claim that she and McCain would put forth a lifetime of experience, while Obama would run merely on a speech he made in 2002.

Her original comments are here:

2) Here was one of her responses to some negative ads from the Obama campaign:

I think that in that clip, she truly seems unhinged. I don't doubt that the Obama campaign sent out some negative campaign literature. But I saw plenty of that from her campaign as well. Either way, responding calmly with objective facts would have instilled more confidence in me than a reaction in which she seemed to be letting her anger get the best of her, as if she was on the verge of exploding. By comparison, Obama operated as if he was on Xanax.

3) In this 60 Minutes interview, she says Obama's not a Muslim, "as far as I know".

I think she should have said something more like, "Of course not, that's utterly ridiculous."

This all relates to the Rachel Maddow point that Clinton's rhetoric was more like what you'd say if you were running to be McCain's VP. Arianna Huffington actually responded with an article called "John McCain Should Go on Vacation, Hillary Clinton is Doing His Job for Him".

All of these character issues meant I didn't spend a great deal of time analyzing the details of their experience. Nevertheless, what I read in that area matched with my character-based perspective. Here's a piece I sent out to some of my friends in 2008, where one woman looked at what Obama and Clinton's legislative efforts and accomplishments said about them. They were very similar on policy, but Obama exhibited a tendency to get more co-sponsors on board, which may account for why he achieved more victories per session.

Lastly, an anecdote that you can take for what you will. At one point, Samantha Power (one of Obama's unpaid advisors) slipped up and called Clinton a "monster" to a reporter, who published the comment.

She was rightfully dismissed from the campaign, and apologized for phrasing her views in such a simplistic way. But I don't think her choice of words could have been completely a result of campaign furor. Power is a deeply thoughtful person. Wikipedia says she..
runs the Office of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights as Senior Director of Multilateral Affairs on the Staff of the National Security Council. She is also the Founding Executive Director and the Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
Power began her career by covering the Yugoslav Wars as a journalist, and was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her book A Problem from Hell, a study of the U.S. foreign policy response to genocide.
So at the very least, I hope you can see that I didn't choose my position in haste.



Clinton also supported a bill to make flag-burning a crime.

She also introduced (with Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh) a bill to criminalize those who "peddle" violent games to kids. This was later ruled unconstitutional by a 7-2 Supreme Court decision. I suggest you read this Rolling Stone article about it.

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