Hillary: What kind of President?
By Jerome Grossman
Hillary Rodham Clinton is the favorite to win the Democratic nomination for President. She leads the field in the polls of the key early voting states, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Florida. If she wins these states there will be a landslide. In the general election in November, there is every indication that the hungry and angry Democrats will turn out in force, while the Republicans, demoralized by scandals and policy failures, will vote in lesser numbers than in the GOP heyday. The Democratic nominee will be a cinch to win.
Hillary will be the first woman President. What kind of President will she be? How will her being the first woman affect her performance?
Hillary brings important qualities to the office: she is informed, educated, well spoken, hard-working, experienced. She has been a social worker and lawyer, ran programs in Arkansas and the White House, and served six years as a United States Senator from New York. She can do the job. She has political smarts to weave her way through the competing interests in the fifty states and indeed the nations of the world.
Hillary's politics are centrist, just like husband Bill’s. They have made their way by locating the consensus of their time and supporting it. They make their peace with the dominant interests and are clever in selling the policies produced to the public. Hillary, the social worker, had no problem accepting the mantra that “the era of big government is over “and the ensuing decline in federal social services.
Experimental programs seeking new approaches to intractable problems, like crime, drug addiction, segregation, income inequality, etc. will get short shrift. Hillary's health care program protects the interests of the major players, making no attempt to adopt the single-payer approach used by every other industrialized nation. The liberal constituency of the Democratic Party is sure to be disappointed in her domestic programs as she finds another Robert Rubin to guide her through paths approved by Wall Street.
Hillary's biggest problem will be her performance as Commander – in - Chief at a time of international upheaval, guerrilla insurgencies, terrorism and war. In spite of her business - like style and her demonstrated ability to compete with the boys, the public instinctively sees in this woman, or any woman, a caring, sympathetic, loving, tender person with the warmth and social skills they remember from their mothers, whether or not the mothers actually had them.
Is a woman tough enough, resolute enough, to be Commander – in - Chief in time of war, to make decisions that will cause loss of life and limb, to attack when necessary, to command in times of stress, to make the often brutal call for the military? That is the question that will be asked of Hillary during the election campaign and her first term. Many Americans will reply that a woman, any woman, cannot command with the necessary authority.
Hillary has prepared herself for these questions. She voted for the resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq and refuses to apologize. She has voted every year for the enormous U.S.military budget, larger than the military budgets of all other countries in the world combined. She has never questioned Pentagon development of new weapons. As First Lady, Hillary participated in Cabinet meetings and favored the Clinton military interventions in Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia. Together with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Vice President Al Gore, Hillary pushed a reluctant President Bill to adopt a policy of humanitarian military interventions later used by the neo-cons to justify the invasion of Iraq.
Will President Hillary be able to resist military solutions to international problems? Will President Hillary challenge the ever higher military budgets requested by the Pentagon? Will President Hillary resist Pentagon demands for new nuclear weapons? Will President Hillary resist making an attack on Iran? Will President Hillary withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq?
The example of Prime Minister Margret Thatcher in Britain,” the toughest person in the Cabinet” seems to indicate that a woman must be tougher than a man to prove that she can handle the duties of a Commander – in – Chief in time of war. Electing a woman President may not be the path to peace.