Monday, June 9, 2008

Why Hillary Lost

Why Hillary Lost
By Jerome Grossman

Many wondered why Hillary put up with Bill’s numerous infidelities. In addition to the authentic personal relationship, this marriage was a full partnership of two brilliant minds, politically ambitious, organized to help both achieve their lofty goals.

By Bill’s second term, Hillary's run for the White House had been determined and planned. Formal experience was to be obtained in the U.S. Senate, not from the byway of Arkansas, but in the Big Apple, the world center of media and finance, for maximum personal publicity and proximity to Wall Street wealth.

During the Clinton presidency, the military gained significant power over the civilian leadership, using the president's lack of military service and draft evasion to get its way on the military budget and procurement policies. Bill’s aversion to foreign military adventure was overcome by framing intervention for humanitarian reasons. At a cabinet meeting, Madeleine Albright, then Ambassador to the United Nations, asked the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell, during a discussion of intervention in Bosnia, “What is the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about, if we can't use it?”

Like Clinton, Powell had his doubts, but the so-called humanitarian military interventions were carried out in Bosnia, Serbia, Haiti, Somalia and four days of intensive bombing of Iraq. The intellectual and political groundwork for ignoring the lessons of Vietnam had been established.

And the nation approved. In Congress, there was virtually no opposition, no legislative authorization, and no declaration of war, in the streets, no demonstrations. The stabilization of the former Yugoslavia and the expansion of NATO to the Black Sea were accepted as indications that the Balkan interventions were in the national interest.

Hillary got the message. Upon election to the Senate, she used all the influence she could muster to obtain appointment to the Armed Services Committee, where she acquired detailed knowledge and cooperated with the military brass.

Nevertheless, Hillary believed that her biggest problem in her drive for the presidency would be whether the voters would accept a woman as Commander- in -Chief in time of war. Would a woman, even Hillary, be tough enough, resolute enough, to make decisions that will cause loss of life and limb, to attack, to command, as men do?

So when on October 10, 2002 the resolution authorizing the president to attack Iraq came before the Senate, Hillary voted for it, as did 75 other senators, including her main rivals for the Democratic nomination for president, Joseph Biden, Christopher Dodd and John Edwards. It was an easy decision - another humanitarian intervention to overthrow Saddam Hussein that had proved so popular during Bill’s terms.

When the presidential campaign began in 2007, the mood of the voters had shifted dramatically on the Iraq War. The insurgency was causing all sorts of trouble. American dead and wounded was increasing, the dollar cost was enormous, and the war was generally regarded as an unsuccessful mistake. The policy of humanitarian intervention had been discredited.

Only one major candidate, Senator Barack Obama, had the record of opposition to the war and the resources to tell his story to the nation. Most voters did not know that Obama had not been in the Senate to vote on the war authorization, but that did not make a difference. They welcomed and honored his local opposition in Illinois. When the voters appraised Obama, they found a compelling personality, an accomplished orator, with an efficient organization to carry his message. The opponents of the war swarmed to support Obama. Instead of the traditional anti-war demonstrations, they gave their money, their energies and their votes to Obama as a way to stop the war. Luckily for Obama, the first political test was in Iowa, a bastion of anti-war sentiment, where Obama won the caucuses and Hillary ran a poor third. At the time of the Iowa caucuses, anti Iraq War sentiment was at its peak, dominating the news and political sentiment. The voters met Obama and were charmed by his talent and stimulated by his message. Hillary had become irrelevant on the war.

Hillary did make a comeback in the last 10 primaries, winning a majority of them. By late spring, the mood of the nation had changed. The Iraq war was no longer leading the news; the country was wrapped into domestic affairs: the recession, the price of gasoline, the cost of health care, etc.issues that did not inspire big turnouts for Obama. The pocketbook issues favored Hillary.

But it was too late for Hillary. Obama had captured the soul of the Democratic Party, was the certain nominee and the likely president. Hillary had applied the lessons learned in an earlier decade, had made a political decision using conventional wisdom, failing to anticipate the roaring change in her party and the nation.


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