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Wednesday, December 26, 2007


posted by on December 26 at 14:40 PM

You might think I’d be psyched about today’s NYT hit piece on Hillary’s White House “experience”—I’ve said before that I hate the fact that she’s running on her husband’s record. (The article is still here, if you passed up Josh and Eli’s links.) But I’m not happy about this piece.

Patrick Healy starts out nicely, reminding us that the amount and type of influence HRC exerted in the White House is relevant because: “In seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, Mrs. Clinton lays claim to two traits nearly every day: strength and experience. But as the junior senator from New York, she has few significant legislative accomplishments to her name. She has cast herself, instead, as a first lady like no other: a full partner to her husband in his administration, and, she says, all the stronger and more experienced for her ‘eight years with a front-row seat on history.’”

But soon, he seems to lose sight of the fact that he’s dinging her for claiming that experience, not because she failed to exert quasi-presidential powers while Mr. Clinton was in power. E.g.:

Mrs. Clinton said she was “only tangentially involved” in Mr. Clinton’s first major overseas test, whether to send American soldiers after the Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid and his forces, a raid that ended in 18 American deaths. Asked if she had pressed for an invasion, she said she had acted “more as a sounding board” for Mr. Clinton.

Um, thank god, right? She wasn’t elected. The last thing I want to hear is that she was usurping presidential powers. “Not overstepping her bounds” screams one section heading, as though it were her timid femininity that kept her behind certain lines. Please. How about respect for the office of president?

HRC should stop claiming her eight years in the White House as professional experience because it wasn’t professional experience. Not because she somehow should have insinuated herself into decisions reserved for the elected representative of the American people. I think Maureen Dowd hit on the legitimate complaint about Hillary’s supposed experience:

It’s hard to feel sorry for Hillary [on account of Bill’s various campaign gaffes] because the very logic of her campaign leads right to Bill. When she speaks of her “experience,” she is referring not to the Senate but to the White House, thereby making her campaign a plebiscite on the ’90s.

Running this way, she is essentially asking people to like her if they liked him. Whether she knows it or not, this is a coattails strategy. It’s almost as if she’s offering herself to Clinton supporters as the solution to the problem of the 22nd Amendment.

Hit pieces like Healy’s, on the other hand, just add fuel to the argument that HRC isn’t being treated fairly by the media.

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I have to call Bullshit on ANYONE claiming to have experience to be President. The only people alive who have that experience are.... ((drum roll)) FORMER FUCKING PRESIDENTS!! Not even a former VP has that sort of experience as they are not fully privy to the information that the person sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office has. And despite what Hillary is letting us believe there are things Bill will and can not tell her or anyone else because they are state secrets.

So if being the official hostess of the United States is experience (which is what being First Lady amounts to) then being a failed oil man from Texas must equate to being over qualified.

Posted by Just Me | December 26, 2007 2:55 PM

I'm surprised the headline wasn't "Billary Pillory."

Posted by lostboy | December 26, 2007 2:59 PM

Just Me's comments make a lot of good sense. But Annie, I am so confused as to who you think is so super qualified to be president? Because to my knowledge, all three front runners have fairly limited experience, and of the three, Senator Clinton at six years in the Senate probably DOES have the most.

Posted by arduous | December 26, 2007 3:05 PM

it's awfully convenient experience for a candidate to have, that's for sure. she can make vague generalizations about it, claim it as 8 years under her belt, and then when asked about specifics either take credit or declare herself a "sounding board," whichever suits the occasion.

Posted by brandon | December 26, 2007 3:10 PM

@3: I'd agree, Hillary has the most experience of the top three D presidential contenders. Biden trounces all of those, along with McCain for the Rs. But honestly? I'm not that worried about quantity of experience: I'm more interested in the quality of the judgment and reasoning displayed by the various candidates, in whatever capacity.

My annoyance with Hillary's "experience" campaign line stems from the fact that I'd rather not see the first woman president be a former first lady. The fact that she's running on her husband's record makes that prospect even less palatable.

Posted by annie | December 26, 2007 3:26 PM

of course, all her experience still didn't prevent her from voting for the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of the US.

Posted by bing | December 26, 2007 4:05 PM

Here's an educational op ed:

The presidency — no experience needed?

"He was 10 years a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 10 years a United States senator, twice named ambassador — to U.S. embassies in two of the most important European capitals: London and Moscow — and for four years served as secretary of State. His name was James Buchanan. He was elected president of the United States in 1856 and, in the eyes of historians, was one of the nation's worst presidents. He dithered as a nation staggered toward civil war; many thought him little better than a traitor because of his passivity in the face of national disintegration. So much for a fat résumé as a qualification for the White House.

Those who chide Democratic Sen. Barack Obama for the slenderness of his curriculum vitae should heed the historical record, which shows that vast prior experience is no guarantee of a successful presidency and limited previous experience does not portend failure. The record also suggests that there is no particular connection between prior experience and performance in the White House."

Posted by Original Andrew | December 26, 2007 4:23 PM

But our universal experience -- in politics, parenthood, jobs and careers -- is that experience matters. Lots.

The best President, FDR, had tons of experience, including serving as President three prior times. Governor before that. Navy Sec. or soemthing before that.

Another great Pres. George Washington had previously (a) chaired the fucking constitutional convention, and (b) won the war of independence.

Jefferson and T.R., tons of prior experience. Lincoln, okay, you got me there, not much prior experience.

Obama fans can fairly say judgment/change counts too, or Hillary's record is bad, not good, but trying to say experience just does not count (to avoid that nasty negatitve and unassailable fact that Obama has little experience) is a stretch.

It's also totally unsupported by history when most of the best Presidents had lots of good experience.

Posted by unPC | December 26, 2007 6:37 PM

No, no, no...she talks about her experience. Her 35 years of experience, of which, yes, I believe she's referring to the eight years during which she lived in the White House with an actual sitting President. The rest of the experience to which she refers includes her time in the senate, as well as her time working for children and families and all that.

The thing about Hillary's experience is this: nobody running for president in the history of this country has had quite the type of experience that she has. She has, indeed, seen the presidency in a way that no other candidate has. Of course she didn't have access to the same info that only a president would be able to access, and of course she didn't do whatever she could to usurp the power of the presidency. But it's realistic to think that she had an eye into how presidential decisions were made. Because husbands vent to their wives about work.

She has gotten a lot of shit done in the last few decades. She's also seen a whole lot of shit go down, and has come out of it smarter and more savvy. I think that's what she's talking about. And I think the media is in a peculiar place with her because her candidacy is so new in a lot of ways.

I still haven't decided if it's even an important question to me: does being married to Bill Clinton, one of the most respected and disrespected politicians of recent history, have anything to do with anything in this campaign? I mean, honestly, if Hillary Clinton were not married to Bill Clinton, would she still be running for president? I think she probably would've gotten to this point with or without him.

She can't really do like Gore and shove her husband to the sidelines. Nobody's going to forget anytime soon that she's Bill's wife. I don't think that's what she's running on, I just think she's calling it what it is. Plenty of times in the debates, she's said something to the effect of, this isn't a Bill Clinton candidacy, it's a Hillary Clinton one.

Posted by kim | December 26, 2007 7:56 PM

Any blog post that quotes shrill harpy Maureen Dowd to make a point is by definition deeply flawed.

Posted by Matthew | December 26, 2007 11:45 PM

@9: You have not been paying attention to her recent campaign appearances. I assure you, she is running on her husband's record. See this, for example. Or just do a Google search.

@10: Touché. But ad hominem, and believe it or not, Dowd is much calmer when discussing the current crop of presidential candidates than she's been in YEARS.

Posted by annie | December 27, 2007 10:06 AM

Useful analysis of Dowd's "calmness" during the current election cycle to be found here:

Posted by David | December 27, 2007 12:13 PM

I think most Americans can decipher Hillary's 'first lady' experience for what it was. We know that she was involved at a higher level than some spouses as a 'sounding board' and we know that the first lady has an important role in the world diplomacy forum.

I can look at that and know it is indeed valuable experience in its own right without trying to make it more than it is.

Posted by Mrs. Y | December 27, 2007 1:35 PM

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