THE BLOG
10/22/2013 03:21 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Yes! Ready for Hillary

Over the weekend former secretary of state and first lady Hillary Clinton made a campaign appearance for Terry McAuliffe in his pursuit of the governorship of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Mrs. Clinton stopped short of announcing her own candidacy for president in 2016.

Maybe one doesn't need to announce the obvious.

Obvious or not, in my judgment, her candidacy and services as president are not only groundbreaking but much-needed -- and I say this as a Republican -- if there is such a species remaining, I have my doubts. Doubts that have be "cruzified," so to speak, on a cross of demagoguery, in disregard of the national well being. The irresponsibility of Ted Cruz just reinforces the sad conclusion that the Republican party is totally spent. Except for millions of good-hearted Americans who sit in their living rooms hoping for an intellectually honest and responsible voice proof testing the well articulated ideas of President Obama, in Washington D.C. it is hard to find Republicans who don't believe in a total scorched-earth program.

Someone should tell Mr Cruz that is a suicide pact, but then, they have and more only to receive that Dr. Seuss-induced blank stare and defiant grin that in operation expels the most talented members of the GOP in primaries (see e.g. Dick Lugar) and then articulate hopelessly reactionary policies in the general election and thereby making it easy for the opposing party to win the seat. Sen. John McCain, also are a Republican, called the latest episode, the most shameful legislative behavior that he has personally witnessed over three decades in government.

Shameful? Yes, and wasteful? Entirely. Likely to be repeated? Regrettably. See you in January for the next artificial budget crisis. The once noble party of Abraham Lincoln knows neither the eloquence nor the judgment of the great man whose "malice toward none and charity to all" extended to those who sought even more directly and violently than Mr. Cruz to destroy the union. In the echo of that libertarian call to human right and freedom, I still have some ideological reasons to favor Republicans over Democrats, though it is a radically declining number of subjects. It would seem I have too many positive inclinations to say consistently "no."

I doubt Mrs. Clinton agrees with my assessment of various issues which are still informed by my Reagan years, but what makes all the difference, and makes it possible to govern this nation of an abundant ideas and abundance, is that I know she believes in the concept of common good and that the easiest way for common good to be ascertained and advanced is by standing on common ground.

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It was my privilege to work with Mrs. Clinton while she was secretary of state in an ambassadorial capacity. I never once saw the woman unprepared even over the most obscure point of very complex and thick files of materials. No, Hillary Clinton, I might say having been reared in the same "city of big shoulders" Chicago, knows something about the midwestern work ethic. When Mrs Clinton's biographers begin with Wellesley, they are omitting a crucial aspect of her formation.

Secretary Clinton was extremely well-prepared for her foreign-policy tasks, and by her scrupulous example was motivational in her presentation. I admit, Mrs Clinton succumbed on occasion to give me a hard time because of my institutional and personal association with Ken Starr, for whom one can understand Mrs. Clinton would not have a warm spot unless one was speaking of a particularly warm -- indeed, hot -- destination in the next life Putting those nationally and personally uncomfortable associations and memories aside, Mrs. Clinton administers with an even hand and an intelligent eye for real difference and for excellence. Secretary Clinton was supportive and willing to task me with important issues and responsibilities in a foreign posting that became surprisingly challenging in terms of military and intelligence operations -- the Mediterranean and the Republic of Malta -- including the rescue of our U.S. nationals and other foreign citizens from behind the shooting lines in Tripoli.

Like Ronald Reagan, Hillary Clinton has a good sense of what her subordinates are capable of accomplishing when she gives clear direction and adequate space and time in which to accomplish it. That quality of discernment, in itself, is one of the reasons why the nation is already ready for Hillary 2016.

Of course, I realize I'm not alone in this assessment. The nice people putting out the bumper sticker that proclaims how we are "ready" for Hillary have amassed millions of signatures encouraging her candidacy. As already mentioned, that candidacy to even the most nonpolitical person seems obvious. What may be less obvious, but important to articulate is why that is. Some voters erroneously assume that it is simply her name recognition based upon her husband's service in the presidency. As explained above and below, Mrs. Clinton is so remarkably well-suited for the executive role in government that I hope it will be the general practice of those writing about the election not to make invidious comparisons with the first President Clinton since that would only perpetuates the kind of subtle gender discrimination that her candidacy, and anticipated election, should put to rest once and for all.

And since we are in the disavowing of invidious comparison department, let me state that the bumper sticker on the back of my car and now increasingly found on the cars of the general public proclaiming that we're ready for Hillary" is not intended to be a subtle jab at the current president, though frustration over the government shutdown might suggest otherwise. In truth, President Obama emerged from the skirmish not only unscathed but arguably enhanced by his principled and tenacious refusal to have the functions of the United States held hostage to partisan dislike of the expansion of health care to millions of our fellow citizens who presently lack it.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether the clarity of Pres. Obama's rejection of America being held hostage by an ideological extremist or two translates into midterm gains in the House or Senate. For the sake of reasoned compromise, I hope it does, but I suspect those gains if they do come will be too late to be of great value to President Obama, even as they would be welcoming to a President Hillary Clinton. It may or may not be one of the drawbacks of a presidential over a parliamentary system, but it is unlikely that the incumbent president will be able to add to what is already an impressive record of presidential performance: the healthcare expansion; the ending of one war, the substantial reduction of another; the reorientation of our counter-terrorism efforts at the disabling or elimination of those most responsible for the directing of harm at civilian populations; and by his sheer intelligence, presence, good humor and personal capability, a refutation of every specious race-based argument that has ever been deployed to exclude. Not a bad record that, Mr. President.

No doubt to President Obama's regret, likely left to his successor will be an important immigration reform that really should not be delayed given the adverse human toll inflicted by today's broken system. We know Pres. Obama is inclined to move on this topic both by reasons of humanity as well as in order to bring greater coherence to the fulfillment of our labor needs. As a person of decency, he has used his executive powers to the extent that he can within existing law to not disadvantage the children of migrant families, but these uncertainties cause such great anxiety within a family that they should be responded to by the legislature and in a comprehensive manner. Finally, it would seem unlikely that the president will have the opportunity to address the bias in the present tax code which favors the ultra-rich and aggravates an even more serious issue of maldistribution of income which the next president will need to address.

Now, of course, should Congress be able to avoid being forcibly taken for another "Cruz by the pirate of pain's ass," one could expect these topics to be taken up. Zealotry seems to be prevailing however.

Perhaps the political campaign with Mrs. Clinton will remind the Republican Party generally that voting in the negative is not a policy so much as an addiction or the consequence of its ossified and hemorrhoidal thinking. Certainly, Republicans have made it plain that they don't want to expand health care with public monies, but why not then at least do something plausibly and more mainstream Republican like changing the subject to the quality of care?; ask the question why it is that Americans pay such a high price for care that ranks consistently in the mediocre ranges internationally.

Of course, the Republicans can't be blamed for the glitches in the rollout of the President's health care program. The President is right there have been "big mistake," but hey, this computer stuff is far from perfect. Moreover, these administrative difficulties are to some degree to be forgiven given the scale of new assignment undertaken by the affordable healthcare act. It can be done, however. It is obvious that with the right talent several states have done it. Republicans once praised federalism for such good-spirited oneupmanship. Pres. Obama may need some additional assistance here. While there are excellent staff in some areas assisting the president, Pres. Obama's previous governmental experience was all legislative and relatively modest in time. At all times, the Obama bench has been a short one. Pres. Obama's rhetorical gifts may simply exceeded his administrative assets.

This shortage of experienced personnel assisting Pres. Obama's presents another reason why voters should be increasingly ready for Hillary: Unlike Pres. Obama; Sen. Clinton seldom has occasion, or seldom takes the occasion, to wax solely inspirational. Too bad because when she speaks of public service, one can see the glint of sheer joy of purpose when first felt as the young student, Hillary Rodham.

But the years have made Mrs Clinton toughly practical. In this regard, Mrs. Clinton means business. Hillary Clinton took hold of one of the oldest cabinet departments -- a department that has many distinguished personages and therefore an equal number of reasons not to change its customs and traditions, even if some of those are outdated and they penalize themselves by narrowing their channel of information and understanding. Yet, Hillary Clinton took hold of one of the least movable and most entrenched bureaucracies in the federal government.

Rightfully, the State Department prides itself on its own traditions and its own direction based upon the sheer talent that is attracted to diplomatic and Foreign Service. In other words, smart people who think they know pretty much what they need to know and they don't have any need for a new political person to come in and tell them otherwise, thank you. But there was stubborn Hillary telling the immovable bureaucratic object to get up and get going. I often envision former President Clinton smiling broadly at those moments, for he knows better than anyone -- and he should -- what it means to get a Hillary kick in the rear (being lucky she approached from that more genteel direction!). Secretary Clinton managed by pure force of determination to achieve success at State.

And let no one mistake that such determination was not fueled by love. Mr. former President knows this, and if we judge wisely in 2016 and God's providence is with us, all America and the world will once again see the love of nation and human right that powers her many talents.

Of course, the solid core of devotion to doing the right thing, unlike the present incumbent who wears his well considered principles on his sleeves, Mrs. Clinton's will be tucked away beneath the language of work. Take, for example, her borrowing terminology from the Department of Defense and instituting the first quadrennial diplomacy and development review the QDDR).

I doubt this action got page twelve in the business section, but every day it is making a difference in the Department The quadrennial review is an implementation that serves the State Department well in a number of respects. First, it gives the main office, or Main state as it is called on C St. in Washington DC, an opportunity to refine and then to publish its goals and objectives for the entire department. These are quite significant.

Substantively, the quadrennial review allowed for a complete survey of global threats and opportunities and then a better coordination of the diplomatic and development sides of the State Department mission. The Department has tried in the past to adjust its economic development assistance and diplomacy, but until the quadrennial review it lacked the means. With Hillary Clinton, it got the means. The quadrennial review quickly gave rise to a set of specific recommendations and strategies to achieve results in DC and around the globe. The net result was a metric by which one could assess the performance of each part of the Department and in terms of the general outcomes and the specific policy sought to be advanced by the Secretary.

Sec. Clinton was and is a proponent of the conception of soft power over military intervention, and this was instrumental in keeping us out of additional military engagements while not eliminating our role to influence what is elsewhere called civilian power with a focus on nonviolence and the avoidance of conflict. Creatively, Sec. Clinton also advocated the elevation of the responsibilities of the United States ambassador so that not only would he or she oversee and coordinate the basic functions of an embassy but he would also be the responsible person to oversee the work of non-state agencies of the US in his region. The trust in delegation that revealed bolstered those crusty old diplomatic hands and much success resulted, especially at USAID dealing with global health and agricultural initiatives.

Usefully, Sec. Clinton bolstered President Obama's excellent presentation at al Azar University in Cairo, emphasizing no hostility on the part of the United States to Islam or any other faith provided those who practice observe the basic principles of public order. There was no leeway for violence o be masked as religious principle. When life is threatened by extremism, the secretary had no choice but to respond as only an executive can with "energy and dispatch."

The value of the quadrennial review extended around the globe. It was brought home to me and every ambassador by the strategic plans it subsequently triggered on our part. In my case, this meant that for the first time in American history, we articulated a comprehensive Mediterranean strategy that proved immediately useful in addressing the rescue of over 338 individuals from the Arab Spring uprisings. It is a bit too early to tell whether or not Secretary Kerry will follow the example of Sec. Clinton. In my judgment, he would be well advised to do so.

Finally, anticipating Mrs. Clinton as president also anticipates someone who will not neglect to address the systematic causes that are leading to 1 percent of our population heading upwards of 35 percent of the nation's value or wealth. The message that Cal Berkeley economist and former secretary Robert Reich prepared is one that fully explains how over the last 30 years this divide in income has profoundly grown larger. This puts us at risk from the only power Lincoln said could defeat us -- ourselves from within. Lincoln knew as Aristotle taught millennia ago that without a fair and reasonable distribution of the wealth in society, participatory democracy is impossible.

It is fitting that our prospectively first female president has a real and a sincere appreciation of gender equality, but it is doubly appropriate that she is both committed, and fully capable, of ensuring the preservation of the human rights of all.

Yes, America and the world are "ready for Hillary."