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Joseph A. Palermo Headshot

The Hillary Clinton "Experience"

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Hillary Clinton emphasizes in speeches and television ads her stint as First Lady as part of the "experience" that gives her a leg up on Barack Obama. But her president husband governed not as a traditional Democrat, but as a moderate Republican. Whether he was "reforming" welfare with draconian measures that hurt poor women and children, or deregulating the telecom and other industries, or passing "free trade" agreements like NAFTA that outsourced American jobs to low-wage countries, President Bill Clinton proudly shifted the Democratic Party's weight away from the bread and butter interests of ordinary people and toward the fat cat interests of Wall Street.

In fact, a lot of the populist sentiment we've been hearing from Democratic candidates recently is partly a result of Bill Clinton's Republican economic policies. The calls for taking on corporate power and using government to help lower-income people stand in stark contrast to the Clinton era's "triangulating" against labor unions and capitulating to the Republicans on kitchen table economic issues. Hillary Clinton cannot deny the fact that the Clinton administration was duplicitous in the long-term Republican project that has destroyed a large swathe of the American middle class. Campaign donations from corporate America flowed into Democratic coffers throughout the 1990s but the party lost its soul in the process. George W. Bush, Jack Abramoff, and Tom DeLay picked up where Bill Clinton left off and the rest is history. After years of uninterrupted laissez-faire policies "stagflation" has reemerged and even Wall Street isn't smiling any more.

In October 2002, Hillary Clinton supported Bush's Iraq war resolution because she feared the political consequences of what might turn out to be a popular war. And she didn't want to be on record voting against the president's prerogative in foreign policy or being soft on "terrorism." During the triumphant signing ceremony of the resolution, John McCain appeared on stage with Bush and Dick Cheney (and Joe Biden and Joe Lieberman) beaming his contorted smile. Bush couldn't contain his smirk as Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell stoically looked on. His face seemed to say: "Man, our donors are gonna make a ton of money!" (About $900 billion to date in fact.) That disgraceful moment might have been the nadir of the American republic. What are voters to make of Hillary Clinton's backpedaling when she argues along with Condi Rice and other warmongers that "we all got the intel wrong?"

Hillary Clinton's colossally poor judgment on a matter of life and death for tens of thousands of innocent people burdens her presidential candidacy. The vote to grant Bush carte blanche to take our nation to war was the most important she ever cast. And she blew it. The 133 House Democrats and 22 Senate Democrats who voted against handing over Congress's war powers to the pseudo-cowboy from Texas (who executed a record 152 people as governor) felt betrayed by the actions of Democrats like Hillary Clinton. (And the hundreds of thousands of us who were in the streets marching against Bush's rush to war were bitterly disappointed). Today, Clinton, like John McCain, is not interested in discussing how the Iraq war began and why we came to fight a war in the cause of destroying weapons of mass destruction that did not exist. That's all just "history" now they tell us. What does Hillary Clinton's judgment on the subject of Iraq tell us about her "experience" and her place within the Democratic Party?

The Democratic Party should think thrice before nominating Hillary Clinton because it would be putting forth a candidate who is trying to "flip-flop" her way out of her support for Bush's war. It could be a repeat of 2004 when John Kerry, the Vietnam War hero who had a string of Purple Hearts, got creamed after promising to manage the war better instead of opposing it outright. And Kerry was running against a little rich kid draft dodger, not an old warhorse from a military family. How can we expect Hillary Clinton, who never served in the military and never earned a medal, to succeed where a decorated combat veteran failed?

Let's review: In 1976, a governor from Georgia ran against Washington and won. In 1980, a governor from California ran against Washington and won. In 1992, a governor from Arkansas ran against Washington and won (a plurality). And in 2000, a governor from Texas campaigned "against Washington" and succeeded (with the help of the Supreme Court). Now Hillary Clinton wants voters to send her back to the White House because she has been a steady fixture of the corrupt and broken Washington system?

Barack Obama's limited "experience" as a Washington insider serves him well. Obama has an immense advantage over Clinton going into the general election. Washington has not "stewed" or "boiled" the life out him yet (as he likes to say) and therefore Obama is the only viable candidate who can credibly run against Washington in 2008. McCain and Clinton are part of the problem; Obama is part of the solution.