In the November issue of Harper’s magazine, Doug Henwood argues that Hillary Clinton, if elected president, would do little to assuage liberals' disappointment in President Barack Obama. This is how Henwood sums up the case for Hillary’s candidacy in 2016: “She has experience, she’s a woman, and it’s her turn.” But, he says, “it’s hard to find any political substance in her favor.”
Tracing Clinton’s life from her upbringing to her time at the State Department, Henwood portrays her as a pragmatic politician motivated more by ambition than by principle. Here are five key takeaways from Henwood’s piece:
1. Hillary Clinton didn’t do much during her time in the U.S. Senate.
Relying on records collected by former Clinton adviser Dick Morris, Henwood argues that the legislation Clinton passed during her first five years in the Senate had little substance. The vast majority of bills, according to Henwood, were purely symbolic or would have passed without Clinton’s support. Clinton did work to extend unemployment benefits for 9/11 responders, but Henwood cites Steven Brill's book, The Rebuilding and Defending of America in the September 12 Era, to make the case that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was actually responsible for pushing the legislation through.
Even though she didn’t have much of a legislative impact in the Senate, Clinton did spend a lot of time befriending Republicans like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who could potentially support her in a presidential campaign, Henwood says.
Clinton’s most substantial legislative accomplishment, Henwood says, is her support for the Iraq War. The rest of her accomplishments in the Senate “were the legislative equivalent of being against breast cancer.”
2. Hillary Clinton is a hawk.
In addition to her support for the Iraq War, Henwood notes, Clinton also linked Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Such an accusation “was closer to the Bush line than even many pro-war Democrats were willing to go,” he writes.
The article goes on to say that during her time at the State Department, Clinton had a “macho eagerness” to call in the U.S. cavalry in foreign affairs. Quoting Time writer Michael Crowley, Henwood writes that, “On at least three crucial issues -- Afghanistan, Libya, and the bin Laden raid -- Clinton took a more aggressive line than [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates, a Bush-appointed Republican.”
3. Hillary Clinton is ambitious.
Shortly after Bill Clinton graduated Yale Law School, Hillary was already telling colleagues that he was going to be president. Henwood also says Clinton’s private slogan for her and her husband was “eight years of Bill, eight years of Hill.”
4. Hillary Clinton is not idealistic.
At Wellesley College, Clinton wrote her senior thesis on Saul Alinsky’s community organizing tactics, but later found them to be “too idealistic and simplistic,” according to Bill Clinton’s biographer David Maraniss. In her thesis, Clinton doubted the effectiveness of welfare programs, writing that they "neither redeveloped poverty areas nor even catalyzed the poor into helping themselves.” When Clinton turned down a job offer from Alinsky after college, Alinsky reportedly told her that she wouldn’t change the world by going to law school. Clinton told him that she disagreed.
5. Hillary Clinton has no problem representing the rich.
When she worked for the Rose Law Firm in Arkansas, she represented business owners who were upset over a ballot measure in Little Rock pushed by community organizers that would have raised electricity rates on businesses and lowered them on residents. Clinton played a crucial part in developing the legal argument that the higher electricity rates would be an “unconstitutional taking of property,” Henwood says, noting that similar arguments are now frequently used against regulation.