No better illustration exists of the dysfunctional nature of American politics than the phenomenon of Hillary Clinton. Devoid of any measurable accomplishments that have unambiguously advanced the interests of the United States and her people, Mrs. Clinton's stature as the frontrunner in the upcoming 2016 presidential contest and virtual shoo-in for the Democratic Party's nomination is predicated entirely on her status as a political celebrity. And those who are utterly objective recognize that this celebrity power that has catapulted Hillary Clinton to within striking distance of the presidency is totally derived from the brand name that comes with being the wife of Bill Clinton. It is simply inconceivable that Hillary Clinton would have embarked on her journey towards the presidency, which began with her election as Senator from New York in November 2000, if her surname had been anything other than Clinton.
No doubt, millions will discard objectivity and project their hopes for the future on the public persona of Hillary Clinton, as it will be carefully constructed by professional political strategists and public relations experts, all funded by the billion dollars plus that the Clinton brand will attract through its fundraising apparatus. Those who are more sober and reflective in their political judgments should consider the following three points I raise as reasons to be wary of a second Clinton presidency.
1. Hillary Clinton plays loose with the truth, and has a record that raises serious ethical questions. The examples I could cite are numerous, but one stands out, because it displays a level of public cynicism that is alarming in any politician. During her unsuccessful 2008 primary contest with then-Senator Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton sought to "prove" her physical courage by repeatedly claiming in a number of stump speeches that she had braved sniper fire in Tuzla during the war in Bosnia. As she stated on one occasion, "I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."
When news footage emerged clearly showing no sniper fire or even a whiff of threatening activity as Hillary Clinton emerged from her aircraft, it became clear that the aspiring presidential hopeful had flat-out fabricated the story of her heroism under fire out of whole cloth. Caught in a lie, Mrs. Clinton claimed that because she was fatigued from the rigors of a long campaign she had merely "misspoke." In my view, her oft-repeated epoch of contrived courage was too specific to be a case of misspeaking, but is a clear indication of Hillary Clinton's capacity for engaging in untruths as a matter of political expediency.
2. Hillary Clinton was a full partner with her husband in unethical conduct during the presidency of Bill Clinton. A prime example is what happened at the very end of the Clinton presidency, when a series of questionable presidential pardons were granted that were so outrageously incongruent, the whole episode came to be known as "Pardongate." Among the rogues gallery of pardon recipients courtesy of President Clinton were four convicted swindlers from the town of New Square in Rockland County, New York. The largely Hassidic community of New Square voted for Hillary Clinton in her 2000 senatorial campaign in overwhelming numbers, at the behest of community leaders. Shortly after her successful senate campaign, Hillary Clinton joined her husband for a private White House meeting with supporters of the convicted New Square swindlers.
Though she has never revealed what was discussed -- or promised -- during the closed door meeting, Hillary Clinton maintained that she had no prior knowledge of her husband's intentions on granting presidential pardons to the four swindlers from New Square. However, the feeling of disgust that arose in the wake of Pardongate became pervasive and non-partisan. Then a liberal columnist for the New York Times, Bob Herbert wrote in a column published on February 26, 2001:
You can't lead a nation if you are ashamed of the leadership of your party. The Clintons are a terminally unethical and vulgar couple, and they've betrayed everyone who has ever believed in them.
3. As a U.S. senator, Hillary Clinton became complicit in America's disastrous war in Iraq. The most important vote Hillary Clinton cast during her two terms as United States senator from New York was undoubtedly Senate Joint Resolution 45, which authorized President George W. Bush to unleash military force against Iraq at any time, without further consultation with Congress, let alone a declaration of war. The disastrous impact of that hideous example of strategic miscalculation is still with us, witnessed by the tectonic convulsions ripping the Arab world, and the rise of the Islamic State, which emerged out of the caldron created by the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
At the time of her vote in favor of instigating America's war in Iraq, Hillary Clinton boasted that her decision was based on "careful consideration." If this calamitous decision is the best that Hillary Clinton is capable of, that alone should raise serious questions about her suitability to serve as America's Commander-in-Chief.
During the 2002 vote on authorizing military force in Iraq, only one Republican senator had the courage and insight to vote against President Bush's rush to war. He was Senator Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island. Chaffee is now a Democrat, and is seriously considering challenging Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination. This is what Lincoln Chaffee had to say to MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell about Hillary Clinton and why her vote in support of the Iraq war should preclude her from becoming the next U.S. President:
It's relevant to what we read about every day in the papers in the Middle East and other areas of the world. ISIS and what's happening in Nigeria and how we confront some of these extremist insurgencies... Even though it's a long time ago, back in 2002, the ramifications are still felt today.
In 2008, support of the Iraq war was the key ingredient that led to Hillary Clinton's defeat at the hands of Barack Obama. However, as 2016 approaches, collective amnesia clouds much of America's political landscape. Hillary Clinton's vote in support of a calamitous military adventure, along with past ethical indiscretions by both she and Bill Clinton, are largely discounted by large sections of the voting public, who now view the Clintons with benign nostalgia.
If this force of celebrity star-power and selective memory proves impervious to objective scrutiny and enlightened skepticism, than Hillary Clinton may very well win the next presidential election. In that case, the loser will be America, condemned to repeat the antics and machinations from a political pair that Bob Herbert rightly characterized as a "terminally unethical and vulgar couple."