I have expressed my qualified admiration for Mrs. Clinton in the past based on her drive to succeed and single minded pursuit of her goals. . When Mr. Clinton was running for the Presidency in 1992, Mrs. Clinton was asked by a reporter where she would be today if she had married her high school sweetheart who went on to own gas stations in Arkansas. Her response: “Same place.” Now, I don’t have to like her politics to respect the attitude.
However, that’s a double edged sword. This attitude also makes me very mindful that everything she does and has done has been calculated to achieve a goal. Has her goal ALWAYS been the Presidency? Perhaps. But it certainly is now and probably has been since she first ran for Congress.
Of course, there are many legislators who would like a “do-over” on their vote for the war in Iraq and Mrs. Clinton is now among them. But what really scares me is not that she’s changing her mind and it’s not that she voted for the war in the first place. What scares me is WHY she voted for it in the first place.
With the presidency in her sights, every action in elected office must be viewed within the context of creating (quickly) a history upon which she could run. And what is likely to be the most significant policy issue for a female running for president? The willingness to use force. Would she be perceived as weak because she is a woman? Even Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins, who by virtue of serving on the Homeland Security Committee and the Armed Services panel should feel vindicated already, said, “I don’t ever want to leave the impression that a woman won’t do what’s necessary to defend the country.”
Mrs. Clinton was in very good company that day when the vote was taken. Many chose, I believe correctly, to support the President in his efforts to protect America and Americans. But Mrs. Clinton voted the way she did to create a demonstrable trail of toughness. No one could accuse her of being weak and hesitant to use force if she voted for the war in Iraq and, in fact, she has refused to admit it was a mistake. Of course, she doesn’t need to. There is already a general feeling in the country that this is true and others in her party are making those very points every day. The fact that she doesn’t need to lead the charge against the war, makes it all the easier to continue to support military action and play the “tough” card. She’s having her cake and eating it too–the Democrats are blasting the President’s policies and she continues to be “tough.”
And so we find that Mrs. Clinton has been willing to sacrifice American soldiers to further her political career. She hasn’t supported the war because of any inherent belief that it is the right thing to do. She supported the war to be “tough.” This is appalling behavior. If someone wants to be against the war, now or previously, that is their right. But I expect people to voice their opinion based on deeply held values. I certainly don’t expect a Congresswoman to put the lives of American troops in harm’s way, contrary to her beliefs, simply in order to make political headway and proactively address future concerns. This is cowardice of the highest form. She has run from any discernible code of ethics; she shirked her responsibility to vote her conscience on behalf of her constituents; and she has created a human shield of American soldiers around herself to deflect potential criticism.
President Bush may be proven one day to have been wrong about the use of force in Iraq. But I will always believe that his actions were driven by his internal moral compass. Whether he is right or wrong, we elected him. We empowered him to use that compass as a guide. Mrs. Clinton’s pro-war vote doesn’t prove she’s tough. It proves she’s a coward, unwilling to stand up to the paradigms of public opinion, and lacks the steady moral compass required of the office. This, more than anything, demonstrates the veracity of what author Douglas Adams wrote about the presidency in “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe:”
“One of the major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them. To summarize: it is a well known fact that those people who must WANT to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job….And so this is the situation we find: who can possibly rule if no one who wants to do it can be allowed to?”
Note Mrs. Clinton’s attitude shift in recent weeks. Now that she believes she is on the precipice of the Oval Office she is no longer interested in supporting this war. She’s afraid to support it. She’s afraid to see it through to its conclusion. In Iowa recently she told the audience, “The President has said this is going to be left to his successor….and I think it’s the height of irresponsibility. And I really resent it.” She sounds like she thinks she will be “his successor” and no longer wants to deal with this.
Let us say it loud and clear to Mrs. Clinton and others running for office: you can be red or blue, right or left, conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, right or wrong, but you absolutely must be yourself. If you will sacrifice your values in order to gain the office of the presidency then you are in no way qualified to hold it.