On Hillary's White House Experience
Update: The Quad City Times in Iowa endorses Hillary Clinton.
We tested her, too, in our editorial board interview, looking for evidence of the partisan rancor that is destroying our country. We found none. Instead, we found a proven, passionate, intelligent leader with a breadth of legislative and executive experience that is the best of a good bunch. For Iowa’s Democratic caucuses, we support Hillary Clinton.
Sally Bedell Smith, author of a book on Hillary Clinton, has an article in Newsweek today, Hillary's Hidden Hand. It examines her years in the White House in an effort to determine her experience and preparedness to take the reins as President.
Conclusion: She is experienced. First, on an advisory level:
Hillary Clinton was no spectator at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In campaign speeches, she often talks about what "we" thought and achieved—an acknowledgment that she and her husband have operated jointly for decades. And indeed she was uniquely immersed in the policies and politics of Bill Clinton's administration. Hillary was the first presidential spouse to have an office in the West Wing rather than the traditional First Lady's domain of the East Wing. She had no official position or specified duties, yet she was so involved in decision making that the president's staff called her "the Supreme Court" because they knew she was the last person he consulted before making up his mind.
Her advocacy for women appointees: [More...]
Hillary oversaw the hiring of White House staffers and pressed her husband to fill half the top positions with women.
On judicial and cabinet appointees:
The First Lady also participated in screening nominees for the federal bench through her chief of staff Melanne Verveer, who met each week with representatives from the Justice Department, the president's staff and the White House Counsel's Office. She interviewed cabinet nominees and prospective senior presidential advisers. Hillary tracked down and interviewed Robert Rubin, her husband's choice to head the National Economic Council, while he was on vacation in the Virgin Islands.
At other times Hillary showed a willingness to yield. In the summer of 1993, she tried to sink the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the Bush administration had negotiated. Hillary opposed the treaty because she believed it would take jobs away from American workers. She also worried that a campaign for the treaty's passage could divert the nation's attention from her health-care-reform efforts. Yet she relented after Mickey Kantor, the Clinton administration's trade representative, described NAFTA's political advantages. "I said, 'If you want to drop NAFTA, we can kill it, but we shouldn't'," Kantor recalled. The treaty's ratification that November became the major bipartisan success of the first Clinton term.
On foreign policy:
In May 1993 the president wanted to intervene to stop the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. He initially agreed to bomb Serbian military positions and help the Muslims arm themselves, but quickly reversed himself when NATO allies balked. The key factor in the president's shift was Hillary. She viewed the situation as "a Vietnam," recalled a Hillary friend. But two years later, after more than 250,000 deaths, Hillary became "an advocate for the use of force in Bosnia," according to one of the president's advisers.
On welfare reform:
In 1996 she pressed her husband to veto two Republican welfare reform bills for being too punitive. She then helped persuade him to sign a slightly modified third version when she recognized that the public overwhelmingly favored welfare reform in an election year.
Conclusion: Hillary is ready, as she says, to be sworn in and start leading on day one.
There is no doubt that Hillary's proximity to the Oval Office has given her a familiarity with the presidency that is unsurpassed by any of her rivals. She knows the mechanics of the White House and the demands of the job. She also has plenty of firsthand experience managing political crises.
The question, according to Bedell:
Would that make her a better president? The answer to that may turn on larger concerns—whether her vision suits the times, whether she can handle the pressure when the buck truly stops with her and whether she has learned to learn from her mistakes.
That's for the voters to decide. My point is only her assertions on the campaign trail that she is experienced and ready to lead on day one are accurate. We'll have to wait and see whether the voters think experience is as or more important than visions and promises of hope and change.
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