The Trouble with Hillary

Hillary Clinton has been in politics for decades; her first serious foray was in 1974 when her husband William Jefferson Clinton first ran for Congress – he lost that particular race. With 41 years of experience, one would imagine that Clinton has such an iron grasp on politics, and campaigning, that her making a mistake would not only be a rare occurrence, but the error itself would be trivial. The notion that the Clinton campaign would be amateur and lacking, especially after her loss in the Democratic primaries of the 2008 Presidential campaign, should be unbelievable. And yet, it is not unbelievable; on the contrary, we have very much come to expect it.

To get straight into it, the situation with Clinton’s email server will not go away and, let’s face it, who can expect it to. The nation’s chief diplomat, highest-ranking cabinet official on the list of presidential succession, a person who is trusted with top-secret and confidential information pertaining to national security, stored all work-related emails on a personal server. This is different to just accessing one’s emails from home, every email sent was stored away from work, away from transparent eyes, and somewhat outside from public oversight. Yes, it’s true that her email server, a personal one just for the Clintons, was more secure than the State Department’s server, so in fact it can be said she did a service to security of her correspondence, but it looks awful from an optics and PR perspective. While unlikely Clinton did it for subversive reasons, the question is now not if she was hiding anything, but what she was hiding. The FBI are now investigating the issue, again, something any savvy politico would have avoided if they were running for President.

Secondly, that her Democratic primary debate about international security and foreign affairs was less than satisfactory is also incredibly frustrating for a Clinton supporter like I am. She served four years as Secretary of State, she served for over half a decade on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and for her entire Senate career she was a Commissioner on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Her credentials on foreign policy are absolutely solid, and she knows what she’s talking about, so I simply do not understand why her debate performance on the issues was so underwhelming, and how she allowed two candidates with zero foreign policy experience (or knowledge, from my perspective) drag her down into a scrappy discussion. She should have come across as the most knowledgeable and competent candidate. She is rather lucky that the debate doesn’t seem to have had any actual effect on how voters see her on foreign policy; whatever else voters think of her, across both parties she consistently polls as the most trusted to do business on the world stage, and to deal with national security.

“I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild” – Hillary Clinton

Staying on the debate, I’m still astounded about her response on why she continues to take donations from Wall Street. Hillary Clinton has been in politics for a long time. Why on earth she thought the best idea was to invoke 9/11 I will never know. She helped Wall St rebuild after 9/11, so now they’re helping her. It doesn’t matter how accurate that is/was, you should never bring in a national tragedy into a debate, especially when it’s about banking and finance, and the corruption existent therein. It was a very amateur move from Clinton, and something that not only a veteran politician should know, but also should the former Senator from New York, who was incumbent at the time of the attack. I’m honestly not sure how much exactlythat will hurt her, but I have no doubt that it will, given it’s what everyone in the media picked up on after the debate. She’s been rightly called out on it, and she needs to have a more coherent response to the question in the future, rather than invoking one of the worst terror attacks perpetrated on the United States by a foreign body.

It’s doubly frustrating that there seems to be two sides of competence to Hillary. She makes wildly brilliant mistakes and errors, at least to her competitors I’m sure, but then she can just as easily bounce back with a show of absolute dominance of the political scene, and display a knowledge of political tact and savvy-ness that would make envious the most astute campaigner. There is no middle ground with Clinton, it’s to the extremes always. You either love her, or hate her; she either wins by a landslide, or loses terribly; she’s either brilliant, or making gob-stopping mistakes. Her marathon 11-hour interrogation by the House Select Committee on Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi was a wonderful example of her grasp on foreign policy, on national security, and on political wizardry. Casually brushing off criticism, refusing to fall for the petty attacks, sticking to her knowledge of the facts, Clinton basically undertook a marathon aptitude test for the Presidency, and passed with flying colours.

It’s this inconsistency that worries me. Not for her Presidency, specifically, but for her campaign. If independent and non-decided voters look at this inconsistency, I worry that they will not vote for her, and I’m not entirely sure that I can blame them. Clinton has shown that she can make good policy judgement, but her blunders are not small. It can make voters cautious about her trustworthiness, and her ability to act under pressure. I honestly believe that Clinton’s worst enemy is not herself, but her close staff. These are the people who don’t fight back or question and debate decisions, and who bend over and allow Clinton to make terrible decisions. And terrible decisions will be made in some aspects; Hillary Clinton is human, and humans make terrible decisions sometimes, what matters is that we have people we can bounce our decisions and ideas off first to tell us how awful or unworkable, or even how terrible from a media standpoint something can be. But her advisers and staff not only failed to do this, they also failed to protect Clinton from the media onslaught. They should have been on top of things straight away when misjudgments came to light, they should have minimised the damage from a political and PR standpoint. But they did not, and yet Clinton sticks by them.

I don’t believe that Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont poses any serious challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for President, but I do think that the more missteps Clinton makes, the more she feeds to his campaign, and the longer and more divisive the primary becomes. But Sanders, in comparison to Clinton, never seems to err. He’s always been an honest and straight-talking politician, and has always spoken his mind, no matter the audience or occasion. He’s the United States’ cranky socialist uncle, and his contributions to the primaries have never gone, and will never go, under the same strict scrutiny that Clinton, who has spent over 40 years on the political scene, will. Hillary has been a divisive figure to the American public since the mid 90’s, so most Americans should have made up their minds about her by now, but even still there are those who are unsure, and her seemingly constant mistakes are not comforting. At this stage in her political career, Clinton should have absolutely zero skeletons in her closet, with her whole life and work having been on show, but there still are. The emails was so amateur. Just so amateur.

Clinton will get the nomination, I am confident of that. But she has to step up her game, and she has to be more consistent, and she has to stop making amateur and rookie mistakes when it comes to the actual general election campaign. She is far better than any of her GOP rivals, but unless she stops to take stock and revise how she is operating, then she will be defeated by a far inferior candidate. And then, not only the United States, but the world will be worse off.

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