Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Whence Hillary?

Recently, there has been a lot written about the difficulties of - and prejudice against - women candidates for office; as well, there has been some writing about the prospect of Bill Clinton becoming (what is absurdly titled) "First Gentleman" (as though Bill could ever be thought of as a gentleman). I have a variety of feelings about both of these issues (one revealed already in my comment about Bill ... or, as I prefer to call him, "Biiiiiiiiill").

I loathe the concept of "First Lady" as I loathe the concept of "First Gentleman." I do not loathe the concept of "First Child(ren)" but a repelled by it. We are not a monarchy, and we pretend not to have an aristocracy. In fact, I am old enough to remember when we did not treat the Presidential spouse as an icon of fashion, grace, goodness or anything else. Mamie Eisenhower seemed a nice person and good human being, but no one looked at her (to my knowledge) and thought, "She ought to have, or deserves to have, a say in any public issue of the day," or "She is the one whose taste or belief does, or should, affect how others in the Republic believe or view anything."

That changed with Jack & Jackie Onassis ... excuse me, Jack & Jackie Kennedy.

We - our polity - elected Jack President (or didn't, depending upon how you view the 1960 ballot boxes dredged up from Lake Michigan during the 21st Century) by a tiny margin because he was prettier than the awful Dick Nixon. Upon his enthronement - because "we" wanted or needed to feel special, and have royalty again - "we" denoted her, also, as special, and declared that - they being two very pretty ones - this was the new age of King Arthur & the Seven Dwa... no, the new age of Camelot. As such, a queen was important and had a status of her own; and she also had the ability, right or duty to define various aspects of goodness & style. Jackie Kennedy may well have had lots of substance and merit, but her clout in terms of taste, style and beauty was based on her being queen/First Lady.

Lady Bird Johnson cared a great deal about highway beautification, as she no doubt had had before her husband became Prez, but her ability to affect how the nation saw the issue expanded greatly as a result of her becoming First Lady.

I do not recall Mamie Eisenhower promoting anything or seeing herself as rightly having special insight into what the public should do or believe or value. (See also, Bess Truman.)

Pat Nixon may or may not have believed in anything but Dick, and may or may not have promoted anything; but we were trying to end the war, so I don't remember.

Roslyn Carter was, I thought, wonderful in her role, in that she was a support to her spouse-Prez, did not appear to believe she was special simply because he was President, and added to the aura of humility of the White House (something long lost since 1981).

Nancy Reagan may or may not have thought of herself as a star but (IMHO) thought that Ronnie was God, so she promoted her role. Many have recently written that she was graceful, and I say, "Who cares?" But then, I do not grasp the significance of the role of "First" anything.

Laura Bush seemed to me to be generally humble, although some in the White House or Republican Party PR offices thought they needed to promote her.

And then there was Hillary Rodham a/k/a Hillary Clinton a/k/a Hillary Rodham Clinton. According to Biiiiill, when we voted for him we got a 2-for-1 (whether we liked it - or her - or not). I suppose one could say that we knew in advance that she and he believed a/this First Lady was going to assert that there could/should/would be a different role in the new age. Bill & Hillary never won a a majority, but they did win election twice.

And then an amazing thing happened.

Apparently because she had been a Partly-President, many people thought that she should be in some high office herself, and maybe that made sense. So, she returned to the state of her birth, childhood and adolescence - Illinois - uh-h, no she did not. She returned to the state where she and her husband had become famous and successful - Arkansas - uh-h-h, no she did not. She went to one of the rare states that allows someone who has not lived there for a period of time to run for the U.S. Senate. By great and happy coincidence, it also happened to contain a huge, vibrant and notable city where people who are very powerful also live. What luck!

And she was elected by virtue of her occupying the status of spouse to a U.S. President. (True, she had also had significant public policy experience while in the White House - you remember the creation of national health insurance for all, that was passed in 1994.) And she had vast public sympathy experience in the White House years as a result of being married to the First Sexist-Pig scoundrel, Biiiiiill. It could be said that the most significant basis upon which she was elected to the U.S. Senate was the sympathy that she had garnered for sticking with him.

After one term in the Senate, Ms. Clinton decided that she ought to be President, was qualified to be President, and was experienced enough to be President. Acknowledging that a good case could be made for her in 2006-08, could a good case for her have been made if she had not been married to someone who had been President? Is it conceivable that she could have been elected to the Senate from a state where she had never lived but for the happy coincidence of having been married to a scoundrel who was a scoundrel whilst being President? Could she have been elected to the Senate had she returned to Arkansas, where she notably had made a career for herself NOT in politics or high office, but in corporate law ... and in personal finance (and not cookie baking)?

So now, again, we consider whether we might elect someone to the highest office in order, partly, that we might show girls and young women that they, too, can reasonably and rationally aspire to be Prez, because someone female has been elected ... who just happened to have been married to someone who had been Prez before her. What would that tell girls and young women about how they ought to prime their political careers by first choosing wisely and well a man who WILL become President first?

And if this is not a sufficient reason to elect Hillary Rodham Clinton to the office of the Presidency, then ought we look at her history of accomplishments. We have already considered her health policy. Then there is her Iraq War vote, and there is her Libya bombing attitude and her "support" of her Wall Street former constituents. Don't forget her courage in "dodging sniper fire" or in support of the Keystone XL pipeline, and her declaration that TPP was the gold-standard of trade agreements.

Whence Hillary?

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