Is Hillary Clinton qualified to be President?
Tiresome disclaimer: I didn’t vote in this year’s MA primary. I stand by my summer 2008 prediction that Clinton would win in November 2016. I’m an admirer (but not a backer) of Bernie Sanders. I proudly supported Obama against Clinton, and proudly support principled and intelligent local candidates regardless of party affiliation, when I know enough to vote with confidence.
In one crucial respect, Sanders is totally unlike Clinton: he’s a political idealist who’s never used his political connections to enrich himself (just look at his suits), while she and her husband have been busy grifters since their Arkansas days. When she suggests that Sanders is unqualified, she’s making a ‘meritocratic’ appeal which should be familiar to anyone who follows the horserace — Sanders has the wrong background and has not Put In the Time and Done the Hard Work. You can agree or disagree with this claim on the merits, that’s up to you, but by taking up the question you adopt Clinton’s framework for thinking about politics.
When Sanders says outright that she’s unqualified, not because of her level of preparedness but because of the specific decisions she’s shown herself to be willing to make, he’s making a different sort of claim altogether, one which is all but unknown in the federal government. From TPM, which (it bears mentioning) is less and less subtly pro-HRC by the day:
Sanders reiterated Sunday in an interview with NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that he thought Clinton has the experience to be President, but questioned her Wall Street donations and stances on other issues.
“I think those issues will tell the American people that in many respects, she may have the experience to be president of the United States. No one can argue that. But in terms of her judgment, something is clearly lacking,” Sanders said.
The idea that (say) noisily advocating for Bush’s invasion of Iraq would disqualify you from high office on moral grounds could never, ever enter into Clinton’s calculations. She is a different kind of person in government for different reasons, surrounding herself with creatures whose presence Sanders would never tolerate, and happily selling her constituents up the river for short-term political gain. She’s willing to lie, to race-bait, to suborn perjury, to call publicly for war and then insist she’s a peacenik, to support the nakedly racist class warfare of the ‘War on Drugs’ while pantomiming sympathy for blacks, to claim the mantle of Advocate for Women while personally hiring private investigators to publicy smear the parade of women who believably accused her husband of sexual malfeasance up to and including rape. These, for Sanders and for people who came of age thinking of politics as he did (and to an extent clearly still does), are her moral qualifications — evidence of the decision-making equipment she has available for the job.
That’s why Sanders and his most vocal supporters can’t abide Clinton. It’s not what you think, it’s how you think — in that respect she’s 100% part of the problem, indistinguishable in moral terms from the Republicans whose ‘vast conspiracy’ famously troubled her marriage twenty years ago. Even if HRC’s current policy proposals are much closer to Sanders’s than to the GOP’s, the difference between the two is that Sanders (by all accounts) treats them as statements of principle, which is why they can at times be maddeningly vague, while Clinton’s policy sheet is — how to put this? — subject to last-minute revision the instant Money says so.
You are welcome to your belief that Clinton will be a effective chief executive. You’re welcome to believe that her liberation from her sociopathic husband has revealed her True Colours. (I might even agree with you.) You’re welcome to vote Democrat down the line, because ‘at least they’re better than the Republicans.’ But the Sanders campaign insists on something difficult: the Dems really are no better than the Republicans if their worldview is no different from the GOP’s. Clinton is part of the Permanent Ruling Party, she has been for a quarter-century, and Sanders has made himself that Party’s enemy at some cost to himself. (Again: look at his suits.)
That is the choice, this primary season.
When Sanders speaks of Clinton’s ‘qualifications,’ he’s not saying she hasn’t been vetted. He’s saying she was vetted by the known liars and predators on her own team, from K Street to Wall Street, and she can’t be trusted.
You can agree or not. But at least think about it. The man went to all the trouble of running for President, after all.