I know the real Hillary Clinton because of my friendship with her and her family. I am not part of the Clinton inner circle, but have been close to her brother and attended his wedding 2 years ago. I can tell you first hand that she is the most competent of the candidates in the Democratic primary. Her political career is the most impressive. You can check it out on any web site.
She came from a conservative Republican family in the suburban Chicago area. In the 60s, suburban Chicago Republicans were concerned about the cronyism and corruption in big city machine politics. However, she became disillusioned with the Nixon racist southern strategy in 1968 and flipped to the Democratic Party. That was a conversion that brought her to the McGovern wing of the Democratic Party. I understand the passion and idealism of that period. She was even a staff member of the House Judiciary Nixon impeachment hearings.
In 1969, she graduated with departmental honors in political science. Stemming from the demands of some students, she became the first student in Wellesley College history to deliver their commencement address. According to reports by the Associated Press, her speech received a standing ovation lasting seven minutes. She was featured in an article published in Life magazine, due to the response to a part of her speech that criticized Senator Edward Brooke, who had spoken before her at the commencement.
Despite the harsh negative press she has received, her courage and conviction concerning liberal causes and public service is admirable. And she is not a late comer to this cause. Unlike the other candidates, she has been in politics for all of her adult life. She chose a political career with her husband despite the fact that she knew that it would be him that would have the best chance to be President. The Clintons truly lived out their dream, something that is considered admirable by most.
Unfortunately, a career in politics comes with a lot of negatives. The Clinton enemies in Arkansas were a group of corrupt and powerful Republicans that were going to try to destroy Bill's Presidency. Unfortunately for Bill and Hillary, they did not realize the power of these people and suffered through 8 years of constant attacks. This ultimately led to the impeachment and emphasis on Bill's infidelity. But, that was Bill's problem for which she had forgiven and her choice was to save her marriage. How many men would have loved to have such an understanding wife?
I told my wife, Anita, when she ran for the Senate in 2000, that her political career would have been advanced by her divorcing him. If she was really that ambitious about being President, a divorce in 2000 would have removed any taint attributable to her husband. Had she run in 2008 as Hillary Rodham, a single mother, she would have had a much easier road to The White House. But, she chose a much harder rode because she loves her husband and values her family more than political ambitions.
Last night, Anita went to a Hillary event in Chicago with my adult children. I chose not to go because I do not like political events. They are not my kind of people. Hillary asked Anita where I was and she told her jokingly that I just write the checks. Anita did not have much time to talk to her. Had I been there and had the time to talk about campaign strategy, I would have told her that her problem rests more with her campaign style than her substance. As we all know, perception is reality to many of us. Some of that negative perception is her own fault and the fault of the campaign team that she has.
The Bill Clinton wing of the campaign advisors has been a negative to her campaign. I know that the Hillary team which includes many less aggressive Bill Clinton advisors abhors the aggressive attack strategy that has been used. I believe that they have been responsible for giving her some very bad advice including foreign policy advice about looking strong about national security. Her most recent vote in favor of The Kyle/Lieberman bill to condemn Iran was a mistake that just magnified her 2002 war authorization. Perhaps at the time her team thought that she was way ahead and looking ahead to November 2008.
There is no point in looking back. She is now in a horse race and cannot afford to make more mistakes. I think she would be better served by taking the advice of those who are on the sensible side of her campaign team. She has to be more comfortable in her own skin and probably should use some of the Michelle Obama tactics of putting down her husband. My wife does it to me frequently and most people think it is charming. She would gain a lot of points by doing that and making herself look like she is her own Woman. The more she creates a perception of being herself and showing that her Presidency will not be a repeat of Bill's the more charming and credible she will be to the press and the electorate.
Hillary is not responsible for the mistakes of her husband. He is truly a unique figure in American political history, but she has to start doing a bit of the "Bickersons" with him to separate herself from the negative perceptions of the Clinton years which has made invisible all of the good things done during the 90s.