What I had been dreading all these months has finally happened. Hillary Clinton has joined the presidential race.
Don’t get me wrong. I would like nothing better than a woman to be the president of the United States. And despite my reservations about Hillary’s penchant for power mongering, I will vote for her if she runs. The trouble is, she has a snowball-in-hell chance of winning.
And when I say win, I don’t mean the primaries, but the general election. In fact, I am willing to bet that the day Hillary wins the Democratic primaries, Republicans will break out the champagne.
Mark my words, once Hillary gets the nomination, Republicans will take off their kid gloves and put Karl Rove to work. Or perhaps they won’t even need Karl Rove. All they will need to do is to dig up the same old innuendo and run it ad nauseum on Fox News. Any Democrat who thinks that the Lewinsky scandal, Whitewater, Travel Gate, and the sale of one-night stays in the Lincoln Bedroom during Bill Clinton’s presidency will not be revisited is living in la-la-land. Any Democrat who believes that the Clinton marriage will not undergo scrutiny once again is suffering from a severe case of delusion.
I know what you are thinking; that it is different this time, that it is Hillary who is running and not Bill.
My response to that is, make no mistake, they are both running; Hillary indicated as such recently by mentioning a possible diplomatic post for Bill.
The Clinton marriage, liberals say, is a private matter. But nothing is private when it comes to presidential politics.
I have my own reservations about the Clintons. If it were just a matter of Bill’s affairs, I could ignore it, provided he wasn’t sleeping with anyone in his employ or jeopardizing the presidency. I have an eerie feeling about the Clinton marriage because Bill’s and Hillary’s political alliance seems to be at the center of it and also because I fear that they will do anything to keep power in their hands. They know how to play the game a little too well. You just have to listen to Hillary waffling on about her vote for the Iraq war to know what I mean.
Her celebrity status notwithstanding, Hillary’s record in the Senate has been vacuous. She really hasn’t done much except trying to get pork barrel funding for New York State. She hasn’t tried to bring back to life the habeus corpus protection destroyed by Bush; she hasn’t tried to strengthen fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles; she hasn’t protected consumers against fraud by the telecommunications companies. Charles Schumer has done far more than Hillary will ever do.
What Hillary has done is play it safe.
Sure, I will prefer a Clinton to a W any day. For that matter I will prefer a Kerry or an Edwards too. For, if there is one thing the presidency of George Bush has proven, it is that there is a difference between the Republicans and the Democrats.
Hillary, they say, is one of the smartest people around. I once watched C-Span’s overage of Hillary’s appearance at some event, to be mesmerized by her ability to recall case after legal case, her mastery of facts and figures, her intellectual grasp of minutiae as well as the big picture.
What I did not see was passion.
I think Hillary used to have passionate opinions once upon a time; opinions she was not shy of expressing. But becoming a first lady of a state and later a nation cured her of that tendency. She learned not to say what she believed.
I worry that Hillary has reached a stage when she no longer even knows what her convictions are.
I know politics is a dirty game; that idealists have no place in this arena; that you have to make compromises to win votes; that you have to appear to be mainstream.
But more than any other time in history, the United States needs a leader who will inspire and guide and heal. At this moment in history, America needs idealism and humility and a global vision to save the planet, not only from unnecessary wars but also from an environmental catastrophe.
I am afraid Hillary will not be such a leader.
Even if there is a remote chance that she will be such a leader, I am afraid that the country is not ready to elect a polarizing and controversial female figure like Hillary to the White House. This country may not even be ready to elect a female as a president, period. Which means that giving into the Clintons’ political clout will ensure us another four to eight years of someone like George Bush. Giving into the Clintons’ control of the Democratic Party might even mean eight years of a Jeb Bush some day.
It is clear that Hillary will not back down from her ambition. I can only hope then that, at the end of the primary season, Democratic candidates will not have completely destroyed each other and any chance of taking back the White House. I pray that we will get an enlightened Democratic president with vision and conviction, be it Al Gore, as the New Yorker has suggested, or someone else.
As for a female in the presidency, I have a solution. Wait just a few more years, and who knows, we might even get an Indian American to run. Can the U.S. presidency be out of the reach of Indian-American women who are proving their mettle in fields as diverse as literature, filmmaking, beauty competitions, space travel, and political activism?
|Sarita Sarvate writes commentaries for Pacific News Service and KQED. A collection of her writings can be found atwww.saritasarvate.com|