Hillary Clinton Learns from Experience

A curious campaign theme from a former First Lady

KNOXVILLE, IOWA -- Spending a day following Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail, I was not surprised to hear her quote Franklin Roosevelt, any more than I've been surprised when she has invoked other Democrats like Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy. But when she began talking about the importance of electing a president with experience, she brought to mind a very different president.

In her speech here Monday, Clinton said that "there is one job we can't afford on-the-job training for: That is the job of our next president. That could be the costliest job training in history." She went on: "We need a president who understands the magnitude and complexity of the challenges we face and has the strength and experience to address them from day one..."

If I were Barack Obama or John Edwards, I might have taken offense. But I might have taken even greater offense if I were George H. W. Bush. In 1992, after he lost his re-election bid, Bush probably never expected Bill Clinton's wife would someday be running for president while delivering lines seemingly inspired by his criticisms of Bill Clinton.

Back then, Bush was the one with the long years of service in government—as a congressman, ambassador, CIA director and vice president. The candidate named Clinton was the one with the comparatively modest resume, consisting mostly of 12 years as governor of a small state.

So Republicans warned that inexperience could be calamitous. "I ask you to close your eyes and imagine in a crisis situation an American leader totally without experience, completely untested, about whom we know very little, if you get down to it," Bush implored his listeners. When Clinton urged a change in policy on the Balkans, a White House spokesman dismissed him as a callow youth: "It sounds like the kind of reckless approach that indicates he better do some more homework on foreign policy."

The Clinton campaign, of course, had a different view. "If they're such whizzes on foreign policy," scoffed running mate Al Gore, "why is Saddam Hussein thumbing his nose at the entire world, claiming victory and still in power?"

By Tuesday, Hillary Clinton was abandoning the previous day's subtlety. "Now voters will judge whether living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next president will face," she said, in reference to Obama's childhood residence in Indonesia. "I think we need a president with more experience than that."

As a summary of Obama's experience, that's the equivalent of saying, "Now voters will decide whether redecorating the White House prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next president will face." Her attack was enough to draw a rebuke from John Edwards, whom she recently accused of "mud-slinging," and who was struck by the irony of Clinton's sudden dive into the mire. "Like so many other things, when it comes to mud, Hillary Clinton says one thing and throws another," Edwards responded.

By stressing this issue, Clinton inadvertently raises the question of whether her experience really measures up to the claims. On the campaign trail, she brags that she has "35 years of experience"—which suggests that she expects to get credit not only for her time as first lady of the United States but also for her time as first lady of Arkansas, not to mention her time practicing law in Little Rock.

What Clinton doesn't mention is that she has just under eight years of experience in elective office—one more than John Edwards and four fewer than Obama. Being first lady no doubt has some value as preparation for the Oval Office, but no one would suggest that Laura Bush should run for president.

In 1992, of course, Bill Clinton, then a youthful 46, took the view that experience was overrated. He had a point: Richard Nixon was a failure despite years in high office in Washington, while Ronald Reagan was a success even though his entire political resume consisted of two terms as a governor. By the time Clinton completed his presidency, most Democrats would have said he proved that fresh ideas trump establishment credentials.

Over the last 15 years, however, Hillary Clinton has acquired a profound new respect for the value of Washington experience. And one thing that sort of experience teaches you is not to reverse yourself on an important issue, unless you need to.

COPYRIGHT 2007 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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  • M||

    what experience Hillary Clinton is boasting about.



    Turkey Day. Eminently qualified.

  • LarryA||

    Being first lady no doubt has some value as preparation for the Oval Office, but no one would suggest that Laura Bush should run for president.

    Really? Given the other choices? Wouldn't a Ron Paul/Laura Bush ticket be interesting? Or even L.Bush/Paul?

    At least Laura knows how to read.

  • M||

    Apologies for my ad avem attack.

  • LarryA||

    Ronald Reagan was a success even though his entire political resume consisted of two terms as a governor.

    Wasn't he president of SAG-AFTRA? Perfect experience for dealing with prima donnas in Congress.

    By the time Clinton completed his presidency, most Democrats would have said he proved that fresh ideas trump establishment credentials.

    Can anyone list Bill's "fresh ideas," other than the one involving the seventh commandment.

    Then there's Jimmy Carter, who ran on the platform that he didn't know what went on in D.C. and was proven correct.

  • ||

    Knoxville, Iowa- did you stop off at the Sprint Car Hall of Fame?

    ---------

    However else you might describe Hillary's ideas, "fresh" is not a term which springs immediately to mind.

  • ||

    In this day and age it is almost impossible for a president to come up with a fresh idea.

    Fresh ideas require risk.

    No politician will ever risk anything because it would tank their carreer if they are wrong.

    It is no longer acceptable to make mistakes.

    I was always to taught to learn from my mistakes, because I make many (that may make me a genius!?) But it seems that this little tid bit of elementary education does not apply to people in office. So many expect them to be perfect on everything and if they make a mistake they are not qualified for public office.

    It's our fault for putting more emphasis on mistakes than success. After all, tragedy and errors in judgement make for way better TV.

  • M||

    However else you might describe Hillary's ideas, "fresh" is not a term which springs immediately to mind.



    Oh, I dunno: "presumptuous, forward, brazen, impudent, cheeky, sassy, smart-alecky, wise-ass, insolent, callow, immature, artless, crude" seems to describe pretty well her attitude toward my freedoms.

  • ||

    Lady MacBeth, anyone?

  • Fred-bot||

    Fred Thompson has fresh ideas for America.

  • ||

    I apologize for posting this here. I don't know where stories that I would like reason to cover should be posted.

    http://www.abcnews.go.com/WN/story?id=3903188&page=1

  • Warmongering Lunatic||

    If Richardson has the dough, he should put together an ad to run in Iowa and New Hampshire with a clip of Clinton talking about the value of experience, followed by some basic figures on relative experience of Richardson vs. the three lawyer/Senators ahead of him in the polls.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    See, Shawn, we don't need laws like that. A shotgun is far more efficient.

  • Guy Montag||

    OT: Nick is on C-SPAN2 from 6/5/07, interviewing Amity Shales right now!

  • ||

    "as a congressman, ambassador, CIA director and vice president."

    you forgot..."and president."

  • Guy Montag||

    Please! Communism is ALWAYS fresh, as it has never been tried properly.

  • ||

    Come on, the Bush administration has been full of fresh ideas. When people get hot and bothered about the risky move of invading Iraq when the evidence for WMDs wasn't complete, or claiming the power to lock up US citizens indefinitely without trial, they're discouraging the kind of risk-taking spirit we need in our elected officials.

  • ||

    Fresh ideas are almost invariably bad.

  • Brian||

    I may be jerking my knee, but I think our jaw is movin' too fast to keep up with our sense of good judgment. We're considering whether that bird is a condor or pigeon when the argument can't fly. We cannot elect experience, well, except a President more than once. The conflict in this piece is moot.

    I'd rather read on-the-ground journalism, such as quotes and snippets from a candidate's background, even a comment from their high school prom date, or how they justified voting against mosquito abatement while coming up the ranks, than read caffeinated wit merely hoisting self-generated rhetoric.

  • Guy Montag||

    Steve,

    By stressing this issue, Clinton inadvertently raises the question of whether her experience really measures up to the claims. On the campaign trail, she brags that she has "35 years of experience"-which suggests that she expects to get credit not only for her time as first lady of the United States but also for her time as first lady of Arkansas, not to mention her time practicing law in Little Rock.

    Wasn't that a ploy, recently advocated by certain extreme Feminists, to get "homemaking" to count more for work experience for salary negotiations?

    LassyA,

    The advantage from Mrs. Bush is that she was never a lawyer.

    From the general observations of the article and the general campaign news, it seems Mrs. Clinton wants to be Mrs. Cheney or Mrs. Dole without doing the work.

  • pilight||

    Hilly Clinton and Obama have the same amount of elected experience that Dan Quayle had in 1988 when he was heavily criticized as unqualified to be VICE president. It's funny how times change...

  • ||

    Is it a threadjack to link to the Hillary Nutcracker now?

  • Guy Montag||

    LarryA, sorry for the typo in your handle earlier.

  • Big Nanny||

    So what is worse big brother or big nanny? That will probably be our choice in 08.

  • ||

    Hugo Chavez in a pants-suit.

  • pilight||

    Why choose between Big Brother and Big Nanny when you can vote Republican and get both?

  • Britny Spears Guy||

    How friggin dare anyone out there make fun of Hillary after all she has been through. She lost her free house, she went through an impeachment. She has one friggin kid. Her husband turned out to be a user, a cheater, and now shes going through a political battle. All you people care about is….. readers and making money off of her. SHE'S A HUMAN! What you don't realize is that Hillary is making you all this money and all you do is write a bunch of crap about her. She hasn't performed on stage in days. Her song is called "give me more" for a reason because all you people want is MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE. LEAVE HER ALONE! You are lucky she even performed for you BASTARDS! LEEEAVE HILLARY ALLLLLONE!…..Please. Paris Hilton talked about professionalism and said if Hillary was a professional she would've pulled it off no matter what. Speaking of professionalism, when is it professional to publically bash someone who is going through a hard time? Leave Hillary Alone Please…. Leave Hillary Clinton alone…right now! I mean it. Anyone that has a problem with her you deal with me, beacuse she is not well right now. leave her alone!

  • ||

    SHE'S A HUMAN!

    Jury's still out on that one, I think...

  • ||

    You one thing I have not heard anyone say? "We could do a lot worse than president Hillary." That statement rings less true each time I utter it.

    Fuck that guy.

  • ||

    You one thing I have not heard anyone say? "We could do a lot worse than president Hillary." That statement rings less true each time I utter it.

    Rudy Guiliani. I dislike Hillary to the core of my being. Still, if it's Hillary vs Rudy, she's getting my vote. He'd be worse.

  • ||

    J sub,

    Fuck that guy too. I can understand your decision (sort of), but something tells me I'll be writing my vote in this time around.

    On a semi-related note, I got an email from the Paul campaign - they are looking for people to volunteer to be precinct officers. I'm going to look into it.

  • Guy Montag||

    From recent data, I appear to be the last "GO FRED" guy on earth without a blood relation to Mr. Thompson.

    Oh well.

  • ||

    Comparing Hillary Clinton's experience as First Lady with Laura Bush's is absurd.

    Hillary Clinton was a top policy and political advisor to the President. I'd count her experience there as roughly equivalent to, say, Leon Panetta or Scooter Libby.

  • ||

    "Hillary Clinton was a top policy and political advisor to the President"

    though only because she used to bang the president, yippie. no one knows what goes on inside Bill's head, although some like to pretend they know cause they read lots of stuff. My guess is "how do i get this damn bitch out of sight so I can bang some strange, here honey, work on this". absurd it is.

  • Shannon Love||

    joe,

    Comparing Hillary Clinton's experience as First Lady with Laura Bush's is absurd.

    I think your cultural parochialism is showing. Anyone who grew up in a small town knows that traditionalist women wield enormous power and influence behind the throne. Given my experiences observing the type of traditionalist marriages that the Bush's appear to have, I can say rather confidently that Laura Bush heavily influences U.S. policy on all levels. Virtually, all first ladies have.

    The major difference between Ms.Clinton and Mrs. Bush is that Clinton is personally politically ambitious and Bush is not. With her eye on personal promotion, Clinton always made sure to heavily market her role in advising Mr. Clinton.

  • ||

    Shannon, come on,

    I think what's showing is some people's sexism. "Behind the throne?" You look at what Hillary Clinton spent the 1990s doing, and you see a First Lady pretty much like any other? I think you're letting your ideas about women's traditional roles blur your memories.

    The official and documented role Hillary played in the White House doesn't vanish because of how she got the job. She didn't exactly limit herself to whispering in her husband's ear in the bedchamber. She was in on policy meetings, given portfolios, and generally operated like any other top-tier White House staffer.

    That doesn't go away because she was married to the President, any more that Bobby Kennedy's experience as AG can be written off because he was the president's brother.

    I suppose "come on" would say that Bobby just did a better job "advertising" his role than Billy Carter.

  • ||

    As I recall, one of Bill Clinton's pledges was to spend no more than 30 minutes a day on foreign policy.

    Is there anyone that thinks that is, or was, a good policy? Not that he actually did that, of course. And they call Bush a liar.

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