Sunday, September 13, 2015

Politix Update: Why Hillary Clinton's Fall From Grace Presages Her Comeback

There are several reasons why I'm not wild about  Hillary Clinton, all having to do with trust.  I'll get to those reasons in a moment, but if you don't want to wade through yet another piece slamming the Democratic presidential front runner, here's a spoiler: The email "scandal" is nothing less than a witch hunt (pun fully intended) and once you clear the toxic smoke surrounding it, she is the best person to take over the reins from Barack Obama, who will have left America in far better shape than when he stepped into the vacuum left by the worst Oval Office occupant in modern history.  And so start getting used to saying President Hillary, because she's going to be.
The trust thing cuts several ways:
She seems incapable of not being wooden and is notoriously circumspect, so she must be hiding something, right?  I just don't know what that is. 
The Clinton Foundation seems dodgy no matter how you look at it, but beyond the kind of quid pro quo that comes with that philanthropic territory -- donors hope that a President Clinton would side with them -- there's nothing illegal going on. 
Then there's guilt by association, her longtime marriage to an ethically-challenged former president, but is that a crime?
And she did support the invasion of Iraq, which if a disqualifier would mean that 76 other signatories in the Senate and 296 in the House also have no business running for president.
This inevitably, if unfortunately, brings us back to the email soap opera.
Yes, it was stupid of Clinton to set up a private email server when she was secretary of state, and it doesn't matter if George Bush had huge email problems of his own and that Colin Powell and several other Republican predecessors at State did the same thing as she did.  (They didn't put their servers in a bathroom like Clinton did, which may be the real reason the whole thing stinks.)  It also doesn't matter that she was painfully slow to respond after questions were first raised about her emails, yet again revealing her inherent and years-long defensiveness, and may not have the best attitude about government transparency.
Republicans had to find a way to delegitimize Clinton, and this is the easiest way to try to drown out her progressive agenda, which makes a lot more sense than the blather coming from their sandbox.  
But like I said, once you clear away that toxic smoke, there is no indication that Clinton did anything illegal.  And the allegation she had classified information on that server?  It doesn't float.  This is because what constitutes a matter of national security is murky at best, and the vast majority of what the government considers to be classified is stuff it wants to hide from us and not the Ruskies.  And so what is Clinton covering up?  Beats the hell out of me.
My blogging friend Will Bunch believes that the same over-caffeinated partisan instincts that fueled the Obama Is a Muslim-Kenyan-Socialist movement is behind the email controversy.  (I agree.)  That and an all-too-willing news media that seems particularly invested this time around in whacking certain candidates while giving others a free pass.  (Clinton and Rick Perry would agree.)
This brings me back to the witch hunt aspect of this spectacle.
Considering all the progress that the U.S. has made on civil rights, curbing police abuse and financial market fraud, you'd think we already would have had a woman president.
Pardon the sarcasm, but it has only been fairly recently that the notion of a president in a pants suit stopped being such a huge deal to many of us.  But it remains unfathomable to some people, and a goodly number of them are hiding in that toxic smoke.
It's tough to argue, as the headline on this post suggests, that Hillary Clinton will make a comeback when her fall from grace is . . . well, not so much of a fall.
Support for Clinton is unprecedented compared to any previous nominee at this stage of the process, and as wild and crazy as that process has been at times, the single best predictor of who will win a party's nomination is support from other elected officials. Clinton already has a record number of endorsements from governors and members of Congress, as well as labor unions.  Her aggregate approval rating is 50 percent unfavorable and 42 per cent favorable, which doesn't seem so hot until you consider that it is better than the top Republican challengers, although she is in a statistical dead heat with the top three of those challengers.  While there is an enthusiasm gap at this relatively early stage in her campaign, she has a superlative campaign organization and the Democratic debate calendar is rigged for her. 
For the Plan B crowd, Joe Biden's numbers are only slightly better, and that's before he gets caught in the buzz saw of political attacks were he to run, which is doubtful.  Just about any way you look at it, Biden is not a challenger.  He's an insurance policy.
Speaking of vilified women, the attacks on Michelle Obama began early on and have been relentless, sometimes even more intense than those targeting her husband.  She is a modern-day Marie Antoinette.  She dresses funny, including sometimes exposing her shoulders, and doesn't wear a headscarf when visiting Arab countries.  She keeps the press away from her kids.  And then there is the sin of her being black.
But when it comes to the Republican battle against the first lady's healthier school lunch standards initiative, which party chairman Rush Limbaugh has compared to a Marxist plot, many food giants are quietly backing away from their fight with her. They have learned that there is money to be made in selling stuff other than junk and their business has actually improved since they began having to meet National School Lunch Program requirements for reduced fat and reduced sodium foods.
Domino's actually got into the K-12 school food business because of the opportunity it saw in the shift in nutrition requirements. The company's Smart Slice, a healthier whole grain-rich pizza, was developed just for school cafeterias and Domino's is now serving the pizza, which is made at its local shops, in 5,000 schools in more than 44 states, up from 3,000 schools in 29 states last year.
Perhaps the Republicans just ran out of hate -- as well as things to criticize -- in the face of a stylish first lady who has shown good humor, wants to do the best when it comes to the health of the nation's children, too many of whom are obese, and remains extremely popular with the public. 
"I come from a world outside of politics, where track records and accomplishments count," says Carly Fiorina wherever she goes.
This is a curious boast for the only woman running for president whose name is not Hillary, because the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard positively sucked at the job and her serial rationalizations as to why she was fired and the fact that HP nearly went belly up under her "leadership" simply don't stand up to scrutiny.
Fiorina was axed in 2005 after the tech giant's stock dropped by half following several lousy business decisions on her part. She blames her failings on her "maverick management style," the dot-com bubble bursting and the effects of the deepening recession on Silicon Valley.  In other words, it was everyone else's fault.
But it's hard to blame anyone but Fiorina herself for the worst of those decisions, HP's ill-advised merger with Compaq, which eventually resulted in 30,000 layoffs.  HP still hasn't recovered and continues to badly lag the competition.
"Experience can be a badge of honor or a badge of shame," said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a senior associate dean for leadership studies at the Yale School of Management.  In an interview with The New York Times, he compared Fiorina to the captain who caused the shipwreck of Carnival’s Costa Concordia in 2012. "He will never be trusted with a public leadership role. Captains of industry must also be accountable."
Republicans seem to be in love with the idea of the president as CEO.  George W. Bush bragged about his big business experience (and that sure worked out well, didn't it?), as did Mitt Romney (ditto).  And it should be noted that Fiorina certainly faced opposition in the corporate world merely because she is a woman, and that hasn't changed since she became a candidate.  But is it a coincidence that even before she got to HP, there were questions about her tenure as a senior executive at fast-growing Lucent, which collapsed during the telecom crash and later was gobbled up by Alcatel?

Politix Update is an irregular compendium written by veteran journalist Shaun Mullen, for whom the 2016 presidential campaign is his (gasp!) 12th since 1968.  Click here  for an index of previous Politix Updates.


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