While one possible 2016 Republican Presidential candidate summarizes her foreign policy experience (we’re looking at you Tundra Twit) as, “…and you can actually see Russia …from an island in Alaska,” another potential Democratic contender for 2016 can claim, “I stared at the bear and the bear blinked.” Yes, Hillary Clinton, unlike Sarah Palin, has actual foreign policy experience and probably has the highest qualifications of any American to run for the Presidency of the United States in 2016.
Hillary the Rock Star
As Hillary Clinton wraps up her tenure as Secretary of State, visiting over 100 countries in four years and repairing America’s image post-Dubya cowboy diplomacy, her popularity is at an all time high. Whether she anticipated it or not, there is a growing groundswell of support for her to make another Presidential bid in 2016. Unlike some media-hyped politicians who take on front runner status, only to fade like a pansy in the heat (Fred Thompson and Rick Perry), Hillary brings a bona fide, fire-tested resume’ of accomplishment to the arena. Hillary has also blossomed as a nationally respected personality like few people can and even acknowledged by business professionals.
2008 was too soon
Hillary lost the 2008 Presidential nomination by a whisker’s width in public opinion. It’s not that she was not loved, but there was some political calculus on the part of Democrats that snatched the nomination from her grasp. First was the strong message of hope and change by Barack Obama that pulled on people after 8 years of President Bush, two wars and a collapsing economy. Second was the question of, “Is the country ready for another Clinton in the White House?” Third, to a certain extent, she was still carrying the baggage of her failed leadership on health care reform in 1993 (Before there was Obamacare, there was Hillarycare.) Finally, she had not necessarily built up her credentials as an executive manager. By default, because Obama is a man, people naturally assumed he would be a better leader and manager.
Clinton brand makeover
Hillary’s work as Secretary of State plus Bill Clinton’s rehabilitated image as elder statesmen and voice of reason, as displayed in his 2012 convention speech, have diluted any real negative association of the Clinton brand. Hillary has shown to the world that she is autonomous from Bill. The former President has been a formidable good will ambassador and campaigner that people view favorably.
Even though the Monica Lewinsky affair had nothing to do with politics, it showed Hillary’s true character. Her actions salvaging her marriage and a way she put the pieces back together again speaks volumes about how she views life and how to navigate it. From her remarks in defense of Bill regarding a “vast right-wing conspiracy” to his ultimate impeachment in the House of Representatives, if she didn’t already have a spine of steel, she certainly grew one as First Lady.
Baptized with health care reform
Bill’s affair wasn’t Hillary’s first test under fire, her baptism into full blown politics was health care reform in 1993. With the passage and impending implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the drag of Hillary’s failed attempt to create legislation on health care reform is a moot point. The only unknown is if the ACA turns into a quagmire of failed bureaucracy itself, turning people against government involvement and the program. If the ACA works and people are generally satisfied, she will get a boost and the Republicans will not have much ammunition with that issue during a 2016 campaign.
Real work, real world results
By far the most important foundation for Hillary as a presidential candidate will be her success as Secretary of State. She has proven to be a gifted diplomat and manager of a massive department. She is no longer seen as a political animal running for a Senate seat, but an astute, shrewd and highly knowledgeable individual that can be tough as nails or as soft as chiffon. World leaders have praised her work and are saddened to see her leave. She has shown the American public tangible results, not political gifts, from her work as Secretary of State.
Obama, tough act to follow
It is difficult to hone a message of change, leadership and hope for any nominee of the same party as the retiring President. To advocate for a new course or direction automatically calls into question your support for the previous President. That was fatal for John McCain following Bush as it was for Al Gore following Bill Clinton in 2000, Ford in 1976 and Humphrey in 1968. What sort of platform will Hillary run on?
From her New York Senatorial victories in 2000 and 2006, campaigning for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008, to being appointed Secretary of State by her opponent from the 2008 Presidential primaries; Hillary Clinton has travelled an extraordinary political road these last 12 years. She has proven herself to be independent, honest and responsive. But perhaps the one trait that will resonate the loudest with the electorate will be her humility. She has the capacity to forgive and put people first. Those might be the special ingredients that win her the nomination and ultimately the Presidency. Humility is also a primary deficiency of most men she might face, regardless of political party.
When she stares at the bear, the bear always blinks first.
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