WASHINGTON -- In a political season that has become a '70s Show, a Richard Nixon revival infects both parties' primaries. Even Spiro Agnew -- Nixon's Nixon -- is being reprised.
Hillary Clinton attacks Barack Obama by recycling a slogan Nixon used in 1960 against John Kennedy: "Experience Counts." But is it prudent of her to invite remembrances of things past?
She had two experiences of wielding power regarding important matters for her husband's administration. One concerned the selection of his first, second and third choices to be attorney general -- all in just 50 days. The decisive criterion would be chromosomes: The attorney general had to be a woman. The first selection, Zoe Baird, crashed because a slipshod selection process did not discover that she and her husband had employed two illegal immigrants as domestic help and had not paid Social Security taxes. Then Kimba Wood failed because she once hired an illegal immigrant before such hiring was itself illegal, a nonoffense magnified by the Baird debacle.
The third choice was Janet Reno, whose eight-year tenure was notable for three things. One was the botched assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, in which 86 people died, 17 of them children the assault was supposed to rescue. Another was seizing, at gunpoint, 6-year-old Elian Gonzales from his Miami relatives and deporting him to Castro's Cuba, from which he and his mother had fled in an escape in which she drowned. The third was the optional appointment of an independent counsel to investigate the Whitewater land deal, an investigation that led to Paula Jones. When Hillary Clinton adamantly opposed a financial settlement with her, the investigation meandered to Monica Lewinsky and impeachment.
The second of Hillary Clinton's important experiences was the drafting, in secret, of a national health care plan. It was so dauntingly baroque and ominously statist that a Congress controlled by her party would not bring it to a vote.
Her experiences that should matter most to primary voters reveal consistently bad judgment. Her campaign's behavior radiates bad character.
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