A central theme of Senator Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic nomination is her experience; her purported ability to be president on “day one.” Granted her most serious rivals, fellow Senators John Edwards and Barack Obama, are not exactly overflowing with experience, but this claim curiously depends on her time in the White House.
Prior to her husband’s election Hillary was never considered presidential material. It was only the prominence that came with the White House that raised her stature on the national stage. Other than a well-managed Senate campaign (against a weak opponent), she has nothing particularly impressive on her resume absent her “co-presidency” with Bill.
But this experience argument has one small problem: her time in the White House was marked by liberal over-reach, incompetence, and a tendency toward secrecy and cronyism.
Hillary’s most famous policy assignment during her husband’s administration was the health care task force debacle. Not only did she produce a mind-numbingly complex federal bureaucracy designed to control health care, but the entire episode was also marked by the secrecy and arrogance that is the hallmark of Hillary’s style. Potential allies were alienated. No thought seemed to have been given to what might actually have a chance of enactment. Instead, Hillary attempted to take a giant leap into socialized health care simply by getting her hand picked friends and experts in a room and drafting a plan.
Not surprisingly the resulting plan soon went down in flames and contributed to the Republican resurgence of the Nineties. The rest of the controversies that swirled around the White House in connection with Hillary were damaging to the Clinton administration. Remember the mysterious Rose Law firm billing records that suddenly appeared? Or her firing of career White House travel employees so she could install her long time Arkansas friends? Or how she conveniently found a way to get rich on cattle futures despite no knowledge or experience in such investing?
In fact, if there was one thing Hillary seemed to do well during her husband’s term it was attack anyone perceived to be his enemy. Even the most sympathetic of the recent Hillary biographies don’t paint a positive picture of the former first lady in this area. She was the most engaged, and seemingly the happiest, when smearing and attacking anyone who dared to criticize her husband. It isn’t by chance that one of the most frequent reasons given for a Hillary primary victory is her fierce determination to do whatever it takes to win. She didn’t come by this reputation at the White House game night.