By Kent R. Kroeger (Source: NuQum.com, January 28, 2016)
Outcome. Shmoutcomes. All you need to know is that Hillary Clinton has spent a political lifetime working tirelessly for (insert interest group).
When a young Iowa voter asked Hillary Clinton why there is so little enthusiasm for her candidacy among his age cohort, Hillary forcefully summarized her core argument for why she should be the next president: “I’ve been on the front line of change and progress since I was your age. I’ve been fighting for kids and women and the people who are left behind to get the chance to make the most out of their own lives. ”
It was Hillary’s best moment at CNN’s town hall meeting televised a week out from the Iowa caucuses. Her response to the young man would be oft-repeated in the town hall’s news coverage. It was a good line, delivered effectively. More importantly, her full answer to the young man highlighted one of her genuine successes as First Lady – the Children’s Healthcare Insurance Program (CHIP), which, in the ashes of her failed attempt to bring universal healthcare to the U.S., needed Republican support in order to become law. Yet, as I listened to her, her response seemed just another political bromide where the meaning had been sucked out by a decade and a half of economic stagnation for America’s middle and working classes.
American’s median income has been in decline since 2000. Bill Clinton can justifiably be proud that Americans’ income growth rates during his administration were among the strongest in the past 50 years. Still, even that positive outcome was built on a bipartisan economic deregulation program — particularly in the banking, investment and insurance industries — whose long-term ramifications borne out during the 2007 world financial crisis laid waste to much of middle class America’s economic gains from the 1990s.
However, even if we generously forgive the Clinton administration for the excesses left unchecked by economic deregulation, to what extent should Hillary share credit for the economic gains during her husband’s administration? Well, she was there. I suppose that’s enough. According to the polling data, it is enough for a majority of Democrats and may be enough for the majority of voters in the 2016 general election.
In fairness, based on her own rhetoric, Hillary is not asking for support based on her husband’s accomplishments. She emphasizes her tireless efforts to improve the lives of children, women, minorities, low-income households, and the middle class. The problem is this argument holds little weight when displayed next to the actual economic and social outcomes experienced by these social groups.
Hillary repeatedly tells us she works hard. I do not doubt it. She may work too hard, as evidenced by her recently released email where she sent an email to a subordinate to tell another subordinate to make hot tea for an upcoming State Department meeting. Who doesn’t just directly email the tea-making subordinate? People that work hard, apparently.
I am being a bit harsh towards Hillary, I agree, but I struggle to find concrete evidence of her claimed accomplishments. I mentioned CHIP and, yes, she gave an historic speech in Beijing, China in 1995 on women’s second-class status in far too many parts of the world. Her speech is as relevant today as it was then. But that is the problem! Very little has changed since Hillary gave that speech. It was a great speech. Yet, if we measure it relative to outcomes, it was just a speech. Not much more. I’m sure she worked hard writing it. Unfortunately, my thoughts turn towards the Yazidi women and girls in ISIS-controlled Syria and the question as to whether our nation’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 –- with Hillary’s influential and regrettable support — perhaps contributed to the rise of ISIS and its subsequent crimes against men and women.
Again, this is a harsh conclusion regarding Hillary’s culpability in the suffering of Middle Eastern women, but not as hard a conclusion as it should be. I will leave to others discussions of her role in the destabilization of Libya, Syria, and Iraq. She isn’t alone in bearing some responsibility for these messes, and certainly is not the primary culprit. Nonetheless, her neo-conservative-inspired default positon on questions of U.S. military interventions in the Middle East, driven by what I believe to be a purely political calculation to maintain her credibility with military- and security-focused voters, must be considered part of her foreign policy resume. Outcomes must matter more than effort and intent.
Now, there is one special interest group that has benefited handsomely from Bill and Hillary’s collective hard work — that would be Bill and Hillary Clinton. From 2001 through 2013, the Clintons jointly earned over $160 million, largely from speeches and book sales. By now, that total most likely exceeds $200 million. And I have no doubt Hillary worked really hard on all those books and speeches. That should be enough for the American voter, right? We will find out in the next ten months.