One of the claims made by Hillary Clinton’s supporters is that she has plenty of useful experience to support her, when (if) she assumes the position of President of the United States. And yes, on the face of it, Hillary’s resume is impressive …
And yet, when I was looking at her Wikipedia page (I was researching for something altogether different), something kept nagging at my mind.
Hillary had held many positions, some quite senior. But she has never been in a post with “the buck stops here” responsibility.
George W. Bush was Governor of Texas. Bill Clinton was Governor of Arkansas. George HW Bush was Director of Central Intelligence. Ronald Reagan was Governor of California. Jimmy Carter was Governor of Georgia. With the exception of Obama, about which more later, you have to look as far back as Gerald Ford to find a President without “the buck stops here” experience. And Ford was never expected to be President.
Now, there are certain kinds of experience that can be used in multiple roles. Eisenhower’s experience in WW2 prepared him for his term as President. He had a lot of experience with senior military officials, the logistics of war, foreign concerns and (among other things) knew when his advisors were trying to snowball him. This is, of course, sometimes a major problem – Jefferson Davis (who can reasonably be counted as a major US political figure) acted as his own Secretary of War, which caused headaches for the CSA).
Hillary Clinton does not have this sort of experience.
She was a Senator, true (and famously pledged to concentrate on her people before deciding to run for President in 2008). Bear in mind that she ran for a very safe democratic seat. I don’t think she faced a real contest before the 2008 battle for the nomination. Regardless, Senators are rarely in “the buck stops here” positions. I don’t believe she was ever in a position when she had to make a decision and stick to it, let alone face the consequences of her actions. The way politicians respond to crises is inherently unpredictable, but Hillary was never in a position where she could be tested in fire. Benghazi, perhaps the sole exception, was a complete disaster.
Obama had much the same problem, when he entered office in 2009. His political resume was thinner than just about every president for the last decade. He had very little experience in politics and next to nothing outside it. Obama was no military officer, no businessman … he wasn’t even a state governor. Is it any wonder that the praise showered on him by the media and foreign governments went to his head? And Obama has a fair claim to being the worst President since Buchannan.
The fundamental difference between Obama and Putin (and Hillary and Putin) is that Putin understands the realities of power while Obama does not. Obama is driven by wishful thinking, by the belief that he can adjust geopolitical realities at will; Putin is driven by hard-nosed realism, by the awareness that an understanding of the world is necessary before one seeks to change it. Obama thinks he can change his mind on a whim, that there will be no long-term consequences for his actions; Putin understands that one has to be consistent, that one always has to keep one’s eye on the prize.
Obama had a great hand and played it poorly; Putin had a weak hand and played it very well indeed. One does not have to like the man (and I think we will be fighting him sooner or later) to admire the scale of his achievement.
There is no reason to think that Hillary Clinton will do any better. Indeed, there is a great deal of reason to think the opposite. Hillary thinks nothing of selling out her allies – Britain and the Falklands – or simply betraying them when it becomes politically convenient – President Mubarak, for example. (Yes, President Mubarak was a swine – but turning on him set a dangerous precedent.) Nor does she give much of a damn about the damage she has caused to American national security or the sheer level of encouragement she has given to rogue regimes.
Hillary Clinton is an intellectual in the worst possible sense. Like most intellectuals, she commits the grievous error of mistaking her conception of reality for actual reality. (Like an author creating utopia on the page.) Unlike most intellectuals, she has been in a position to influence events on a global scale – and is reaching for the most influential position in the world. And yet, there is no sign that she understands either its limitations or the problems she will have to solve.
Hillary has not learnt from her experience, such as it is, or from anyone else’s experience. I don’t believe she will be any match for Putin, let alone any of the other challengers America will face in the coming years. And that will be very unfortunate as Putin – and the others – seek to consolidate their gains.