Friday, February 1, 2008

Bill and Hillary Clinton: A View From India

Just what do others across the world think of Hillary Clinton and her run for President?

We found an opinion piece in The Statesman, a newspaper from India. The writer makes some observations about Hillary... and her conjoined spouse, Bill:

A double dose of Clinton is not what the world needs

It is not a question of who has the dominant personality ~ Bill or Hillary Clinton? It is how the world works, a world that is, even in its most liberal quarters, essentially male chauvinistic. Margaret Thatcher chose a cabinet that was 100% male, although it was said they were alternately seduced and scared by her.

If we hadn’t caught the penny before we certainly heard it drop in South Carolina. Bill and Hillary is “two for one” and where she goes he goes too. If she became President, whilst she would have the constitutional authority he would have the political clout. Can you imagine in some moment of tension Vladimir Putin (or Dimitri Medvedev) or the King of Saudi Arabia not picking up the phone first to Bill rather than Hillary for a clarifying “background chat” on what US policy exactly is.

Come to that, why are we making so much fuss over the likelihood in Russia of Putin promoting his protege, Medvedev, whilst he drops back to prime minister? At least they are not married to each other or twin brothers, as was the case recently in Poland. At least Putin will have a constitutional mandate to hold the number two position whereas Bill will be “only” a spouse.
The writer also looks at the United States, how in the past few decades our choice of Presidents have never reached further than father-son and now possibly, husband-wife.
In fact, if America can’t offer better than two families alternating power between father and son, husband and wife over a period of what could be 28 continuous years, then it had better shut up shop with its advocacy of democracy and freedom. Isn’t this what they do in the banana republics?
The writer calls the possible outcome of a Hillary win, the "double-headed Clinton regime." A very astute observation, Hillary and Bill, or Bill and Hillary, have always been a very loyal power couple, perhaps this was Hillary's anger at Bill over the tawdry affair of Bill and the pudgy intern, Monica Lewinsky. Hillary had worked hard to get Bill into the Oval Office and here he was, squandering their (her) political future with some nukee-nukee with fat thighs and a Cuban cigar.
Then there is the question what would a double-headed Clinton regime do? Undoubtedly, despite the confusion of Hillary Clinton’s Senate votes, it would be less warlike than the present Bush administration. It would also be wiser and more sophisticated.
The writer believes Hillary, on her own, might have a "wiser, more sophisticated" administration. This is where we digress. The writer had previously written that other countries would want to talk "grown-up" with Bill, in important matters, instead of with Hillary.

The writer goes on to make some observations as to Bill's years as president. These observations are extremely important because this is what someone, not from our own country, but from another country, another culture, thought of the Clinton years:

But just because the Bush years have been such a disaster it doesn’t mean we should overlook how inadequate the Clinton presidency was on almost everything but economic policy. Bill certainly wowed the Europeans. But that was because he appeared smart and intelligent ~ the archetypal Yank at Oxford. But in truth he was a waffler. That goes back to his time as governor of Arkansas. He talked a great game on the race issue but Arkansas didn’t get a Civil Rights Act until after he was gone.

When he became President he had the world at his feet. No Cold War. No major war anywhere in the world. An economy on the cusp of prosperity. But it quickly turned out, especially on foreign policy, that he had no vision, no deep convictions, and no overriding purpose.

One of his first acts, presumably to quieten the Pentagon that was nervous and antagonistic because of his draft dodging the Vietnam war and his tolerance of homosexuality in the military, was to launch a cruise missile attack on Iraq, that merely cemented Iraqi public opinion behind Saddam Hussein. His vigorous economic embargo of Iraq likewise hurt the civilians most, creating tens of thousands of deaths of Iraqi children.

A short while after the cruise missile attack, he made the decision to pull American troops out of Somalia where they were supposed to be part of a United Nations peacekeeping force. In fact they operated independently under the direct authority of US Southern Command in Florida and had decided to engage in combat with one of the rebel leaders in a very non-UN way. It led to the deaths of 18 American soldiers.
So far, not so favorable a critic for Bill:

Instead of taking the blame himself, Clinton turned on the UN. For the rest of his two terms, the UN remained the bete noire of much of the American public, an easy target for Senator Jesse Helms who tried to starve the UN of funding. This should have been the era of UN coming into its own with the Security Council working in harmony. Ironically, there was more of this under his predecessor, George Bush.

Indeed, substantive progress in building a sane and sober relationship with post Communist Russia occurred more under Bush than Clinton. With Bush there was serious nuclear disarmament. With Clinton almost none.

Clinton lost the Senate vote on the ratification of the Test Ban Treaty because he left it to the last moment to publicly campaign for it. India’s and Pakistan’s decision to go openly nuclear owed much to the climate of opinion that Clinton’s lack of activity on nuclear issues engendered.
And then there was the genocide in Rwanda. When it was gathering speed, Clinton gave the impression to his underlings that he didn’t want to know. His attempt at peace in the Middle East was left to the last moment and fell apart because Clinton was clumsily partisan, in favour of Israel.

The writer sums it up as a period of great openings and missed opportunities:

If an artist were commissioned to paint the eight years of the presidency of Bill Clinton it would be a landscape of missed openings. The great historical opportunities that were open to him were squandered, with arguably the exception of making peace with North Korea. Why should America or the rest of the world want a double-headed, double dose of this?

Good question. Why should America or the rest of the world want a "double-headed, double dose" of Hillary and Bill Clinton?

Bill and Hillary are an extraordinarily strong political couple who work well in tandem. We may not want them as our next Presidential "team" but in America, anything is possible.


Image - Met Museum
Source - The Statesman

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