“I think that there will be an election that will elect a woman.” – Secretary Clinton
GEORGE WASHINGTON didn’t exactly jump at the chance to lead our nation after being asked either. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that women like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as people like myself, aren’t taking Hillary’s no for an answer.
I’m not comparing America’s first president to Hillary Rodham Clinton, but the times and the need for a fearless leader are as dire. Â The times also call for America to break the female president barrier, which is long overdue. Consider Hillary a baseline for the Democratic party to change the history of our country on that score. Â We already know where Republicans don’t want to tread again, and I wrote where Republicans could start this year. Â The rest of that conversation we can pick up another time.
Secretary Hillary Clinton’s remarks made a couple of weeks ago at a town hall at La Martiniere School for Girls in Kolkata, India were no different than previous preemptive withdrawal statements regarding a second presidential run come 2016.
No one should take them as definitive. We simply cannot afford to.
As the guest of honor in a conversation moderated by NDTV’s Group Editor Barkha Dutt, Secretary Hillary Clinton once again proved why, according to Gallup, she now enjoys the highest approval rating of her twenty year public career. The questions from the audience proves the Hillary Effect continues to resound.
Clinton was introduced by Barkha Dutt in a sterling tribute that mentioned her over 777,000 miles traveled, followed by a pictorial look back at Secretary Clinton’s travels to India that comes in a good-bye tour as she winds down her duties for President Obama. We are witnessing the final days of a partnership that has defied critics and delighted supporters on all sides of what was once a divide. It also proved President Obama’s strong commitment to women in leadership that has been seen through Hillary Clinton’s passion and purpose at the State Department.
There is no one in American politics who is more prepared for the presidency than Hillary Rodham Clinton. That women here and across the globe need her to continue what she started in 1995, when she declared “women’s rights are human rights” in China as first lady, should go without saying, especially with the backdrop of the Republican war on women, which is very real.
Clinton has widened the diplomatic territory through her tenure, which began by galvanizing a demoralized foreign service after the Bush administration’s disrespect for what diplomacy can do, then through her historic expansion of women being central to U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century. The partnership of Obama and Clinton put into action what studies have shown, which is that a developing nation is only as strong as the role women play in it.
The collaborative partnership of President Obama and Secretary Clinton has changed the playing field for women here and around the world.
It’s just one reason whenever Secretary Clinton is taking questions in a relaxed forum, the topic of another run for the presidency invariably comes up. After watching her apolitical diplomatic leadership rise and her prestige and prowess expand, as we simultaneously take in the American political circus, the American public, especially women, would be derelict in our citizenry to simply accept Clinton’s premature pass on 2016 at face value.
“I would like to come back to India and just wander around without the streets being closed,” she said. “I just want to get back to taking some deep breaths, feeling that there are other ways I can continue to serve.”
One of those ways is an international foundation focused on women modeled after her husband’s wildly successful Clinton Global Initiative. It’s a natural decision and extension of what Hillary’s already begun that would take her work beyond political constraints and offer a hedge against austerity budgeting that would curtail aid to places where women are most affected when the U.S. steps back, which certainly will happen under Republican leadership.
Finding other ways to serve is perfectly understandable, a natural choice for Clinton. However, as I see the political landscape looking forward, nothing is more important than what Hillary Rodham Clinton could do for America.
Our current economic challenges and the austerity craze in the elite political class begs for what I call “Fighting Hillary,” a central theme in my book, to step forward again. A fighter for the middle class, teachers and unions, women’s economic equality, which Republicans have fought against, seen through their opposition to the Lily Ledbetter Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. She’s a politician who understands health care, but who also proved in the Senate that she can work with Republicans while steadfastly holding firm to her principles, without ceding territory to the right, which threatens the middle class.
I write this as someone who has researched and written extensively on Hillary Rodham Clinton, but who also disagrees with her on issues, as well as the need for women to reinvent the conversation on U.S. power and the language we use to discuss it. Our differences are as small as when the State Department responded to Iran’s Green Revolution with complete silence from Dipnote, State’s blog, to large issues like Secretary Clinton’s initial comments giving support to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s government out of loyalty to a friend.
“Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.” – Secretary Hillary Clinton, January 25, 2011
These words are a result of U.S. foreign policy doctrine that has pervaded both political parties for close to a century, which Clinton certainly represents in this particular statement, but yet as she walks the bridge to the 21st century she’s also risen above these positions to face openly the challenges that confound our best leaders.
When you look at Clinton’s speech on January 13, 2011 in Doha, Qatar, it’s even more surprising that someone of Hillary’s knowledge and foreign policy stature would decide to bolster an old friend like Mubarak and the status quo, instead of adhering to what she warned about in these remarks just a little over one week earlier. An excerpt from her remarks:
… a growing majority of this region is under the age of 30. In fact, it is predicted that in just one country, Yemen, the population will double in 30 years. These young people have a hard time finding work. In many places, there are simply not enough jobs. Across the region, one in five young people is unemployed. And in some places, the percentage is far more. While some countries have made great strides in governance, in many others people have grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order. They are demanding reform to make their governments more effective, more responsive, and more open. And all this is taking place against a backdrop of depleting resources: water tables are dropping, oil reserves are running out, and too few countries have adopted long-term plans for addressing these problems.
Those who cling to the status quo may be able to hold back the full impact of their countries’ problems for a little while, but not forever. If leaders don’t offer a positive vision and give young people meaningful ways to contribute, others will fill the vacuum. Extremist elements, terrorist groups, and others who would prey on desperation and poverty are already out there, appealing for allegiance and competing for influence. So this is a critical moment, and this is a test of leadership for all of us.
Secretary Clinton was instrumental in the U.S. backed NATO mission to bomb Libya, which I opposed, and was able to get the ear and gain the trust of the Arab League to convince them to back President Obama’s move, which led to a tactical victory. Her power to persuade the Arab League is part of a legacy that began by bolstering the State Department team that included dragging diplomacy into the social media age, no small task.
I am also opposed to Afghanistan support to 2024 without the world community giving requisite financing, with Clinton one of the strongest advocates for continued financial aid for the mission in Afghanistan.
Our differences don’t take away from the fact that she’s the only woman today who could handle the job and gather the world behind her, becoming the first female president, which would broaden the Hillary Effect to include women having a more significant higher profile in foreign policy and national security, especially where our military intervention is concerned. The language Clinton uses is broader than most politicians today, women taking a primary focus, but as we saw with even Samantha Power on Libya, as well as Ambassador Susan Rice, the language of women remains similar to that of the men who have been in power, which is that of war.
Secretary Clinton remains the symbol of smart power and diplomatic muscle, her ties to the defense industry and U.S. military tight, with these two aspects of political power the only route for a woman to break through to becoming a respected commander in chief. The respect she’s gained over years inside the defense industry, but also at the Pentagon, rivals that of any person who could challenge her, with a small, select few equaling her prowess. Power that sets Clinton up perfectly to be the one to continue the restructuring of the military to a more flexible and agile force.
Being the first female president, someone who is keenly in tune with the ravages of war on women and children, Clinton can’t help but bring a wider lens to conflicts than her male opponents.
We’ve elected many an imperfect man to the presidency, so disagreements aren’t a disqualifier for the first woman president, because it’s impossible to agree with any politician today across all issues. What’s important is getting a qualified woman running this country from the office of the presidency, something that is in all of our best interests, including making sure that female respects, supports and stands up for our demand for full freedoms and opportunities, economic and individual. Hillary’s voice on these subjects alone could change the dynamic in profound ways.
There is no one who understands the multifaceted and layered challenges we now face or how to navigate better them than Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Politico’s Mackenzie Weinger highlighted one quote from Clinton’s India conversation. When the talk turned to her possible 2016 candidacy, Clinton stated, “I’m very flattered, but I feel like it’s time for me to kind of step off the high wire. I’ve been involved at the highest level of American politics for 20 years now.”
It’s sort of a cruel thing to be Hillary Clinton. She first had to endure the political and personal torture of the right’s fury over her feminism, then the world’s shock at her declaration that “women’s rights are human rights,” to finally having something she won on her own, the title of Senator Clinton of New York, which put her on the rise to the presidency, only to run smack into a change election that meant a brilliant newcomer was presented with the perfect moment he wasn’t about to waste. Now, after years of globetrotting in a position she never dreamed of taking when her national rise first began, it’s finally over and her life is about to be her own. But yet Democratic supporters of her Fighting Hillary persona, with all its ferociousness and passion for economic justice for the middle class, as well as women, are still not convinced Hillary should be allowed to leave the political stage.
Last year, in a comment Clinton made to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, she said “I am doing what I want to do right now, and I have no intention or any idea even of running again.”
Fair enough, so take those “deep breaths,” which have been well earned. Kick back, take the private trips as a celebrity civilian, have cocktails with your friends, while relaxing and enjoying yourself. Then prepare to take one last leap into the history, because your country needs you. Nothing less would allow us to prod you back into the presidential arena, because we all know what the last race cost.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has already volunteered to get the game on when the time is right. In March 2012, the Washington Post reported her remarks, Gillibrand volunteering for the important job saying “I’m going to be one of the first to ask Hillary to run in 2016… I think she would be incredibly well-poised to be our next Democratic president.”
America is indeed ready for our first female president.
Hillary Rodham Clinton is not just the most prepared female in the United States to run for president, she’s the most qualified person.
We’ll let her rest, relax and run around the globe on her own for a couple of years, then it’s time to revisit the question she’s been asked innumerable times over the months.
“Well, we hope you change your mind.” – NDTV’s Group Editor Barkha Dutt
Hillary Rodham Clinton has dedicated her life to public service, including stepping aside for her husband at a time when our country wasn’t ready for her. Now it is, so we simply can’t afford to take her preemptive no for an answer.
This column has been edited, with the second paragraph added after the original was posted on May 27.