Hillary Clinton’s no Henry IV

HRCIn a mean-spirited op-ed that’s apparently part of an on-going twenty-year jihad against the Clintons, Maureen Dowd likens Hillary Clinton to an “annoyed queen”.  While I have been first very critical, then somewhat less critical, of Hillary’s response to revelations that she violated federal email retention rules, I wouldn’t necessarily call her regal.  Still, it is more than fair for Democrats to question whether Clinton’s aloof and condescending manner will hand the White House to the Republicans next November.  It is also fair to ask whether, if elected, she will serve in the best interests of the American people.

According to the Guardian, in 1996, Hillary’s close friend Janet Blair suggested things might go easier for her if she tried to develop “friendlier relations . . . with media figures . . . and stop[ped] changing her hair so often”.  Clinton’s response:

I know I should do more to suck up to the press. I know it confuses people when I change my hairdos. I know I have to compromise. . .  But I’m just not going to. . . I’m a complex person and they’re just going to have to live with that. I’m used to winning, and I intend to win on my own terms.

Strong-sounding words.   The problem is that nobody can win solely on her own terms, not even Hillary Clinton.  There are always compromises that have to be made.  You just hope that your candidate’s compromises don’t fundamentally undermine positions that drew you to her in the first place.

In this vein, it’s hard to be optimistic about Hillary.  Young Hillary Rodham opposed the Vietnam war.  Senator Hillary Clinton voted to authorize George W. Bush to use force against Iraq and has argued the President Obama should have more aggressively supported the Syrian rebels challenging Bashar Al Assad.

In 1993, first lady Hillary Clinton was front and center in the fight for true health care reform.  As a Senator in 2005 and Presidential candidate in 2008, she supported an incremental approach.  Likewise, she has declined to criticize the repeal of Glass-Steagall which led to the consolidation of investment and commercial banks and quite possibly the banking crisis in 2008.

It seems quite likely that Clinton’s adoption of a centrist or even moderately conservative approach in fiscal and military matters reflects her compromise with the financial titans, including Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, and pro-Israel supporters who have backed her over the past 15 years.  I can understand that nineteen years ago, Hillary Clinton felt that she could not try to charm the press or style her hair “sensibly” without violating core principles.  What is so disappointing is that her core principles don’t require her to keep up the fight for universal health care, to stand up to (not for) big banks, and to support peaceful solutions to complex international problems.

In 1593, Henry IV was positioned to take the kingship of France.  Baptized in the Catholic faith, but raised a Protestant, as a young man Henry had fought on the side of the Huguenots.  Nevertheless, to secure the support of the great mass of French people who were Catholic, he converted.  Upon making the decision to return to the religion of his birth, Henry reportedly said: “Paris is well worth a mass.”

Henry IV is remembered as one of the best-loved of French Kings (admittedly the competition isn’t too keen).  Another of his famous sayings is “a chicken in every pot” meaning that no peasant in his realm should be so poor that his family cannot enjoy a chicken for Sunday dinner.  In contrast to most of French history before and after, his reign was characterized by peace and prosperity.

Henry IV did more than merely compromise his religion in order to secure the French throne he gave it up.  Presumably he sought power, given how he wielded it, for the purpose of improving the lot of the ordinary French citizen.  In direct contrast, Hillary Clinton’s overweening sense of self prevents her from compromising on small stuff, e.g., she will not display humility or admit fault.  Nevertheless, she does compromise.  Sadly such compromises always seem to be to policies that would benefit poor, working and middle-class Americans.

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