Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Thinking on Hillary Clinton, Foreign Policy President

It's easy to say that, of all of the candidates who ran and are running in this election, Hillary Clinton is demonstrably the most experienced and thoughtful about foreign policy. The third party candidates have no meaningful experience on that front at all and only broad ideological concepts for it. Bernie struggled to have answers at all throughout the primary. And the GOP side's plans pretty much ranged from "nuke them all" to "nukes for some, miniature American flags for others." To say nothing of Trump's quantum foreign policy which purports to be both isolationist and aggressively fighting Islam at the same time.

And yet, it's that exact experience that has opened her to ridiculous attacks from the right in the form of Benghazi and criticisms from the left on what that policy actually is. After all, we know who Hillary Clinton is as far as these things go- she is interventionist. She is overly pro-Israel. She insists on America as a military peacekeeping force. And she's wrong. She is not pursuing an anti-Islamic stance like Trump, but it will still be Muslims abroad who suffer the most under a Clinton presidency.

But I understand her. I understand where her policy comes from- as a personal philosophy and as one from experience. Hillary is Hermione Granger, unable to not act when action is an option. It's almost a pathological need to do something when it looks like something needs to be done. And to contrast that need, she was there watching for the entirety of her husband's presidency, when it looked like a reticence to commit to action resulted in countless lives being lost in Somalia, in Rwanda, in Bosnia. The US had the option to stop genocide and brutal war and Bill dragged his feet.

Her interventionism doesn't come from neo-conservativism, cronyism, or nationalism. It's not an assertion of American dominance nor is it intended to prop up the finances of her friends. It comes from a need to act for perceived good. But understanding isn't apologia and intent isn't magic. She is wrong. She was wrong when she voted for the war in Iraq. From her perspective, I get the vote. I get thinking that Saddam needed to go, whether or not he had WMDs, for the good of the Iraqi people. I thought that too. I was wrong. The end result, regardless of intent, is imperialism at best and, in the worst case scenario that we're seeing, the complete destabilization and radicalization of a region.

I want to see a Hillary Clinton who learns from being wrong. I want to see her as a president who understands that military inaction can be a radical action toward peace. Who doesn't necessarily need to hold a knife to the throat of diplomacy just because she has it. I want her feet held to the fire on this because it's her most dangerous feature.

In the end, though, I don't know how to best make that happen. Not electing her is not an option, and, frankly, I feel like the best way to shift a politician is the buy stock in them with votes in the first place (unless you have the cash to literally buy them.) Electing a leftist legislature who will fight her on these impulses will help, but is only so possible. It's a frustrating feeling to know your best option isn't good enough. There needs to be a real movement, one that isn't obsessed with tearing things down but instead building newer, better structures. Structures are built from the bottom, but you always try to build high enough to reach the top.

I have no satisfying ending or conclusion. Just frustration.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The First Lady

When I was in third grade, we were learning about First Ladies and the history of the president's wife. At one point the teacher called upon a kid who was obviously not paying attention and asked "Why are First Ladies important?"

The kid, with all the confidence of a 9 year old who didn't want to look like they weren't paying attention, responded "Because they were here first."

In 1776, Abigail Adams, wife of future president John Adams, told the First Continental Congress to "...remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation."

In 1814, as Washington D.C. burned, Dolley Madison stayed in the White House until the very last minute to ensure the nation's treasures that resided there, including the official portrait of George Washington, would not be burned by the British.

In 1850, Abigail Fillmore, who was both wife and teacher to Millard Fillmore, created the White House library, a concession Congress had fought against fearing the power of a personal collection of knowledge for the president, and personally filled in its collection.

In 1919, Woodrow Wilson was heavily debilitated by a stroke. Edith Wilson took over his duties, protecting him from the public, passing on legislation and potentially dealing with it herself. She even went so far as to stage a photo-op to demonstrate the president's continuing capability while she basically Weekend at Bernie's-ed the dude.

In 1933, Eleanor Roosevelt became First Lady and ushered in a new era of political First Ladies. She fought for civil rights, sat on the board of the NAACP, helped created the UN, and set a nearly unmatched standard for powerful women in America.

In 1950, the romance between the young actress Nancy Davis and the actor Ronald Reagan began to shape his political views and ambitions. Her influence pushed him into a political life that lead to his being Governor of California and President of the United States.

In 1963, still covered in the fresh stains of the the day's tragic events, Jacqueline Kennedy stood aboard Air Force One to oversee the official transfer of power from her late husband to Lyndon Johnson.

In 2017, the nation's first female president may well be Hillary Clinton, a First Lady built from Eleanor Roosevelt's mold and the only First Lady to ever ever held an elected office.

I've seen a lot of people grumbling that the potential first female president is married to another president. Why is the first major female candidate for president also a First Lady?

Because they were there first.