Wednesday, September 26, 2007


The Strength of Hillary Rodham Clinton

It is said that many Democrats favor Senator Hillary Clinton over the other candidates for President because she is "strong." She is said to be stronger than Senator Obama. Nobody even compares her with the third most popular person in the race, former Senator John Edwards. (He's my favorite.) Her husband once said that the American public prefers a candidate who is strong but wrong to one who is right but weak, or perceived to be weak. Actually, it's the perception of strength or weakness that counts, not the real strength or weakness of the candidate. Senator Clinton has a manner of speaking and expressing herself that gives the public the perception that she is a strong person.

I ignore her personality and her manner of speaking. In thinking about positions she has taken, about her unwillingness to concede that her vote for the resolution that allowed the President to start a war with Iraq was a mistake, and in particular about her health care plan, I see her as a politician who is cautious and unwilling to take a position or support a proposal that she thinks would be unpopular with a significant part of the public. She knows, for example, that most Republicans still support the war and believe that it was the right thing to do. In her campaign for the Presidency, she hopes to get a few Republican votes. She knows that although most Democrats favor a single-payer plan to achieve universal health coverage most Republicans and many independent voters distrust a government-run health insurance plan. She also knows that the insurance industry is implacably opposed to any plan that will reduce the number of potential insurance purchasers.

She is not willing to take on and oppose publicly the insurance industry or the independent voters who still think that we should not leave our armed forces in Iraq to prevent a genocidal civil war. I do not think that this cautiousness indicates that she is a particularly strong person.

It comes down to something a friend once said to me. His name was Henry Whitelock and he called himself a conservative Democrat. I was appalled at some of the things that a particular political leader was saying. Henry agreed that they were appalling things, but he liked to hear them said. Senator Clinton has a manner of speaking that suggests great personal strength. People like to hear her speak in that manner. People perceive her to be strong. It doesn't matter that perhaps she is wrong about some of the issues.

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