Saturday 19 December 2009


I recently read an interesting piece on New Right blog about Hillary Clinton. I commented there that I had an American friend with a strong interest in politics, and that I would ask him for his point of view on Mrs Clinton’s current position, and her future. I speculated whether I could prevail upon my friend to write something on the subject. I did, and he agreed to write a guest article. My grateful thanks then to Danny, 1st Earl of the Ozarks.

Hillary Clinton’s emergence as the star of the Obama administration cabinet is full of personal and political irony. As Secretary of State, she has indeed shown the world that new “tone,” if not hugely altered substance, of American foreign policy. Of course, with her unparalleled name and face recognition, and the message that George W. Bush is no longer in charge, she was sure to be well received on the world stage. But her personal popularity at home, even as the president’s approval ratings have plummeted, was less predictable and perhaps more gratifying.

Hillary was awarded the prize position in the cabinet. It is after all the seat once occupied by Thomas Jefferson. But for Hillary, it was a consolation prize. After all, she had been considered a shoo-in to be the 44th President of the United States, until eclipsed by the rock star popularity of the junior senator from Illinois. But she might well have been chosen to run for Vice President on the Democratic ticket. This could have been a shrewd political calculus on Obama’s part to unite his eternally fractious party for the general election, after the bitter and hard fought primary campaign for the Democratic nomination. But having Hillary down the hall from the Oval Office might have absorbed some of the presidential glory. More importantly perhaps, she would have brought some negative Clinton era political baggage to the ticket. And her supporters were likely to vote the Democratic ticket anyway.

So Senator Biden, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, got the nomination instead. In fact he had been offered his choice of the Vice Presidency OR Secretary of State. Hillary received no such choice. But she’s been loyal to Obama and has attacked the job at State with enthusiasm. She’s shown the flag abroad and made few missteps while clearly setting the new tone for American policy. At some point Hillary may be expected to show some tangible progress on the intractable problems of Iran, North Korea, the Palestinians, and of course the enduring Bush legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan. But that time is not yet.

Hillary has been a team player and professes no future ambitions except retirement. But time will tell. With a continuing unemployment rate over ten percent, and a history of losses in mid-term elections by the party of the president in power, the Democrats face tough congressional elections in 2010. They could even lose control of the House of Representatives. This would be a disaster for Obama’s future legislative program. And what the political landscape will look like for Obama’s second term bid in 2012 is anybody’s guess. Perhaps a newly popular and reenergized Hillary could play a part in reviving Democratic fortunes.

Historically, presidents have shuffled vice presidents for political convenience. FDR had three different VP’s in his four terms. But more recently, this hasn’t been the pattern. A move to elbow Biden aside in favor of Hillary, with an eye to a Clinton run in 2016, would carry its own dangers within the factions of the Democratic Party. And Hillary will be 69 years old in 2016, an advanced age for a physically taxing presidential run. On the other hand, Ronald Reagan did it in 1980, at the same age.

As for a possible Supreme Court appointment for Hillary, this seems less likely than a presidential run. An individual who serves on the Supreme Court has life tenure, and can nullify the actions of presidents and congresses with the stroke of a pen. Consequently, the Senate confirmation process is the very next thing to a political blood sport. Distinguished jurists emerge from the process bruised and bloodied. Her degree from Yale Law notwithstanding, she is fundamentally a politician, not a jurist. FDR could and did make such appointments, but it’s hard to imagine a modern president doing so.

So, a future for Hillary beyond her leadership at State seems problematical. Maybe, at the age of 69, she really will be ready for retirement. But, I wouldn’t wager big money on it either. She’s a tough lady, and might not be ready for the rocking chair.


  1. An interesting article Danny.

    I would agree that her potential retirement is unlikely, she still seems to have so much more to offer. Besides, the Democrats by 2016 will most likely be staring at potentially a decade or more out of power, and a little bit of Hilary Clinton may have some substantial appeal, so a loss may not be all that serious.

    I do, however disagree with one of your end conclusions, I think there is a very real chance she may be kicked into the supreme court- more than you give credit for; as such a move could be the last major event Obama could do before leaving office, having an eye on his legacy.

    But its interesting to read about this from the American point of view.

  2. I remember thinking how brave the Democrats were this time round. They went into the real campaign with two "minorities". A woman and an African-American. (Of course that the GOP went in with an over 70 year old with health problems, who then had the amazing misjudgement to chose a "maverick" as his running partner, a "maverick" who didn't read newspapers, y'all!!! may have balanced it out a bit.)

    Anyways, pretty much all the way through I thought that Obama was the better of the two, although I thought they were both good. I was worried about Bill though. Once a president....and all that. I was sure he would run with her on his ticket. Wrong again Tris.

    I remember watching Mrs Clinton's speech when she went to state, and thinking... she's gonna be great. She speaks inspiringly.

    Is 69 too old to stand for President? It depends on the 69 year old, I think. My worries about McCain at 72 were his recurring problems with cancer, and the fact that he would leave us with Sarah Palin if anything happened to him!

  3. Is it not usually the case that after two terms the voters like to change party, so Mrs Clinton may have to wait beyond 2016 to 2020 or 2024 at which point she must surely be too old.

  4. Age is over egged I think, besides USA doesnt suffer the same levels of ageism as the UK often is guilty of.

    If she is the best person for the job, and is highly popular come 2016 [if Obama gets relected remember!] then I dont think 69 is too old at all...take a look at Elizabeth II [I], she is very old- older than this- and she is still the best possible person to lead us [accepting the usual republican caveats].

  5. Usually, but not always Munguin.... Regan x 2 and Bush the elder, just before Bill Clinton was an exception, I think?

  6. Dean: Leaving republicanism aside for a minute, the Queen's job may be pretty busy, but it doesn't have anything like the pressure of the President of the USA. You can't compare them.

  7. Perhaps.

    But my main point still stands about older people still doing a good job. Age isn't everything, or at least it ought not be.

  8. Dean. Certainly true. My main worry about Senator McCain's potential presidency was that he was 72 and had had cancer on two occasions, and worst of all, his Vice President, a heartbeat away from the White House was Mrs Palin, surely the Democrats secret weapon. :¬)

    Many people are perfectly capable of doing a demanding job well into their 70s and 80s.

  9. I must admit I've always seen Hillary as a complete fake whose claims never stood up to the simplest of investigations. Who can forget her claim that she risked her life in war torn Bosnia. Sneaking in under sniper fire to help the beseiged people. This was part of her spin when trying to be the new secretary of state. The next week a video appeared showing her walking down the steps of an aircraft in Bosnia being greeted by smiling children who stepped forward to give her a bouquet of flowers. When Obama gave her a job I knew he was wasn't 'the one' and was just another fake. His war in Afghanistan, incompetence with the US debt and belief in man made global warming has confirmed by beliefs.

  10. Good 'old' Hilary. If she had any sense she'd throw in the towel after this run. It's usually women who know when enough's enough after all. :)

  11. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksDecember 20, 2009 4:23 am

    Dean: Please excuse my delay, due to the time difference, in responding to your thoughtful comments. I appreciate your view of my American perspective on the points you made in your blog.

    I agree that a Hillary candidacy in 2016 would likely look very good to the Democrats. By that time, even more of the negative political baggage of the Bill Clinton years will have receded into recent history. I suppose that the cadre of professional Clinton haters who dogged the Clintons during the White House years will still be around, but likely with diminished force. (Those political and personal animosities that began back in the Arkansas State House surely did endure.)

    Ronald Reagan probably put to rest the issue of a 70+ year old president. But it had been big news in 1960 when Dwight Eisenhower turned 70 just months before the end of his two-term administration, and became at the time the oldest serving president in American history. If Hillary continues to enjoy good health, I doubt that her age would be a significant issue.

    You may be right about the possibility of a Supreme Court appointment. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party would surely love it, and nothing that a president does, in terms of his political legacy, is more significant than a Supreme Court appointment. And it’s happened before that individuals with primarily “political” careers have been appointed and confirmed. After his presidency ended in 1913....and after the intervening Democratic administration of Woodrow Wilson....William Howard Taft (the 27th President) was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by Warren Harding. Taft loved the job and served until a month before his death in 1930.

    And Franklin D. Roosevelt made what would today be considered “political” appointments to the court. Felix Frankfurter and William O. Douglas immediately come to mind. They were both New Deal Democrats who served FDR’s administration. They also had legal academic credentials, Frankfurter at Harvard, and Douglas at Columbia and Yale. Both men went on to long and distinguished (if sometimes controversial) careers on the court.

    But it does seem that Hillary would have a tough road to the court. She has neither academic teaching credentials, nor tenure on the state or federal bench. And the political climate of the Senate is now more bitterly partisan than at any time in recent memory. As for the Senate confirmation process, any tradition of even simple civility seems to have evaporated with the bitter fight over the Robert Bork nomination in 1987. Senator Kennedy and the senate liberals attacked him with a vengeance, and it’s been something like payback time ever since. Bork had published his views widely, and was utterly unapologetic if the Senators found them objectionable. Probably more to the point, he was Solicitor General in Richard Nixon’s Justice Department in 1973 on the night that Nixon ordered the firing of the Watergate Special Prosecutor, Archibald Cox. The Attorney General Elliot Richardson refused the presidential order and immediately resigned. Then Nixon ordered the Deputy Attorney General, William Ruckelshaus, to fire Cox. He also refused and resigned. Third in line was Mr. Bork who decided to keep his job at Justice, and proceeded to give Cox the boot. To be sure, the “Saturday Night Massacre” and the Bork nomination are old political history. But the Senators, and the institution of the Senate, have long memories, as subsequent Supreme Court appointees have found out.

    Thanks again Dean for your comments.

  12. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksDecember 20, 2009 4:55 am


    With nothing like a party leader, much less a shadow cabinet in US politics, every four years the parties have to name their candidates to run (stand) for the office of president. The quest for pledged delegates to the nominating conventions is a long slog through the state caucuses and primary elections. During the primary campaigns, there’s no doubt that Hillary juiced up her resume with a few exaggerations. But she had lots of company among the other candidates in that process.

    As for Obama’s current difficulties, he would argue that some of the issues you name were clearly inherited from the Bush administration. However true that is, blaming the previous president only works for a while, and these are now his problems to solve. For myself, I believe that the issue of MANMADE global warming has taken on an almost theological passion....but it IS the religion of the center left regions of his party.

  13. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksDecember 20, 2009 5:07 am

    Subrosa: Thanks for your comment. I can hardly imagine how one individual, regardless of age, possesses the mental and physical stamina demanded by a run for the presidency.

    If Hillary has the inclination and physical energy to make another such run at the age of 69, she will surely be one tough lady.

  14. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksDecember 20, 2009 6:01 am

    Munguin: You make a good point. In recent times, it seems that Americans have a way of becoming tired of the president and his party after eight years, and want a change. (Often after only four years of course.)

    Hillary's first (and probably last) chance would seem to be 2016.....barring a possible second term try in 2020. But, after eight years, Obama and the Democrats would have to be on an historically unlikely political high for her to have a really good chance of success. (All this assumes reelection of Obama to a second term in 2012 of course.)

    It's ironic that in 2016, Hillary will be almost the same age that Ronald Reagan was when he made his first successful presidential run in 1980. As the popular Governor of California, he had been disappointed in his White House ambitions by the political revival of Richard Nixon in 1968. At that point, Reagan's "last chance" was thought to be 1976, after he left the California State House. But VP Gerald Ford took the 1976 Republican nomination at the Kansas City convention that year, and surely the aging Reagan's presidential ambitions were dead. Then, after the dismal administration of Jimmy Carter, it's 1980, and Reagan's two terms as president lay ahead.

    So you never know about the big prize in American politics.....and the people who seek it.

  15. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksDecember 20, 2009 7:05 am

    Tris: You make a number of interesting points, some of which I’ve commented on above. I thought that both Hillary (she never used the name “Clinton” in the campaign) and Obama were both strong candidates for the Democrats. And the simultaneous emergence of viable female and African-American candidates for the presidency was a supreme political irony. Once Obama won the bitter and divisive primary campaign for the nomination by a razor thin edge, one might have thought that the choice of Hillary to run as VP on the ticket would have been a no brainer. Apart from all the solid political issues involved in the choice, I liked the gossip that Michelle Obama told Barack that the last thing he should want would be the famous and controversial Clintons (Bill would surely have paid a few visits) in an office in the White House West Wing just down the hall from the Oval Office.

    What the Republicans had in mind with the McCain/Palin ticket is hard to figure. It was just the Republican maverick’s turn I suppose. And for VP, he looked to the arctic tundra and found another so-called maverick in the person of Alaska Governor Palin. Never mind that she couldn’t remember the name of any newspaper she read, she was rock solid on geography. She reminded us that you can see Russia from Alaska. Oh Lord what a joke! Even the institutionally disorganized Democrats could not manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of THAT victory.

    There was even some political drama in the choice of Secretary of State. Joe Biden was given his choice to run for vice president on the ticket, or be named Secretary of State if Obama was elected. Joe almost swallowed his tongue when he and his wife went on a daytime television chat show, and she divulged the choice he had been given. Hillary was obviously given no such choice and can’t have been happy hearing the one Senator Biden received.

  16. Danny: right enough, as Tris points out, the voters were not sick of the Republicans after two terms of Reagan and went for his VP in the form of the first George Bush, although he only lasted for one term. In terms of post war Presidents only Bush and Carter served only one term, if we ignore Gerald Ford who is a bit of an abberation having never had to face the electorate and JFK of course.

    Harry Truman of course managed to famously get himself re-elected aagainst the odds after three and a bit terms of Roosevelt. But after that it was Eisenhower (R); for two JFK/Johnson (D) for two; Nixon/Ford (R) for two; Carter (D) for one; Reagan (R) for two; Bush Sr (R) for one; Clinton (D) for two; Bush Jr(R) for two and then Obama, so on those odds I would not hold out much hope for Mrs Clinton. She can't do a Harry Truman as she is not VP and it is not likely that Obama will die in office and she can't do a George Bush Sr again as she is not VP, although she may have a higher profile as Secretary of State. She would need to get Biden to move aside and as you say he picked the job of VP. That suggests he has his eye on being a Truman or Bush himself.

  17. I'm just remembering back to that campaign Danny and some of the utterly jaw dropping stuff that came out of Palin's mouth ("I don't have any foreign policy experience but I CAN see Russia from my house in this great country of ours, also") and the mind blowingly awful awful nonsense about jobs and the economy which sounded like she was talking in her sleep.....but I'm sure had a sentence somewhere in it.

    It's almost impossible to imagine that you guys were asked to pick her as your Vice President. I think we would still have had a giggle if it had been some little and, in world terms, unimportant country but it was the USA. Perhaps it didn't seem so bad at the time, given that we had become used to 10 years of George "put food on your family" Bush.

    I wonder if Mrs Clinton will want to go for the presidency at 69, or indeed anything else. It may be that she will ahve enjoyed 8 years as Secretary of State, which as this foreigner see it, is pretty much the second most important job federally in the USA. She may decide that she wants to spend time with her family, write her memoirs, and grow vegetable marrows......

  18. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksDecember 20, 2009 11:50 am

    Munguin: Yes, Hillary might have considerable trouble getting Biden to move aside. The decision would be entirely Obama's of course at the time of his race for the second term in 2012. Whomever is vice president will have a much easier road to the party nomination in 2016. Then it would depend on the public perception of Obama's record and the current popularity of him and his party. Americans certainly have a tendency to reelect the incumbent president for a second term unless he has really fouled things up. And popular presidents might well be elected to third terms if that were now constitutionally possible. As Tris observed, the voters were certainly not sick of the Republicans after eight years of Reagan. The elder Bush's administration is sometimes referred to as Ronald Reagans's third term.

    It might have happened just a few years earlier. The voters were not tired of the war hero Eisenhower after his eight years in 1960. He left office on a wave of popularity. His vice president might easily have had in essence the third Eisenhower term. But that man was Richard Nixon, the strangest man in modern American political history. And Nixon faced the popular and charismatic John F. Kennedy. But even then, the 1960 election was one of the closest of recent times.

    And then we have the man from Missouri, Harry Truman. As you observe, the political pundits were absolutely certain that in 1948, the people were so tired of the Democrats after four FDR terms that his fourth term VP Truman had no chance at the presidency whatever. Guess again....LOL.

    Finally, going farther back in history we have the ascendancy and long term popularity of the newly formed Republican party beginning with Abraham Lincoln. Only two Democrats were elected president in the years between Lincoln's election to a second term in 1864, and FDR's election to his first term in 1932. Grover Cleveland had two terms, but was defeated after the first and was elected to a later non-consecutive term. Only Woodrow Wilson served two consecutive Democratic terms in that period between Lincoln and FDR.

  19. Subrosa: I'm a Hillary fan, and my bet would be on her not going for it. I think the odds would be stacked against her winning and she'd know that.... but what does any of us know about what makes Mrs Clinton tick? I don't think even Bill has figured that one out yet.

    Only a fool wouold be planning their next career move 7 years in advance, and whatever else Hillary Clinton is, she is no fool.

    Mind you I couldn't help a chuckle at your last comment... Mrs Thatcher certainly had no idea when to throw in the towel, LOL ;¬), but then she's pretty much an exception in every possible way!

  20. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksDecember 20, 2009 12:45 pm

    Tris: I agree with you completely. The utterances of Sarah Palin were and are almost beyond belief. But they surely provided comic relief during the 2008 campaign. Comic that is if you didn't think too much about the fact that she might actually become the vice president.....and the proverbial heartbeat away from the presidency.

    Her choice seemed to be something borne of desperation by the McCain campaign. A female vice presidential candidate, so soon after Hillary's bitter loss to Obama, might have shaken up the dormant Republican campaign. But how could McCain have imagined that a state governor....ANY state governor....could be so utterly uninformed. But Palin has some stage presence I'm told, and she does rile up the Republican base on the far right wing of the party. And it's that far right wing that seems to define the party these days. At least they are the only Republicans who seem to retain any real political passion.....however bizarre in nature. Looking at the mainstream Republicans in congress, one must observe that an implacable opposition to everything which Obama proposes has its limits as a defining political philosophy.

    Like you, I wonder if writing her memoirs and enjoying quality time with the family might not look very inviting to Hillary after her service in the Obama cabinet. Seems like that would be what any normal person might desire. But she has run for the presidency. And no NORMAL person ever does that.

  21. Danny,
    I appreciate that Obama inherited the problems but he promised to fix them and change things for the better. That's why he was elected. He's failed on all the major issues unfortunately. He keeps printing dollars despite your massive debt problems. Soon the dollar will be worthless. $100trillion unfunded obligations and rising. $1.5trillion deficit, $1trillion healthcare plan. And he's still printing money with a recent$175Bn 2nd stimulus. He has the same bankers advising him who got you into your mess.
    On Afghanistan he's decided on the worst of all plans. 30,000 troop reinforcement at $40Bn. Not enough troops to make a difference and a 2yr plan to drawback. The Taliban et al will sit it out for 2 years ( they've been at this game for centuries - as they always say the West has the watches but we have the time). The Russians had 500,000 troops and thousands of aircraft , heavy artillery etc all to no effect.
    On global warming he's planning to make co2 illegal. That will work. Not. It will be dropped at the first lawsuit when the data on global warming is opened to the general public and shown to be a total scam.
    He planned to close Gitmo but has still failed that. He did send 4 terrorists to UK Bermuda without telling the UK. Thanks for that. I appreciate they were too dangerous for the US but couldn't you just send them home ? Oh no sorry it might have been against their human rights. What about Gary McKinnons human rights ?
    Oops getting into a rant now. So much wrong with Obama yet so little time ( will miss Top Gear).

  22. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksDecember 21, 2009 6:10 am

    Anon: Thanks for your comments. I agree that the problems you refer to are very serious. It won’t surprise you that I’ll again point out that most of these issues really did have their origins in the eight year administration of George W. Bush and before. But yes, these are now Mr. Obama's problems to solve. And to date he has had all of eleven months to deal with them. Given my choice last election day, I wonder how much better all this would have been handled by a McCain-Palin administration? (Oh, to have had Vice President Palin's wisdom to guide us.)

    One thing is certain. By the time of the next election, Obama and the Democrats will not be able to blame Bush anymore. They will have to take their own record to the voters, and the voters will decide. The problems can’t be solved by then. But we can hope for some incremental improvements. Maybe that will be enough for the voters, and maybe it won't. Such is politics. Lyndon Johnson once said that being President of the United States was sometimes like getting caught in a hailstorm while walking on a west Texas highway. You can’t run. You can’t hide. And you can’t make it stop.

    Totally off-topic. I’ve imposed on my guest status at Munguin’s Republic long enough....LOL.

  23. Danny:

    Summed up nicely I think. Whilst it is right to blame the outgoing administration for that which is rightly their fault, and Lord knows there's plenty of that, one day Obama will have to face the fact that you can't blame everything on Bush forever.

    But it happens at every changeover, probably everywhere.

    I loved Johnson's quote. I didn't realise he had such a way with words!

    Thanks for your guest post. I hope you'll do another one sometime?