Hillary Rodham Clinton will be 62 years old on the next Inauguration Day.
Raised in a comfortable but not affluent suburban Chicago circumstance, the then Hillary Diane Rodham campaigned for Richard Nixon in 1960 and Barry Goldwater in 1964, and in her freshman year at Wellesley College was the President of the Wellesley Young Republicans. She transformed her poltical outlook in 1965, however, joining the civil rights movement and supported Eugene McCarthy’s bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination. She was guided back to Republican politics by some mentors before graduating and attended the 1968 Republican National Convention to support Nelson Rockefeller, but quit the GOP for good after perceiving racism in the more successful efforts of Richard Nixon to gain the party’s nomination.
Before graduating from Wellesley, she did two controversial things: she wrote a thesis about a controversial civil rights organizer which has since been suppressed, and she delivered the first-ever student commencement address to her graduating class criticizing the keynote speaker Senator Edward Burke (another Rockefeller Republican and the first African-American elected to the Senate in the modern era), for which she received a seven-minute standing ovation from her peers. After receiving a a degree in political science with honors from Wellesley 1969, she went on to Yale Law School, and focused her studies on the area of children and the law (then an area of law which had been subject to little academic analysis). She interned for a summer with a leftist law firm in Oakland, returned to Connecticut and began dating her future husband, Bill Clinton, in 1971. She stayed an extra year at Yale to continue being with him, and also worked for George McGovern’s anti-war presidential campaign. She received her J.D. from Yale in 1973, and the same year published a significant scholarly paper on the way in which the law treats children. She was admitted to the bar of Arkansas but did not pass the District of Columbia bar, which did not stop her from serving on the House Commitee on the Judiciary regarding Watergate and the impeachment of President Nixon (working in proximity to current Republican Presidential candidate Fred Thompson, who was doing similar kinds of work for Senate Republicans at the time).
Her bar results may have been a factor in her decision to foresake an immediate political career for herself at that time, instead moving with Clinton to Fayetteville, Arkansas. She and her husband both became faculty members at the University of Arkansas’ law school, and in 1975, after living together for a year in Fayetteville, they were married. At this point in time, she kept her last name and did not adopt her husband’s, to develop her own professional identity. When Clinton was elected Attorney General of Arkansas in 1976, the couple moved to Little Rock and she joined the Rose Law Firm, one of the more influential firms in the region, where she practiced mainly intellectual property law, focusing on patent infringements.
In 1978, Bill Clinton was elected Governor of Arkansas, and she became the First Lady of Arkansas. At this time, she began to variously use the name Hillary Clinton or Hillary Rodham Clinton; today, she favors the name Hillary Clinton. The next year, she was made a partner in the Rose Law Firm, the first woman to ever do so, and continued to practice law at the Rose Firm. Clinton appointed her to serve as Chair of the Rural Health Advisory Committee, successfully steering federal money to rural health care providers. Despite having no financial experience of any kind, she began trading cattle futures and made 10,000% profits doing so, and she and her husband began to deal with another couple in a real estate development venture that would eventually collapse and lead to the first of several investigations into the Clintons’ financial dealings at this time.
During later terms of her husband as Governor, she chaired a variety of educational reform efforts, most of which earned praise and reviews of success despite the opposition of teacher’s unions to teacher testing proposals, for which Ms. Clinton successfully gained political approval. At this time, she also served on the boards of directors of several Arkansas-based corporations, notably Wal-Mart; she and her husband successfully deflected conflict-of-interest charges by a Republican candidate for Governor by demonstrating that the Rose Firm’s profits from doing business with the state were allocated before Ms. Clinton’s share of the firm’s profits were divided.
When her husband went on to be elected President of the United States, she took an office in the West Wing of the White House, and in 1993 headed the President’s Task Force on National Health Care Reform. The proposal emerging from this task force was rejected by Congress before ever coming to votes amid substantial criticisms that it was “socialized medicine” and the White House ultimately withdrew the proposal. Ms. Clinton made no secret at the time of her admiration for “single-payer” systems such as those in place in a number of European nations. Although her policymaking role within her husband’s administration became less prominent after this debacle, it did not disappear and she continued to draft a variety of policy proposals, many of which were adopted. She was widely considered the most openly empowered First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt, whom she openly admired.
With her husband’s term of office about to expire, she established residency in Chappaqua, New York in 1999. She ran for Senate in New York in 2000. Her likely initial opponent for the seat would have been then-Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, and political pundits across the nation had salivated for months about the upcoming “Battle of the Titans.” They were disappointed, however, when Giuliani was struck with prostate cancer and withdrew from the race. Long Island Congressman Rick Lazio* ran in Giuliani’s place, and Clinton defeated him by a 12% margin. As Senator, she voted for the USA PATRIOT Act (both initially and in its renewed form in 2006), voted to authorize the use of military force in Afghanistan and Iraq, and voted against the confirmation of John Roberts to the Supreme Court and against tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. She went on to a landslide re-election in 2006, with more than twice as many voters in New York voting for her as for all other candidates combined, and almost immediately after gaining re-election, formed an exploratory committee to put together a campaign for President of the United States.
On The Issues
Abortion: Pro-choice. Rating: 1 of 1 points.
Amending the Constitution: Opposed to Federal Marriage Amendment. Opposed to anti-flag-burning amendment. Rating: 6 of 6 points.
Anti-Terrorism Policy: Would recruit an additional 80,000 soldiers to the military. Demonstrated friendliness to military consistently throughout service as Senator; became acquainted with tactics and procedures of 10th Mountain Division in her own state and consistently voted for larger military appropriations despite reservations about the manner in which the appropriations would be used. Hawkish on use of military to pursue terrorists; murkier on military authority for state sponsors of terrorism in all but clearest of situations, but in favor of economic and diplomatic sanctions. Rating: 6 of 7 points.
Balanced Budget: In favor of one, links deficit to national security issues as China and Chinese concerns own much of the debt. Suggests repealing 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to pay for expanded health care proposal but also counts on $77 billion in “increased efficiencies” (nearly half again what she would raise in repeal of tax cuts) to pay for proposals. Prioritizes balanced budget over social security reform. Rating: 3 of 8 points.
Civil Liberties: Voted for USA PATRIOT Act, and to renew it, but voted no on renewing wiretap authority within that law. In favor of domestic partnerships but not same-sex marriage; would repeal “Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell” effective her first year as President. Favors gun control. Would recognize habeas corpus rights of detainees in Guantanamo Bay. Supports laws, but not Constitutional amendments, criminalizing the burning of the American flag. Favors federal ban on semi-automatic weapons. Believes that the President deserves the “benefit of the doubt” from Congress when the President invokes executive authority and privilege. Threatened publisher of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas with regulatory legislation after criticizing the game’s content; publisher agreed to her “request” but she introduced the legislation several months later anyway. Rating: 2 of 9 points.
Education: Voted in favor of No Child Left Behind Act and continues to support its basic premise of incentivizing school funding based on student performance on objective tests; in 2007 was critical of certain of its effects on student development. Opposes school vouchers for both budgetary reasons and because she fears religious schools would use public funds to teach unpopular policies. Lukewarm on charter schools. Favored by educators’ unions. Rating: 3 of 5 points.
Environment: Opposed to drilling in ANWR; believes scientific consensus for global warming is solid and that some unspecified form of governmental action to mitigate its effects is necessary. Would have voted to enact Kyoto protocol. Seeks “balanced” environmental and energy policy that would promote energy independence. Would make maintenance and upgrading of power grid and other energy-distribution infrastructure a priority; critical of EPA for not mitigating mercury infiltration in rivers and Chesapeake Bay. Previously supported conservation tax credits. Rating: 3 of 4 points.
Free Trade: For NAFTA while First Lady; opposed to CAFTA and critical of NAFTA now. Opposed “fast-track” authority for Doha round of GATT negotiations. Would use tax incentives to punish companies that outsource jobs to foreign nations but nevertheless would continue to do business with companies that foreign outsource. Voted for free trade with Singapore and Chile; against it with other South American nations; voted for most-favored-nation status for China and Vietnam but has given rhetoric about “getting tough” with China as well. Rating: 2 of 5 points.
Generalized Foreign Policy: Sees China as neither an ally nor an adversary; fears the economic power of China holding notes on U.S. government debt. Would enlarge NATO to include more Eastern European nations. Claims human rights as a foreign policy priority. Rating: 4 of 6 points.
Health Care Reform: As First Lady, proposed a form of universal health care borrowing heavily but not exclusively from single-payer systems in Europe. More recent proposal would impose mandates on employers to provide basic health care as a benefit with tax penalties for failure to do so; would also not permit health care insurers to deny coverage based on pre-existing health conditions and permit any citizen to participate in the same health insurance system made available to Federal employees. Under recent proposal, all Americans would be required to have some kind of health care insurance, but would have the ability to select a minimal plan, the Federal employee equivalent, or a variety of other plans that would be offered by private insurers or made available through employers. Would require that all insurance plans be permanently portable. Would aim to implement universal health care coverage by end of her second term. Rating: 1 of 3 points.
Immigration Policy: Voted in favor of guest worker program, against English as official language of country. Vacillated and eventually decided against giving illegal aliens driver’s licenses; nevertheless, has stated that local law enforcement’s job is not to enforce immigration laws. Voted to build ocean-to-ocean fence on Mexican border. Rating: 3 of 5 points.
Iraq: Would start bringing troops home “within 60 days” of taking office, and retask remaining troops for support of Iraqi government in favor of “stabilization.” (The difference between the two missions is not clear to me.) Would not effect complete withdrawal for the foreseeable future, but has also made more dramatic statements which would tend to suggest the contrary. Rating: 3 of 6 points.
Korea: Grew frustrated with slow progress of six-party talks; urged Bush Administration to suspend them and engage in direct, bilateral negotiation with PRNK. Unclear whether she would favor increased economic sanctions against North Korea. Rating: 1 of 5 points.
Middle East Peace Process: Supports independent Palestinian state. However, also calls herself “an emphatic, unwavering supporter of Israel’s safety and security” and endorsed erection of wall between Israel and Palestinian areas. Rating: 2 of 4 points.
Science and Technology: Proposes significant reinvestment in infrastructure. Urged increased funding of nanotechnology research during 2000 Senate campaign; appears to have done little since then on the issue. Similarly, advocated training teachers on use of technology in classrooms but again seems to have not followed through with serious legislation. Drafted legislation to examine effects of internet portrayals of sex on teenagers. Urged more stringent industry self-regulation of video games containing adult content. And despite some contrary rumors, she did not sponsor a bill to tax e-mail. Rating: 2 of 4 points.
Separation of Church and State: Students should be able to pray individually but not on school time and schools should not set aside class time to accommodate that activity. Opposed to private school vouchers (see education, supra). Not much other information available about her stance on the issue. Rating: 4 of 5 points.
Social Security Reform: Would postpone reform until balanced budget is reached. Opposed to privatization. Opposed proposal to raise taxes on higher-income Americans. Primary proposal is to form another bipartisan committee as was done in 1983. Rating: 1 of 5 points.
Taxes: Would repeal 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to fund health care reform proposal. Has ambitious plans for expansion of health care, military, and other government services, all of which will obviously have to be paid for, particularly if she is as committed as she claims to returning to an era of balanced budgets. Rating: 0 of 5 points.
Tort Reform: Would not need any kind of health care if her health care platform is adopted. Jointly sponsored, with Senator Obama, legislation to mandate non-monetary terms of negotiation and settlement of medical malpractice discussions. Rating: 3 of 3 points.
Torture of U.S. Prisoners: Believes that national security is more important than human rights and believes the President should be able to authorize torture on case-by-case basis. In the same breath, however, says U.S. policy should never be to authorize torture. Rating: 1 of 4 points.
Overall Impression: Senator Clinton suffers from a significant dose of the Romney disease — she seems to have a penchant for saying things to please the audience before whom she is speaking even if that appears to contradict something she had previously said to a different audience. As with Romney, this appears to go beyond the sorts of changes of mind that one might expect as a person becomes more educated about a particular issue. This shows clearly in her thinking on immigration — she does not seem to have a coherent strategy on the subject other than her party’s regular line, but appears influenced by polls when specific proposals are advanced. Disturbingly, Clinton has a poor grasp of the significance of Constitutional rights (other than abortion) and does not seem to consider them a significant issue. She has a stronger record on defense and is very much a hawk on military matters, however, and seems to have learned a great deal from her time in the White House and the Senate about foreign policy. It seems impossible that she could fulfill her ambitious plans to reform and expand government without a significant hike in taxes. She is intellectually well prepared her for doing the job her husband once did and I’m a little bit surprised at the overall rating I have for her; I was expecting lower.
Total score: 52 of 100.
Next: Up-and-coming Republican, Mike Huckabee.
* I visited New York City for the first time in the fall of 2000, about five weeks before the election. While sitting in Yankee Stadium waiting for the game to begin, I noticed a guy reading the Times and asked him whether New Yorkers would really elect Hillary to the Senate. “Listen,” he said to me in a thick Brooklyn burr, “I’m a Republican, okay? That Rick Lazio is a punk!” He poked his index finger in my chest and arched his eyebrows at me for emphasis. (He and his buddy were actually a pretty cool guys. We went on to discuss the merits of Mike Piazza, who at that time played for the Mets, and they suggested what turned out to be a damn good steakhouse in Midtown for me to get dinner at later that night.) To me, that guy’s remark is the distilled essence of New York City, and not just for politics.