Along with the ability to inspire, a president should have the intelligence to see the big picture, the maturity to handle power, and the class to ensure that his or her own personal needs remain secondary to that of the people. This election process has given us an excellent opportunity to assess those qualities in both candidates, and while Hillary Clinton has demonstrated that she is an exceptionally intelligent woman, she’s also demonstrated that she leaves much to be desired in the area of maturity and class. If we’ve learned nothing else about Hillary during these primaries, we’ve learned that nothing is more important to her than becoming President of the United States—not the nation, not the people, and certainly not the Democratic Party. Hillary has shown that she is more than willing to throw the entire Democratic Party under the bus—along with the Senate, Congress, and the Supreme Court—if it means she’ll end up sitting in the Oval Office.
Hillary’s behavior has been so radically single-minded during these primaries that it sounds like I’m indulging in hyperbole, but the facts will bear me out. Essentially, Senator Obama has won the primaries—he’s won more states, he’s won the popular vote, and he has an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates. If Hillary won all of the remaining primaries, she’d still fall short of Obama’s lead. Hillary knows that quite well, and she also knows that the longer she slings mud at Obama, the greater the chances the Democratic Party, along with many of its elected officials, will go down in defeat. So the classy thing for her to do would be to swallow her pride and encourage her supporters to get behind Senator Obama’s candidacy with all of the enthusiasm that they’ve brought to her campaign. But instead, she’s endorsed the Republican candidate as more qualified to be president than Obama, and she continues to sling mud in the vain hope that she can hurt Obama so badly that his candidacy will lose all viability. She’s calculated that if she hurts Obama badly enough, even if the party doesn’t nominate her by default, Obama will lose the general election. That way, since there won’t be a Democratic incumbent in the race, she’ll still be young enough to run in 2012.
That’s not only a cynically self-centered agenda, but it’s exactly the kind of selfish immaturity that we currently have running the country with George Bush—and it’s also the kind of politics that we’re so desperately trying to get away from. In addition to that, her Bosnian chronicle demonstrates that she’s willing to lie to the American people without cause or provocation. Is that the kind of person we want heading the Democratic Party? And after already being embarrassed by first, her husband, then Bush, is that the kind of flawed character that we want representing America before the world?
Hillary claims that Obama lacks the experience to be president, but ask yourself, do you think if the situation was completely reversed that Obama would continue to throw mud on Hillary, or try to tear the party apart in an attempt to destroy her chances of winning the election? Absolutely not. That’s the difference between old-style, selfish immaturity, and a young man who wants to bring change to the body politic—a change that gives priority to the American people, over personal ambition.
But there’s an upside to this situation. The fact is, Hillary can’t destroy the party alone—in order for her to pull it off, she needs the backing of both, her supporters, and the super-delegates. So Democrats have a decision to make-do they genuinely want to see change, or are they going to sit back and allow Hillary to bring the Republican Party back from the dead?
There are a number of people in the Clinton camp who would love to support Obama—they’ve been touched by his passion, his enthusiasm, and his dedication to what we can become as a nation—but they remain loyal to Hillary due to past ties and favors that the Clintons did for them while Bill was in office—favors that we now know came with strings. While the loyalty of these supporters is understandable, there are times when loyalty can be taken too far, and this is one of those times. At this point Hillary is asking her supporters for more than their support of her viable campaign for the presidency, she’s already lost that campaign. Now she’s asking them to support her attempt to not only hold the Democratic Party hostage, but possibly destroying it, and their own careers, if the Democrats refuse to cater to her unreasonable demand to be its nominee. That is far too much to ask of anyone—after all, how would they face their constituencies thereafter?
Thus, at this point Hillary’s supporters who hold political office should be asking themselves whether or not they’ve exhausted any obligation they may have owed the Clintons. They should also begin to consider the obligations they have to the Democratic Party, the American people, and indeed, themselves. They should consider at what point their loyalty to the Clintons begin to have a negative impact on the people they represent. When Rep. John Lewis and Gov. Bill Richardson asked themselves that question, they came to the conclusion that time had come.
The Democratic Party has the good fortune of having one of the most gifted, honorable, and dynamic voices in a generation willing to carry its banner. While the Clintons claim he’s inexperienced and can’t win in the general election, he’s managed to handle everything that both a senator and a former president, with a combined experience of over seventy years, can throw at him, and without even breaking a sweat. And for all intent and purposes, he’s now legitimately won the primaries—and he did it while running a campaign of dignity, respect, and with his head held high. So are we now really prepared to sit back and watch this impressive young man be dragged through the mud by a meanspirited, vindictive, relic of the past, based solely on her sense of entitlement? If we do, we don’t deserve the presidency—in fact, it will signal the time for a third party.
Eric L. Wattree