08 Oct 2007

Why Should Hillary Be on Top?

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Geoffrey Wheatcroft expresses a European’s natural astonishment at the willingness of the American Republic to take seriously candidacies to high public office based entirely upon dynastic pretensions.

Among so much about American politics that can impress or depress a friendly transatlantic observer, there’s nothing more astonishing than this: Why on Earth should Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton be the front-runner for the presidency?

She has now pulled well ahead of Sen. Barack Obama, both in polls and in fundraising. If the Democrats can’t win next year, they should give up for good, so she must be considered the clear favorite for the White House. But in all seriousness: What has she ever done to deserve this eminence? How could a country that prides itself on its spirit of equality and opportunity possibly be led by someone whose ascent owes more to her marriage than to her merits? …

..in no other advanced democracy today could someone with Clinton’s résumé even be considered a candidate for national leadership. It’s true that wives do sometimes inherit political reins from their husbands, but usually in recovering dictatorships in Latin America such as Argentina… or Third World countries such as Sri Lanka or the Philippines — and in those cases often when the husbands have been assassinated. …

What a contrast (to Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher) Hillary Clinton presents! Everyone recognizes the nepotism or favoritism she has enjoyed: New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has written that without her marriage, Clinton might be a candidate for president of Vassar, but not of the United States. And yet the truly astonishing nature of her career still doesn’t seem to have impinged on Americans.

Seven years ago, she turned up in New York, a state with which she had a somewhat tenuous connection, expecting to be made senator by acclamation (particularly once Rudy Giuliani decided not to run against her). Until that point, she had never won or even sought any elective office, not in the House or in a state legislature. Nor had she held any executive-branch position. The only political task with which she had ever been entrusted was her husband’s health-care reforms, and she made a complete hash of that.

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