Hillary Clinton: the exceptional candidate
I happen to be a Jewish-American. I’m alive and here in the United States only because this amazing country let my parents in at the beginning (my mom) and end (my dad) of WW II. I keep a copy of the U.S. Constitution in my backpack all the time like Khizer Kahn keeps his in his coat pocket. Like him, I love this country.
I also have a special place in my heart for the State of Israel. As much as I know how lucky I am to be a citizen of the United States, I also know that, as a Jew, even in the U.S., I’m at the mercy of the majority and its willingness to hold to that U.S. Constitution. As great a document as it is, the Constitution doesn’t defend itself. Israel is a place where, if I were a citizen, I would not have to worry that that status would be taken away from me because I was Jewish. It is a place where I wouldn’t have to fear that my religious identity in and of itself could put me in harm’s way with those in power or with the law. For me, Israel is an exceptional place because of that.
One might say that that same situation should hold here in the U.S. But, although it is one of the safest countries in the world for people who identify as being Jewish, as a minority, one is always at risk. All minorities depend on the kindness of strangers. I depend on the good intentions of my fellow Americans to fight for me by upholding my rights. There’s no guarantee that that will always happen. Ask an American Muslim today if they feel that they are always safe, as Muslims, in this country. Ask Americans of Japanese descent if they always feel safe. Americans of Japanese descent who trace their families back to WW II in this country remember a time when possibly a member of their family was put in internment camps constitutionally. They might tell you that citizenship is not the protection we all think it is in times of crisis. That’s why I find Israel an exceptional place. I might be deprived of my freedom there because of my behavior but not because of my being Jewish.
What’s surprising to me is how many other people find Israel exceptional. I’m not talking about Evangelical Christians here. I’m talking about people who seem so fixated on it that they can talk about nothing else. They deem Israel the most evil country on earth. They bring it up at the UN over and over again while never citing a place like North Korea or a tragedy like Syria. They push college campuses across the U.S to divest from Israel alone. Added to that, when protests take place on a number of other issues, it’s remarkable how often they include a denunciation of Israel, even if one would think it was off the topic. That’s pretty exceptional. In fact, so much so that one might think something else is at work in that fixation and critique.
I write all this only to say that for me, an echo of the same phenomenon seems to follow Hillary Clinton and now her candidacy. There is such outrage at her actions. She too seems to be viewed, analogously, as one of the worst people on earth. She is cited as a liar and a crook and a horrible politician. Her critics suggest she should be in jail for various horrific violations of the law. Hillary is portrayed as a screamer and screecher and has a horrible laugh and looks like … she just doesn’t look right.
I hate needing to cite all these accusations because it’s what I scream about at TV news shows. Reporters don’t ask neutral questions about her but instead begin, when asking surrogates for her, with “Why do you think she is viewed as a liar or a crook?” thereby in effect repeating the accusation again and again. I’m sorry for doing the same.
I think hers is a pretty exceptional candidacy. But here too, I’m not talking about what you might think. I’m not talking about the fact that she’s a woman. I’m not talking about the observation that she is one of the more qualified candidates to ever run for office having given her life to public service. Look at her resume. She’s been a lawyer for the rights of children. She’s been inside a Governor Mansion to see how a State is run and inside the White House at the side of the President of the United States at critical moments in our country’s history. She’s been a two-term Senator from the State of New York. She’s been Secretary of State. She’s run a foundation that gives to good causes around the world effecting positive change. Wow! That’s some resume. But no, that’s not what I’m saying makes her exceptional. Although it makes her a great candidate you would think.
What makes her exceptional is the fixation and unitary focus on her that her critics practice. It’s almost like she were the first person to ever run for office. Those who critique her do so as though her actions were one of a kind. Perhaps there are other politicians who only tell the whole truth and nothing but. If so, I dare her critics to suggest one. How is she more of a liar or dissembler than any who’ve preceded her? Does she belong in jail for her use of a private e-mail server that might have made classified information available to our enemies? Isn’t this the same practice, using a private server, employed by her predecessors? Isn’t that similar to how the other candidate claims lawfulness via bankruptcy laws, laws that protect him while simultaneously harming countless others by his legal failure to honor debts? And these are harms that are real and have been testified to. Is she responsible for the rise of ISIS even though it existed before her term as Secretary of State? Is she responsible for the death of at least four people in Benghazi, Libya even though seven Senate committees on the topic have failed to find evidence for that charge? And as to her manner or style, are there a lot of candidates for office who talk in whispers and speak like poets? I don’t see how her volume or “strident” tone is any different from all the men who’ve preceded her. Is it even that different from Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachman or Carly Fiorina? You’ve probably never heard of people who talk more softly and more politely than her — that’s because they wouldn’t make it to your home’s TV or websites if they were that quiet.
On a daily basis, politicians and news-people or pundits have proclaimed her a horrible candidate. What does that mean? Let’s look how she’s done as a candidate. She won her Senate seat twice handily. Back in 2008, Hillary almost overcame the ground-breaking, force-of-nature candidacy of soon to be President Barack Obama. In this election cycle, and unlike her Republican correlates, she held off an incredible anti-establishment candidate in Bernie Sanders while not one of the Republicans could stop their version of an anti-establishment candidate. I remember hearing a good number of times announcers and the Republicans themselves brag about the quality of the Republican field! If Hillary’s a horrible candidate, what adjective fits the members of that group? So, what makes her such a horrible candidate?
I’m not arguing that Secretary Clinton is exceptional because of her talents and vision. She has talents and has put forth a vision. Maybe there are others who have more talent and a clearer vision. They should step forward then. But leaving that aside, there is something exceptional about the response to her. And it doesn’t say something about her. It says something about those who critique her continuously and with vigor. I don’t know what to make of it other than believing it reveals a pre-existing animus toward the Clintons and toward a woman for thinking she is worthy of consideration for the highest office in the land.
Given that it is so hard to understand, when you look at it clearly, how then should one respond to such baseless attacks? I believe the model was shown to us by the great political thinker and activist who spoke during the recent Democratic National Convention. She too was a woman. She too sought an answer in someone other than Hillary. But that didn’t blind her. She summed it up in talking to her fellow Bernie supporters. She could just as well have been talking to Hillary’s critics: the politicians and the media. That political thinker and activist was Sarah Silverman and she said it simply and clearly: “You’re being ridiculous”. Now that I understand.