Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hillary's Choice

Put aside the panting addicts of palace intrigue. Put aside the CDS-infected zombies, their solar system revolving around the object or objects of their obsession. Put aside the Village’s cluck-clucking over the proper balance of power in an Administration. Put aside our own feelings of hurt at the misogyny, lies and violations of democracy leading up to the nomination, as well as our sense of wasted possibility, of what might have been. Even put aside the question of Obama’s selection of Hillary as Secretary of State – whether you think it was bold or magnanimous or delusional or wonderful or awful. Indeed, put him aside entirely.

For the moment just think about what Hillary herself has done here, and what it tells us about her journey, about who she has become and is still becoming.

What was Hillary’s choice?

It was the choice of one of America’s – and the world’s – most experienced and knowledgeable thinkers and leaders to take direction from someone with vastly less knowledge, experience, proven judgment or credentials.

It was the choice of a woman to submit to a less qualified man. And of an older person to submit to a less qualified younger person.

It was a decision to take on an enormous burden, a huge task – with slim hope of visible, near-term success. Whatever else you can say about this position, it will be a shitload of work – and far more visible and accountable than remaining New York’s Senator. Indeed, Hillary’s seriousness about the work itself is obvious in her reported attempt to define the SoS role as extending significantly into global economic policy. This is, obviously, intellectually correct – how could world affairs possibly be tackled without putting global economic policy at their heart? But put that aside, and just consider what she’s signing up for. Despite the ‘bots’ snide dismissals of her experience as First Lady, she sure as hell ain’t planning tea parties. (It is, btw, risible to hear some tut-tut about how global economic policy is beyond the traditional purview of the State Department, claiming that it properly belongs to Treasury. Funny, but I can’t seem to recall the name of Truman’s Secretary of the Treasury. I can, however, remember his Secretary of State – you know, the one for whom the Marshall Plan was named.)

It was a choice to move past the hatred, misogyny and arrogance of the campaign and of the Obama “movement.” When Hillary decided to take this job, she knew full well with whom she would be dealing, probably on a daily basis. She knew what to expect from a culture that casually regards her as a “monster,” that hates her enough to project its own murderous rage onto her. Instead of staying in the Senate, where she would have retained far more freedom of action, and where the institutional walls dividing the branches of government would have stood between her and these toxic avengers, she decided to enter the den of vipers, the House of Favreau. Even more – she decided to devote her enormous talents to helping them succeed.

It was a choice to cede the cause dearest to her heart and soul – universal healthcare – to others. It was, in other words, a choice to forego historical redemption for her failure the first time around. If she had remained in the Senate, I don’t think there can be much doubt that Hillary Clinton would have remained the government’s and the country’s most widely respected thinker and arbiter on healthcare policy. And even if other pretenders to that throne had attempted to freeze her out, nothing would have prevented her from continuing to offer views, expertise and legislation on the topic. By accepting the job of SoS, however, she has accepted a division of labor in the Administration that will keep her positions on healthcare behind the scenes, at best.

It was a choice to continue being tough, rather than to take an emotional break. Whatever else we know about the internecine politics of a U.S. administration, we know that they are, indeed, internecine. Sure, the Senate and the general political scrum are rough-and-tumble – but not like this. Every administration in the past several decades has been a battlefield, whereas the Senate is, as everyone knows, a club. And because of Hillary’s national – and, indeed, global – constituency… because she became something quite unique in the course of this past year… she could have relaxed into that, probably could have ridden it for the rest of her public life. Instead, she chose to take on new challenges – political, historical, interpersonal. She looked unflinchingly at what the actual opportunities were for her to make a difference, and she marched straight up to the biggest one realistically available. She chose the path of most resistance.

Obviously, nobody – Hillary included – has the first idea how all this will turn out. But we can already say that her choice here was something remarkable, perhaps unprecedented.

This is one extraordinary person.


Cordelia said...

My sorrow for her mistreatment is only exceeded by my anger at the Democratic Party for mistreating her so.

july4cat said...

This is why I love Hillary. She's never interested in being an iconic figure or being cool. Her passion is in doing things that can actually make a difference. She never shuns from the nastiness of reality, and she has learned the impossible skill of not allowing her ego to interfere with her ambition.

1950 Democrat said...

May I have just a little palace intrigue, please?

For some reason, Obama began by appointing so many good old Clinton 90s people that it's been called a 'Clinton Restoration.' Hillary has been kicking ass in the State Dept since November. The Clintons were campaigning hard for Obama by mid-October, but they sure weren't in the summer. Obama has always been a puppet jumping ship from one puppet master to another: Chicago to Kennedys, now later perhaps to the Clintons, in exchange for their campaigning.

So, dare we hope it is after all the Remington Steele who is serving the Laura Holt -- with better scriptwriterss.

Falstaff said...

Well, there I go, killing buzzes again. Sure, let them intriguing juices flow freely.

And the power-flip you describe may indeed play out -- and may even have been a possibility that Hillary foresaw when she took the job. But even if that's so, I still think what she did was gutsy, principled and impressive.

Oh, and for sure -- we could definitely use some good scriptwriters. We might even start by replacing the incoming Barton Fink Dauphin...

harpie said...

I've been away a while, and don’t know if you saw the following great post by eriposte at TheLeftCoaster, on December 24:
which you might be interested in with regard to the tut-tutting you refer to above:

“[…] In my opinion, compartmentalizing these departments in a traditional manner while giving Treasury almost total control over global economic policy would be a serious mistake that will likely result in a repeat of some of the terrible messes we've seen globally since the end of the Cold War. […]”