A Rational Criticism of the Candidacy of Secretary Clinton

I’ll admit it. I’ve been pretty lazy in my criticism of Secretary Clinton. I find her opponent so personally objectionable that I haven’t been able to focus enough of my outrage and disgust on much else. It’s not that I’m enamored with her candidacy. I’ve even gone so far to state that I think Gary Johnson-Libertarian-is the best candidate in the field. But I’ve also been pretty clear that I think she’s better than Donald Trump. And in doing so, I’ve done that thing that I hate that Trump supporters do. They site Hillary as their reason for supporting Donald. I don’t accept that response when I get it from them. But I’m more than willing to give it back. So I owe the political universe an explanation. And I’m here to pay up. So here goes.

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It starts with question that my wife asked me.

“Why do people call Hillary Clinton a murderer? And a rapist? And a criminal?”

It’s a fair question, I think, for the potential leader of the free world. People do call her those things. There’s a pretty loud, vocal group that call her a murderer, or a rapist or a criminal-regularly.  We don’t usually call people running for president those things in America. So something’s different here. Instead of dismissing them as crazy misogynists though-a lot of them are actually women-I’ve tried to see the game from their seat, in an attempt to give voice to their concerns, perhaps more rationally than they seem to be able to on their own. In order to know the true value of a candidate, after all,  you have to be willing to know the value of their shortcomings too.

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So how about those claims. The ones like the ones you’ll see scattered about this article from posts on my site’s Facebook page.  The truth about those claims is pretty obvious. In a literal sense, those specific accusations are baseless. People dying as a result of your decisions while leading functions of government is not murder. Murder is murder. Your husband being a serial philanderer is not the same as you being a rapist. Your husband being a rapist is not the same as you being a rapist. Defending a rapist as a court appointed public defender is not the same as being a rapist. Only raping someone makes you a rapist. Only murdering someone makes you a murderer. So, hopefully we’ve gotten the first two cleared up without much argument.

As far as the criminal accusations, this is what the facts say. She’s 68 years old and has been married to a man that was Governor of Arkansas or President of the United states since she was 31. Under the scrutiny that comes with that, she has never been convicted of a crime. She’s never been indicted. She’s never been charged with a crime. She’s never been arrested. There’s been plenty of investigations-we’ll get to that-but she’s not a criminal. Not by any literal measure of the word.

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Now, I understand that I’m being purposely obtuse here and using literal definitions to judge the accuracy of the claims against her. But I’m doing it for a reason. Because those are defined terms. And she gets called them a lot. And they’re not true. I could stop there and dismiss them all as nuts. End of article, balloon drop, celebration. But I can’t. Because there’s just too much of it to ignore. So I’ve got to go a little further.

Stated again for posterity, Hillary Clinton is not a murderer, a rapist or a criminal.  But that fact doesn’t really address the more interesting question that was asked. Why do people think that it’s acceptable to publicly call her those things, when she is not? That answer is a little more complicated and much more telling about the true problems of a potential Hillary Clinton presidency.

One thing is clear to me by now though. When it comes to swaying the opinion of people who don’t already hate her, Secretary Clinton’s opponents tend to overplay their hand. They do it because of the ease at which they can use it to fire up their base. Unfortunately for them, in doing so, they’ve missed material opportunities to point out why she actually could be considered unfit to be our next president. There are ways to do that without sounding like a bunch of crazy people to the rest of us though. The rest of us need real things-not made up exaggerated or offensive ones. So I’m going to give them some help. Because those who haven’t decided yet, but are rationale and understand that she’s not a murderer, a rapist or a convicted or even soon to be tried felon, are left with few actual criticisms. Which isn’t accurate either.  So I’ll give you one of my own.

Electing Hillary Clinton will be bad for America.

Damning enough?  It’s certainly vague enough. So we’ll need to unpack all that goes into that statement.  But first, we need to understand why it is that some people hate her so much. And I won’t use the easy button either-the fact that she’s a strong progressive woman, and people don’t like that. I’ve seen too many women saying horrible things about her to assign the motivation to that. There’s more to it. And it becomes pretty obvious once you force yourself to get past the noise.

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Unlike the Republican nomination process for the 2016 cycle, which could best be described as democracy gone mad, Hillary Clinton’s nomination and potential presidency, is the opposite. Not that it’s not crazy-for some it clearly is. It just doesn’t feel particularly democratic. And it didn’t start with the hacked emails revealing Democratic Party preference for her over Senator Sanders. It didn’t start with the silly super delegate process. It didn’t start with anything that happened in the 2016 election. Or even the 2008 election. It started much earlier-about the time that her husband was elected president.

In America, there’s a pretty clear path for how things work when it comes to ascending to the top of the power and influence game in politics. One gains some level of local success and then becomes “eligible” to start thinking about running for national office. Senators, congressmen, governors-that’s where we get our presidents. From time to time, we can pull one straight from the military, but frankly that doesn’t really happen often-twice in the last 150 years. Once elected, you sink or swim, though these days we tend to keep presidents for two terms irrespective of performance. So maybe float or swim is a more appropriate description.

When you’re done, you ride off into the sunset to use your massive power and influence for a good cause-and also to get rich-if you’re not already. You spend a few decades doing that, and maybe providing sound bites for the media from time to time or out on the campaign trail for an old ally. And then you die and become a library. That’s how it works. That’s the American political dream.

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Except that’s not what happened with the Clintons. The first part did. But then things got different. President Clinton left office over a decade before he was eligible to collect social security and started to do his part-peddling power and influence for a cause and for personal income. Neither one, by the way, should be anything any of us have much of a problem with. That’s how it’s supposed to work. It’s harmless and it’s how we attract anyone worth doing the job to a life of permanent captivity. But, for the Clintons, something fairly unusual happened next. And by fairly unusual, I mean, never before in the history of our country. The First Lady decided it was her turn.

The path to political Valhalla begins to wobble a bit when one of the participants decides to enter back into government after ascending to the height of it. That mountain doesn’t really feel like much of a mountain any more. It starts to feel like more of an on ramp. It starts to feel, well, undemocratic. Because power in the political sphere is really just access. When you leave the oval office that access doesn’t evaporate. It just becomes used for mostly harmless or benevolent causes. But when it gets thrown back into the political fray, subconscious alarm bells start to go off in our democratic DNA.

Now, I’ve never really been able to muster up the kind of disdain that I see Hillary Clinton’s true detractors bathe in. I can probably chalk that up to the fact that, politically, we are fairly close on our principles. I’m a centrist. She’s moderate progressive. So for me, this isn’t that hard to accept. And I’m probably unfairly excited about the prospect of a woman president. There’s a little of that in there too.

Imagine if  you were not like me though, as many people aren’t. And that you didn’t support her much warmer, dynamic, communicator of a husband. And you didn’t vote for her in New York, because you’re not from New York. And you didn’t vote for the man who appointed her Secretary of State. Imagine if you had no interest in supporting her at all because of her politics. For you, Hillary Clinton seems to have happened to you instead of for you. For you, there’s a word that I think is appropriate and unique to Secretary Clinton’s rise to the nomination:


Inevitable is an undemocratic word.

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And when your candidacy feels undemocratic in America, you’re going to make staunch enemies of those people that don’t agree with your politics. And when you make staunch enemies, you need to live exceptionally clean-professionally and personally.  Just ask the current president about that. He’s been exceptionally clean. And people still call him a Muslim terrorist on my website regularly. And though she’s not a killer, a rapist or a murderer, Secretary Clinton has not been clean-in ways that frankly, weren’t that hard to avoid. In ways that would lead you to believe that she too, thought this was inevitable. That she had appointed herself.

That’s the way that it looks, if you’re not a fan. Now you can see where some of the frustration starts to ooze out of conservative middle America. It’s real. And it’s not wrong, even if their methods of expressing are.

I cannot begin to express to you just how much of a departure from the norm running a department of the United States government and sending emails to people that come from an address that does not end in .gov is. That probably sounds trivial to outsiders. But to insiders, they know exactly what I mean. It’s bizarre. And not something that you would assume would be happening for a good reason. I also cannot begin to express the gaping credibility gap that anyone else would have been forced to acknowledge if they were serving as Secretary of State while their spouse was leading a foundation receiving millions of dollars from foreign entities. Both of those things happened on the road to her nomination. And there’s been enough noise over forty years in the public eye previously to lead you to believe this is a pattern. Living exceptionally clean means that you did none or very little of that. And if you did, at a minimum you would be expected to be honest and forthright in your explanations. She was neither.

Those are the things that look and feel really dirty. And if they’re not actually dirty, then man, she just doesn’t give a rip at all what you think. Because she’s inevitable.

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Get it yet?

I’ll take a second to point out that I didn’t include Benghazi in that critique. That’s on purpose. The Benghazi attack is one of those spots where the opposition overplayed their hand. I know we lost four people there. And that’s tragic. We lost 36 in a day in Iraq. And about 40,000 more were killed or wounded. There’s cemetery plots full of them out here in San Diego. I served there with a bunch of them. And we elected the administration responsible for that for a second term. If -W- were running today, you’d nominate him again.

The investigation for the Benghazi attacks went on for 815 days-longer than the investigation into the Kennedy assassination, longer than the investigation of the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, longer than the investigation into the response to hurricane Katrina. And they’ve largely found that the deaths of those four Americans were avoidable. And that there were multiple failures of government by multiple agencies. And it cost us four great Americans. If that makes her a murderer though, I probably need to turn myself in too. And so do a whole lot of other folks because there’s a war going on.

If we want to broaden the criticism to foreign policy at large, specifically in the Middle East, and we wanted to be honest about it, we’d better be prepared to spread that blame to every western leader since Winston Churchill discovered Iraq by drawing the boarder between it and Syria in the wrong place in 1921. So let’s move past both. There’s real stuff here. Black and white, inarguable deficiencies, not rhetoric and hyperbole.

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Here’s the unfortunate truth. We are in a period of troubling division in our great country.  And we desperately need a leader that will unify us. Unfortunately for her, and us really, Secretary Clinton has given her opponents such a strong case for mistrust and suspicion, that it’s not likely any unification of purpose, spirit or function will be possible while she serves as the head of government. And it’s too bad. Because it didn’t have to be this way. She’s led a life of service. And is smart enough and tough enough to do it. She just couldn’t stay clean enough-intended or not.

That’s why electing Hillary Clinton will be bad for America.

So go ahead and ignore what the nuts are saying. But don’t ignore why they’re saying it. Their frustration is real and warranted. But their claims usually aren’t. And we need to be very honest about what we’re  about to get into if we elect her.

I can see it now as if it already happened. Mostly because it just did. Four years of nothing getting done. Four years, minimum, of ham handed legislators getting their base horny by telling Hillary to shove it. Four years minimum, of giving voice to the crazy people that wrote those fun manifestos of stupid hate woven into this article. Four years of old cooky white guys calling her KILLERY. Good stuff. Get ready for all of that. When you get right down to it, through the noise, through the overplayed hands of opposition, the real problem we’re going to have if we elect Hillary Clinton is a continuation or even a progression of the division we have now. But I’ll say this. The only candidate that solves that problem better, is Gary Johnson. Donald Trump is no remedy. Not by a long shot.

Johnson’s at 10% of the vote now. And we’re about 100 days out. For those of you that haven’t decided, you’re going to have to decide if it’s Hillary division or Trump division. It begs the question.What’s better? A life of service with clear failures of judgment and transparency. Or a life suspiciously devoid of service or sacrifice with clear failures of judgment and character brought to power by a nationalist movement with an undercurrent of authoritarianism or hate. I know which bad outcome scares me most. Maybe that’s just because I’ve seen this go wrong in other places up close.

Learning to serve and sacrifice isn’t easy when you’ve never done it. Then again, learning to be forthright and transparent isn’t that easy either. But there’s one clear thing that the two conventions showed me about our two front-running candidates that I found extremely helpful at determining who absolutely could not be president. Whatever their motivations may be, whatever level of trust you have in them, you can perhaps try to find some guidance in the words they actually say-true false or otherwise.

Whether or not you believe that they believe their own words is entirely up to you. But the words a candidate chooses to say are the words that candidate believes stir the heart of the people they seek to serve. Some choose fear and suspicion. Others choose hope, togetherness and inclusion. I know what stirs my heart. And so I know what voice I’m willing to follow.  And what voice I never will. You’ll have to decide for yourself what moves you.

But remember, if you can’t get this right, it’s important, not to get it too wrong.

10 replies »

  1. What a Crock might as well change the Rational to Left wing press trying to pretend to say bad things only to defend and put down the right side


  2. Hi Sean,
    I have a concern about the central thesis of the article, which i understand to be that electing her would increase the levels of division, therefore, bad for America. However, I think there are 2 issues that conflict with that idea. The first is the right’s reaction to 8 years of Obama. The second is my concern that we would be rewarding petulant children by trying to find someone more palatable to their crazy tastes.

    At the risk of angering the Killery crowd, by any previous metric, Obama has governed as a center-left president. Obamacare, for example, was a re purposing of a republican solution to health care reform. In the bubble though, that has spun into “socialized medicine and tyranny.” The Obama’s have more than exceeded any ask in terms of staying “clean enough” throughout the last 8 years. That hasn’t kept the right and the alt-right from spinning off into conspiracy theory land constantly, grasping at straws, and refusing to cooperate on any legislation, whether or not that refusal endangers the full faith and credit of the US. If only Hillary had stayed “clean enough,” the right would have been ok with electing her, and worked to heal division in the country? I’d have to disagree with that assumption. Assumes facts not in evidence.

    The idea that a certain group of crazies who refuse to cooperate and act divisive if their candidate isn’t elected can prevent good governance causes a problem for me. Stalling legislation, holding up appointments, etc, are not good faith acceptance of the democratic process. You lose? You show up for work, you fight legislation and you look for the next election to continue to make your argument to the people. To say that electing someone who is qualified, smart enough, and tough enough might make some people upset is the same as saying, “we all want burritos, but let’s go get pizza, cuz Jr is going to throw a tantrum if he doesn’t get his pepperonis.” Goes against everything I learned in every awesome 90’s action movie about not negotiating with terrorists.

    Thanks for the thoughtful analysis as always; I truly enjoy it, especially from a fellow former restrictee.
    Jack, ’07

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Jack, I actually thought pretty hard about exactly what you said in the first paragraph of what you wrote. Here’s where I netted out. I think, if some of the not quite hard core opponents had a more difficult case to make against her, we might see more progress. But I agree, that’s a massive leap. And I also dislike rewarding the bad behavior by caring what they think. But it’s part of the overall equation.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sean, this is exactly what I needed to read this morning, given my own thoughts about our present political situation. And Jack, your response adds to what I find in this, in how it resonates with my own thoughts.

    I don’t completely agree with either of you in how you’ve thought out and expressed your observations and opinions, but I agree with a lot, in both of your words. Where it really resonates with me is that you HAVE obviously given a lot of consideration, and rational, honest effort, to understand what is going on, and why some things are as they are, and what you think is the best way forward. And that is exactly where I am this morning.

    I was just about to write on my own FB page, NO MORE MEMES! The reason being that again and again, when I track down the truth, the facts, of whatever it is they convey, 99% are just plain rabble rousing lies, for the sole purpose of playing to people’s irrational emotions. To intentionally mislead. To intentionally slander and malign. And I’ve determined, I will no longer play that game, will not like, comment to, or share them, even when they seem to express something I agree with, or that pleasantly plays to my own preferences.

    As I see it, the ONLY way any of this is going to get any better is for more of us to stop playing into the senseless hateful rabble rousing, and determine to engage in rational, reasoned expression of our thoughts and ideas, and encourage rational, reasoned conversation with others, especially those with which we differ.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If you look at Hillary’s record as a Senator and Secretary of State, it shows that she was very effective and very good at working with Republicans, even those that had viciously attacked her or her husband. She was known as a very hard worker and a bridge builder. This led to very high approval ratings for her (66% in 2012). If you pull up articles about her in 2007 or 2013, it very clearly shows this to be true. She is admired by people on both sides of the aisle. She is not a divisive person. Unfortunately, when she runs for office, the opposition finds it effective to exaggerate and make things up about her. There are charts that clearly show this.

    There is an immense double standard with Hillary that you can see in your statements about her. With most people, experience and scars from political battles are seen as a strength, especially if behind it, there is a high level of competence and accomplishment. We are willing to overlook quirks and setbacks. They have proven themselves in battle. Hillary, on the other hand, has been investigated more heavily than any other politician in history. Every time that a supposed scandal is identified, there is a whole industry that springs up to spin the darkest implications (She was sleeping when Benghazi happened, she gave stand down orders, she was trying to avoid FOIA with the e-mail servers, etc). Fox News and conservative pundits build up a frenzy in their audiences. Yet, these are always proved to be wrong. There have been no convictions or even indictments. At the end, though, rather than admitting that their grand conspiracy theories were wrong, the focus is on minor issues and people are left with vague feelings of dishonesty. Rather than focusing on how she has been able to gracefully handle this type of pressure, even people that recognize her strengths, like yourself, condemn her for being “not clean.”

    The e-mail scandal is a good case in point. If it wasn’t Hillary, this would have been at most an administrative matter as suggested by Comey. It would have been something that someone on her staff might have had some type of discipline for not following procedures. Her staff made some understandable mistakes as they tried to figure out how to bring the use of e-mail and mobile technologies (blackberry) into a very difficult environment. The fact that this did not come up as an issue until the Republicans hyped it up even though hundreds of people were interacting with Hillary for years shows that it was not a big deal.

    The normal process when this was brought in front of the FBI would not have had any feedback from Comey. His recommendations would have been given to the AG and they would have simply declined to prosecute. Comey gave his public accounting to make sure that everything was transparent. He very clearly stated that it would be unprecedented and unfair to Clinton to prosecute her. This was a unanimous opinion of all the FBI investigators. Comey is highly respected prosecutor that served in the Bush administration and is known for his honesty. Yet 56% of the public believed that she should have been charged and the Republicans have made their battle cry “Lock her up”. The Republicans and pundits essentially had already tried and convicted her as soon as the possibility of some inappropriate behavior was identified.

    From my perspective, the fact that Clinton is not “clean” is one of the strongest cases for her as president. She knows how to take abuse and keep her cool while doing her job in a collaborative way. And by doing so, she undermines the effectiveness of these type of tactics by her opponents.


  5. And yet you yourself are spreading the same lies to try to get votes for the candidate you support.

    For example, the Bin Laden photo which is a known fake.


    • On a second read, it looks like I might have been wrong about who you’re voting for, but you never do bring yourself to come out and say it clearly.

      As well as the Bin Laden photo, my initial reaction was that you were implying with the photo that she really was involved at some level.

      The level of misinformation is SO high out there that it’s hard to judge what someone is trying to say or what their agenda is. Visuals have such a strong impact, that when you include one visual like that in the article and then don’t address it, it leaves hanging the question of what was the purpose of including it? On a second reading it appears it was meant as an example like the text snippets of those overplayed hands.

      That’s something I’ve gotten touchy about recently – when we reproduce those crazy claims, knowing they’re crazy, we’re actually promoting them to people who may not have seen them. Whose gut reactions guide them, and who never make that second reading. Or never look below the claim to see it being debunked.


      • Hi Alvin, The point of including those quotes and pictures was to show the contrast between the noise and the reality. This site has tried to take a hard stance against exactly what bring up. I’d encourage you to check out more of the material. We try to keep it objective and fair.


  6. Yours is the most coherent, cogent voice I’ve heard. Thank you. You’ve expressed one thing about Hillary that, as an unabashed liberal, I’ve wrestled with – her rise to the political stage as a former First Lady. My take on it all along, while admiring and respecting her abilities and experience, has been that of riding on the coat tails of a family legacy, the same criticism I’ve had of the George W. Bush candidacy and election. (Although he didn’t bring any of the character and intelligence that Hillary has brought.) And, although an often repeated criticism of her candidacy was that hers would be a third term of the Obama administration, she, in fact, would be a third term of the Clinton administration.

    To your point, it feels undemocratic. And her victory was not inevitable. This election was about much more than electing the first woman, although the prospect felt pretty good.

    I suppose I’ve always imagined the first woman President to be one who rose through the ranks essentially through her own volition. (I ran the campaign for Margaret Chase Smith in our 7th grade mock primary elections). As a boomer peer of Hillary, I wholly understand how this path unfolded for her. As she left Wellesley, the feminist movement was just coming to the forefront and most women still felt fairly powerless, especially painful to educated women. Despite her credentials, what better way for a passionate, intelligent, ambitious woman to enter the national arena than to fulfill her role in society as wife and mother yet have her voice heard through her husband’s political ambitions. Many women before her have enjoyed this position but they didn’t run for the Presidency, virtually on the heels of their husbands.

    It’s unlikely that a woman of my generation will be elected President but I do believe one of our daughters holds the keys to the White House.

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