Recently a friend and regular reader of this blog asked me the question “Why is Hillary Clinton so disliked by America?” In considering my response, I realized that I would be hard-pressed to answer this question in a brief Facebook comment, and the more I thought about it, the more I had to say. Note that personally, I like Hillary Clinton. I will vote for Hillary Clinton on November 8th with full confidence that she is the better person to lead this country for the next 4-8 years. That said, Hillary has some image problems.
Public opinion of Ms. Clinton has been formed over three separate eras:
- First Lady (1993 – 2001)
- Secretary of State (2009 – 2013)
- Candidate for President of the United States (2015 – present)
As First Lady, married to then President Bill Clinton, she was the first First Lady to hold a post-graduate degree (J.D. from Yale, 1973) and her own professional career (lawyer). She took an integral role in the administration of her husband, advising on at least eleven of Bill Clinton’s top administrative positions. Only Eleanor Roosevelt had a more active role as First Lady. Some criticized her role, saying she should be more of a traditional First Lady. Also during her tenure as First Lady, she took on a number of causes advocating for the rights of women and children. As such, she became the most traveled First Lady in history which, again, came under criticism. Sometimes it is a matter of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.
Then came the Whitewater controversy, a complex ordeal surrounding the Clintons failed business venture and real estate investments, conflict of interest, and ultimately criminal allegations against both Clintons. The case was dropped for insufficient evidence, but that does not mean it was forgotten, and it has come back to haunt both Clintons from time to time.
Then along came Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern with whom Bill Clinton had an extra-marital affair. Now, you might think this would actually help Hillary’s image, as she was the victim here, and in some cases it probably did. However, others considered her to be an “enabler”, though to this day I do not understand that line of thought. Still others accused her of cynically staying in a failed marriage as a way of keeping or even fostering her own political influence. What transpires between a married couple should be their own private business and nobody else’s, but that is not how it works these days in politics. In the 1960s it more or less did work that way, as the many affairs of both John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King did not become common knowledge until long after their deaths. But in today’s world, sadly, anyone in the public eye, whether politician or entertainer, has absolutely no privacy.
Secretary of State
In 2008, after an unsuccessful bid against Barack Obama for the presidency, President Obama nominated Hillary for the cabinet position of Secretary of State. She was confirmed in a full senate vote by 94-2, and at that time her approval rating was at an all-time high of 65%.
Clinton and Obama forged a good working relationship without power struggles; she was a team player within the administration and a defender of it to the outside. Overall, Hillary had many successes as Secretary of State, too numerous and complex to go into here. However, as is always the case, people will remember the one thing you did wrong long after they forget about the 100 things you did right. Enter the Benghazi attack.
On September 11, 2012, the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked, resulting in the deaths of the U.S. Ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans. The attack, questions surrounding the security of the U.S. consulate, and the varying explanations given afterward by administration officials for what had happened, became politically controversial. On October 15, Clinton took responsibility for the question of security lapses and said the differing explanations were due to the inevitable fog of war confusion after such events. Subsequently, multiple investigations have shown that the attack could not have been prevented no matter what Ms. Clinton might have done, but in the current political climate, the results of those investigations are largely ignored by her opponents.
Then there is the matter of that e-mail non-scandal, but since I have written about that in a previous post, Witch Hunt!!!, I will not repeat it here. Suffice it to say that, like the Benghazi controversy, Hillary has been cleared of wrongdoing, but since her political opponents cannot possibly defeat her on platform issues, they continue dredging this up.
Candidate for President of the United States
If Ms. Clinton had not decided to run for president, it is my opinion that all of the above issues would have faded into oblivion by now. However, she did boldly venture into a realm previously dominated by males, and I think that, more than anything else, is what drives the dislike of Ms. Clinton. Women and minority groups mostly support Ms. Clinton, but ‘supporting’ and ‘liking’ are not necessarily the same thing. White males, especially those with less education, comprise a large segment of the U.S. population, and they tend to feel very threatened by the idea of a woman in what is often considered a “man’s world”.
Even so, Ms. Clinton might be treated more fairly if her opponent were a more typical candidate, rather than a misogynistic demagogue. Trump has used every trick in the book to turn the public against Ms. Clinton, including half-truths, lies, speculations, and other tools of his trade. Unfortunately, it is difficult to defend oneself against this type of dirty rhetoric.
All that said, some say that Hillary’s “image problem” is the reason she is so disliked. She shares very little in the way of her personal life and people thereby see her as cold and uncaring, despite the fact that she has devoted most of her career to causes that benefit women and children, especially in developing countries. Many, apparently, would prefer images of her on the golf course, or playing piano for relaxation, knitting a blanket for her grandbaby, or perhaps eating a taco salad, to images of a hard-working politician. I admire a politician who is able to keep their career and private lives separate, and personally do not feel like the private life of any politician is my concern, but I am in the minority, apparently. I am more concerned with what that person is doing for the country and how well they are performing the job which I, as a taxpayer, am paying them to do than what they do in their private life.
Can Hillary Clinton improve her “likeability”? Perhaps. I think that she can if, and only if, people are willing to put aside prejudices, stop believing every word that comes out of Trump’s mouth, and listen – actually listen to the proposed policies and ideas Ms. Clinton has for governing the nation for the next four years. In large part, there is only so much that she can do, and the rest is up to us. We either judge her responsibly and fairly, or we listen to the screeching rhetoric of the other side and use lies and prejudice as a basis for our judgement.