Hillary Clinton’s Trust Issue – A New Idea

I almost met Hillary Clinton in early 1977, when I was in the office of Arkansas’s Attorney General, Bill Clinton. Out of the blue an unknown young woman barged into his office without so much as an ‘excuse me’ and demanded his immediate attention and then she swept out. Bill said charmingly with a big grin, “Beware giving your wife the run of your office.”

Yes, Hillary clearly has a sense of entitlement that she is above unwritten rules that govern most of our lives. It is a now a problem which currently threatens her presidential bid.  The email crisis is not an isolated incident, but a symptom of a deep broader issue, which explains in part why many Americans find her unlikable and/or untrustworthy.

On the other, hand Hillary Clinton is very intelligent and no one can doubt her experience. She can confidently check almost all the boxes that are prerequisites for a President, except for the trust box.

She used the server for her own convenience and privacy and sought to excuse herself by what she says was the letter of the law, and the FBI (correctly) decided not to indict her. Sadly, she is now left in a vague new limbo land of uncertainty about trust.

Whatever Hillary may have said or done to put herself in that limbo land, the ‘games’ she may have played with truth look to me like tiddlywinks next to the ravings of Donald Trump.

Therefore, I think  she must do something NOW that is not seen as just another Hillary excuse speech, but really lets her hair down convincingly [think the Checkers speech in 1972] and makes a statement that contains something surprising and real news.

Hillary’s handlers and fund raisers say her problem can be solved by hanging on tight with money and ads. No number of ads will convince Americans to support a candidate they already believe is a liar.

She is running a Tom Dewey-style [1948] game of sitting and waiting for Truman then, Trump now, to implode.  Hillary cannot be content to sit on her resume and simply hope.  Her campaign is in peril, and her peril is ours too.

The speech her husband gave in New Hampshire in 1992 to save his nomination campaign must still be fresh in her memory.  She cannot do this through surrogates.  She must convey with heartfelt sincerity that she understands that many Americans’ distrust has a reasonableness and that she needs to address and redress that problem.

Hillary needs to explain that she understands that she will have to have the most transparent candidacy and presidency in American history.  She must pick a widely known and trusted vice president who can help her ensure transparency. That would be an unprecedented role for a vice president to take. She fortunately, she already knows a perfect person for the job: Joe Biden.

Despite the Obama administration reputation for secrecy, last fall Biden was rated the most open and trustworthy of all the candidates in the race. She has worked long and intimately with him and they know each other very well.  His career is healthy and his presidential ambitions are past due, so he is way past fear or favor. His very acceptance of her offer would be widely seen as a major endorsement and willingness to really help her

Biden would be a surprising choice to many, and the surprise itself would make it bigger news, and would help spread her message and seriousness to many more people who are in need of reassurance.

Biden is loyal and patriotic. His well know tendency to say what is on his mind is by itself a strong indication of his belief in openness. If he believed that his serving as her vice president would help keep Trump out of the White House, he would do it

Hillary seems not to understand why ‘the Hillary’ whose supporters and colleagues, who love and trust her, is not seen the same way by the many in America who have reservations. She frequently dismisses those people as part of a conspiracy led by her haters.  She must address that challenge head on and accept the reality that exists for her on the trust issue and prove to the extent that she can that she is now aware, able and willing to change.

I believe that selecting Joe Biden as her  VP is now the best way for her to show both herself and the American people that she is willing to think beyond the next traditional move on the political chessboard and commit, in a new and unusual way, to an administration of  genuine openness and trust.

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Better Candidates – Better Leadership – Better Governance

Recently, I read Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton (on which the musical is based), and I found that it had a lot to teach about our current political climate—specifically, Trump’s rise.

Hamilton featured prominently in the disputes between (and among) Federalists and Republicans that characterized the really tough political life of the early United States. Both Hamilton and fellow Federalist John Quincy Adams warned that our democracy could very easily slip into chaos and the tyranny of the mob.

Their fears have never seemed closer to being realized.

George Saunders’s recent New Yorker article on Trump paints a picture of chaos on the campaign trail—violence at rallies, invectives rallied between supporters and protestors, a country divided on both philosophy and fact. But what comes through his piece above all is the sheer magnitude of human feeling. People connect to Trump—or reject him—based on huge, powerful emotions. (Of course, the same is often true of Clinton, though these emotions often manifest in different ways.) This hardly seems a sound way to elect a president.

Our democracy has never been perfect. That is no secret. But the enormity of all its current flaws cast a new light on its former failings.

Early American democracy —thanks in no small part to Hamilton and Quincy Adams—was deeply undemocratic. Steps were taken at every opportunity to insulate government from the untamed will of the masses. The Electoral College, the Senate, and early suffrage limitations were all designed to prevent an emotional mob from steering the country towards disaster.

For reasons both moral and practical, I do not want to recommend that we walk back these changes. However, it is clear to me that we can and should do better.

While our British friends are currently gripped by a crisis (caused by a misguided attempt at direct democracy), we can still learn something very useful and important from the way they hold elections.

When British parties hold major elections, candidates are people whom the party members know well because they served together in Parliament. As a result, candidates are (with rare exceptions) properly equipped to serve as the leader of a nation. While they may not always be popular, British Prime Ministers have tended to be safe.

In contrast, the modern American primary system allows anyone with sufficient financial resources to run for President. Meanwhile, the rise of social media has (with the help of traditional media) turned what should be a  contest of serious people and ideas into a reality show, which has finally given us a race between  two of the most unpopular candidates in our history.

Perhaps we ought to have the leading political parties serve as nominators. They could choose primary candidates who serve or have served in the Congress to compete in the primaries. As long as there is a way to ensure that a wide variety of positions and ideologies are represented, voters would really have very little to complain about.

We could be almost guaranteed competent leadership, a diverse array of views would be represented, and the people of America would still have their choice in primary and general elections.

While there can be no guarantee that all such candidates would be perfect, no one who is taken seriously in that way by colleagues would likely lack  all (or even most) of the basic qualities essential for leadership.

Democracy can never be without flaws, but we can and must still work towards—in the words of the Founders—a more perfect Union.

What Do Americans Really Hope for Out of This Election?

People often vote for the candidate they find more likable or trustworthy and rarely seek to compare their own beliefs to those of the candidates. The intricacies of policy are fuzzy and hard for a lot of folks grasp. There are few easy answers in governance, which can make it tempting to vote more with the heart/gut than the mind.

This year, the American electorate has stronger feelings—most of them negative—about Trump and Clinton than about perhaps any other two candidates in one election in our history. If there is any American election that truly requires sensible heads in the voting booth, it is this one.

Therefore, it is particularly important for average Americans to get a better sense of their own policy positions and come to better understand how their own views compare to the views of the candidates.

Those of us who write often know that sometimes the best way to understand your own thoughts is to get them onto paper. While I would not imagine that many Americans would be willing to compose essays on their political preferences in order to prepare for an election, there is a simpler way to achieve a similar result:

A simple questionnaire could prompt voters to assess their own political viewpoints on a number of issues and motivate them to think through some of the nuances as they decide to what degree they agree with certain statements.

Of course, these questions must be non-leading and as neutral as possible and should avoid suggesting in any way what the candidates should or may think.

Even single-issue voters can gain something from this process: a candidate might agree on a single issue with a particular voter but disagree on many others, which is something that voter should at least be conscious about.

In the version of a questionnaire [below], each question offers a range of choices of 6 numbers—from 1 (strongly agree) to 6 (strongly disagree) with the intermediate numbers indicating a range of positions on each question.

 

 

 

  STRONGLY       AGREE   STRONGLY DISAGREE YOU CLINTON TRUMP
1—Immigration—Immigration should be more curtailed 1—-2—-3—-4—-5—-6 ____ ____ ____
2—Global Economy—Globalization is bad for America 1—-2—-3—-4—-5—-6 ____ ____ ____
3—Foreign Policy—America should pull back from abroad 1—-2—-3—-4—-5—-6 ____ ____ ____
4—Education— Government should stay out of education 1—-2—-3—-4—-5—-6 ____ ____ ____
5—Guns—Guns should not be regulated or limited 1—-2—-3—-4—-5—-6 ____ ____ ____
6—Health—Government should stay out of healthcare 1—-2—-3—-4—-5—-6 ____ ____ ____
7—Religion—Government should stay out of religion 1—-2—-3—-4—-5—-6 ____ ____ ____
8—Abortion— Abortion is murder and should be outlawed 1—-2—-3—-4—-5—-6 ____ ____ ____
9—Taxes—Taxes must be lower, whatever that takes 1—-2—-3—-4—-5—-6 ____ ____ ____
10—Size of Government—Government must be limited 1—-2—-3—-4—-5—-6 ____ ____ ____
11—Global Warming—Global warming is a serious problem 1—-2—-3—-4—-5—-6 ____ ____ ____
12—Military Spending—Military spending should be higher 1—-2—-3—-4—-5—-6 ____ ____ ____

 

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After checking your choices on the questionnaire, it is likely that you may find a better sense of what you believe about the issues individually and collectively. Add up your score—that number means nothing except it can give YOU a reference point to consider as you compare yourself to others including candidates.

However, the process can serve another purpose as well. If you are willing to do some research, it should not be too difficult to put a candidate through the same process. Just as the questionnaire permits self-examination, it is a useful avenue into an examination of the candidates’ positions on these various issues. And then you have a basis of some comparison.

A similar national poll by professional pollsters might offer further useful comparisons, both regionally and nationally, and might help draw attention to a broad possible use of self-polling.

And, thereafter, as the saying goes “may the best person win!”

PLEASE EMAIL YOUR RESPONSES TO fweil2@abacusny.com. You can score yourself and the candidates in the columns provided.  It may also be helpful to you to add up the total scores—you may find it useful comparing your total views to those of others.

Your responses will never be published in any form identifiable to any person, and will be held in TOTAL confidence, and destroyed after being tabulated into general information.