HRC: The Candidate We Desperately Need

This article was recently published in The Pavlovic Today, and can be found in its original form here. Please feel free to share or link this article—feedback is much appreciated!


 

Despite the legions of Conservatives, Progressives, ‘Bernie-Bros’ and Tea-Partiers who would say otherwise, Hillary Clinton is not only the most experienced politician in the race – she’s arguably the most experienced candidate in recent electoral memory. She single-handedly altered U.S-China relations at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, where she memorably proclaimed, “Women’s rights are human rights.” Clinton led the fight to pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Pediatric Research Equity Act, which expanded access to healthcare to millions of lower-income children. She was instrumental in the ratification of the START treaty and laid the groundwork for the Iran nuclear deal. The fact that Hillary Clinton is the most recognizable name in politics of this decade is not only a testament to her resilience and intelligence, but her extensive experience as a legislator, policymaker, and stateswoman.

 

In spite of this, Hillary Rodham Clinton is not the candidate the Democratic Party wants, but is the candidate that it quite desperately needs. She has never been the candidate of resounding hope and dynamic change, a role which then Senator Obama played in 2008 and which Bernie Sanders has assumed in 2016. Sanders offers a New Great Society dressed in the trappings of Nordic Social Democracy, Hillary, a sobering political pragmatism tempered by years of political experience. Hers is not to consider what American could be but what it can be. Political pragmatism isn’t exciting. It’s not inspiring as the universalism of Sanders and the idealistic left. And, I’ll be the first one to admit it, Hillary Clinton is an irritatingly uninspiring candidate. But though she does not campaign in poetry, she certainly will govern in prose.

 

For that reason, Hillary ought to earn your support this election season. She can best execute the responsibilities of the presidency—and thus effectuate positive change— and she has the most compelling vision of what that change ought to be.

 

Hillary has Executive Experience. Full stop.

The policy-centric nature of the presidential primary discourse leads us to overlook practically the most important aspect of the presidency: implementing law, and managing the expansive federal bureaucracy. It is, without question, the most challenging leadership and management job in the world. This is because the federal government is absolutely massive. It employs 2.7 million non-military civilians.[1] It comprises approximately 252 independent executive and component agencies.[2] Furthermore, we have a tendency to categorically ignore assessing our candidate’s leadership abilities and their experience with facilitating the administrative responsibilities of an organization. Yet, it is in this regard that Clinton excels.

 

But what good are laws if not enforced effectively? The President’s role constitutes not only devising and legislating a policy agenda, but implementing that agenda correctly. The troubled roll-out of HealthCare.gov threatened the integrity of “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”—colloqially known as Obamacare—and the ability for the uninsured to obtain health coverage.  Ill-management of government leads to catastrophic implementation failures like the federal relief effort after Hurricane Katrina or the Carter administration’s failure to resolve the Iranian hostage crisis. Bottom line: public policy management failures breed systemic implementation failures, duplicative services, the waste of taxpayer monies, and information deficiencies.

A president’s approach to leadership and the constitution of the advisorial institutions that facilitate that aid presidential decision-making, shape the implementation of policy dramatically. Robert Mcnamara’s Department of Defense most poignantly demonstrates this truth. He and his brilliant team of advisors, despite their expertise and their initiative in bringing novel management systems to the DoD, fell into patterns of groupthink that ultimately led to the U.S’ misguided entrance into the Vietnam war—though Les Gelb while at Brookings famously contended otherwise. More recently, the Obama administration’s micromanagement of the foreign policy process complicated the Department of Defense’s ability to carry out its responsibilities and has been noted by every single past secretary of defense: including Gates, Panetta, and Hegel. The president’s role as chief executive is a critical aspect of the office of the presidency and should play a major role in our presidential calculus.

However, Hillary has been there before. She, as first lady, experienced the presidency firsthand while playing a major role in the policy process. She and her husband understand which management approaches work and which don’t. As Secretary of State, she managed a massive bureaucracy and the diplomatic functions of the U.S—no small roll. But don’t take it from me that her past executive experience will make her a far more effective executive, look to political scientists Joseph Uscinski and Arthur Simon who conclude that experience as a federal administrator effectively predicts administrative performance as a president.[3] Or perhaps look at the best gauge of her management skills, her tenure as Secretary of State, during which time, Henry Kissinger opines “she ran the State Department in the most effective way that I’ve ever seen.”[4]

Further anecdotal evidence can be found in the wealth of interviews that have been done with past aides both Republican and Democrat, who have praised her policy centric focus, her wealth of policy knowledge, and her administrative skills. And it is obvious that these points become less important vis a vis Sanders as the primary winds down. But the imperative to consider the administrative responsibilities of the president does not diminish. Our failure to raise questions about how a president sets priorities, how a president executes laws, and the advisors with whom presidents surround themselves is incredibly troubling in a world where those factors have been increasingly important.

 

[1]  http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t17.htm

[2] http://www.foia.gov/data.html

[3] Simon, Arthur M., and Joseph E. Uscinski. “Prior experience predicts presidential performance.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 42, no. 3 (2012): 514-548.

[4]http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/09/08/capital-download-henry-kissinger-isis-obama/15274621/

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