B Y L A R R Y G O R D O N
A senior New York Democratic activist told me this past summer that no matter what we may think, say, or do, Hillary Clinton is going to be the next president of the United States. If that is indeed the case, then why will this country have to endure the exhaustive and costly process of feigning a political competition in search of a suitable candidate? Maybe we should just hand Hillary the keys to the White House—the doors used to be unlocked—and just move on from there.
This is our democratic process and it has to run its course. It has been said that democracy is the worst type of government out there, except for all the others. So, in effect, we are stuck with this form of selecting a leader. The poet W.H. Auden said, “We are free to choose, but choose we must.”
Many Democrats are already conducting their business as if Hillary is the presumptive candidate. Sure, she may have some competition from the even-more-liberal-than-the-Clintons part of the party, but that is just about playing out the game. We may already know the end result.
I’m not ashamed to admit that since I have been voting, I’ve always voted for Republican candidates for president except for the two times when Bill Clinton ran for office. That’s right, I do not agree with most of what Bill Clinton represents but I voted for him anyway due to a combination of factors.
The first time Bill ran, it was against George H.W. Bush, otherwise known as Bush 41. The thing that pushed me to vote for Clinton back in 1992 was the fashion in which the senior Bush, along with his secretary of state, Jim Baker, treated Israel. There was a coldness and aloofness to the way in which they regarded Israel and I found it unwise and objectionable.
I had a feeling that Bill Clinton—like all presidents before him—would do his utmost to get Israel to concede large portions of her country in exchange for a flimsy commitment to peace. But I also sensed that he would not be doing so because he had a deep-seated or personal belief in that direction. Unlike our current president, Clinton may have favored the Arab position on peace, but it was not what consumed him or the sum total of who he was.
With Barack Obama, one senses that all very well may be crumbling all around him, but if there is nothing else he gets done in eight years at the White House, he will maneuver Israel into a more vulnerable situation or to the point where they would be forced to make concessions in order to survive.
Support for Israel from the Obama administration is not because of the president but rather in spite of the president. Those conditions should improve going forward despite Mr. Obama’s possible desire to the contrary.
Which brings us back to Hillary. As secretary of state during the first Obama administration, she reportedly logged about a million miles flying to capitals and trouble spots around the world. The good thing about Hillary is that Israel knows her—she was a U.S. senator here in New York and she is Bill Clinton’s wife.
Certainly as president, she too will want to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians. But it will not be one of those things that she must get done if it’s the last thing she does. She knows that Israel wants peace and that the Palestinians are an intractable and cagey enemy that cannot be trusted. With them, an agreement is not an agreement and a word is not a word.
Like Bill, if she is elected, she will want to enjoy her presidency and not get dragged into petty, semantically contorted debates at the UN about whether Israel is or is not a Jewish state. What’s it to her whether or not a Jewish Temple or two stood on the Temple Mount? She’s not going to stake her presidency on any of that. She’s not going to let the Palestinians’ obduracy or double-talking ruin her good time—and that’s good.
Still, we would be much better off with a Republican president in the White House in 2016. But if Hillary wants it, the experts say, the Republican candidate might as well be Bob Dole or John McCain again.
Things might be different if Chris Christie decides to run. The thing I like about Christie is the same thing that I used to like about Bill Clinton. Christie can think on his feet. He knows the issues and does not need notes or a teleprompter to communicate his positions on any number of issues. Clinton was like that and actually so was the senior George Bush.
Another attractive thing about Christie is that he is so overweight. No, I’m not saying that it is an attractive feature. But Christie has been open and honest about his weight problem. He grapples with it and makes an attempt to knock off some pounds, with which he has had some minimal success over the last few years.
The way I see it, this country in large part elected Barack Obama because the move allowed the U.S. to break the color barrier at the presidential level. He was once as impressive a candidate as he is now a disappointment as president.
As for Hillary, rest assured that the interest in her as a candidate for the presidency is not because of any talent deficit in the Democratic Party. Aside from Hillary’s experience as a First Lady (not too impressive), her tenure as New York senator and her stint as secretary of state may have prepared her for the White House. All that experience is eclipsed by the fact that if she were successful in 2016, she would be the first female president of the United States.
Considering the fashion in which African-Americans unquestionably support black candidates and the way in which many women speak in unison about Hillary, how far of a stretch of the imagination would it be to say that Chris Christie stands a good chance at attracting the overweight vote should he run in 2016?
The discussion about the plague of obesity in this country is almost continuous. Statistically, over 30% of the country is technically obese—that’s 50 or more pounds overweight. A segment of that group is 100 pounds above the weight they should be. To put it in blunt, Christie-style phraseology, the country just may be ready for a fat man as president.
All the presidents that I can recall over the last few decades were somewhat physically fit, perhaps with the exception of Mr. Clinton, whose weight used to fluctuate. Conceivably, an election between Mr. Christie and Mrs. Clinton could be billed a heavyweight championship of sorts, though on the scale Mr. Christie would be the clear winner.
For now, although there are some formidable Democratic candidates who can chart a new course for the party in what will be the post-Obama era, the country as a whole seems obsessed with Hillary. It is as if the presidency is hers for the asking. It’s an odd way for a country like this to select leaders. While I would prefer Republican leadership at the White House, I am not uncomfortable with another Clinton presidency. And the reason is that she is not an ideologue, but rather a pragmatist. Unlike Mr. Obama, whose campaign promise was to fundamentally change America, something that did not exactly work out so well, we need leadership that allows the United States to be itself. Keep the change.
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at email@example.com.