President Mrs. Bill Clinton?

From the Washington Post website:

Are Republicans hammering Hillary because they're too afraid of attacking each other? Or is it...

Wait a minute. "Hillary"?  Why "Hillary"?  In 1980, did we have a race between Ronald and Jimmy?  How about the 1992 battle between Bill and George?  Going back further, how about the famous Abraham-Stephen pre-Civil-War debates?

It's long been the custom to refer to politicians at the national level by their last names.  So we see headlines such as "Iowa poll shows close race for Huckabee, Romney" and know what they mean.  Similarly, we hear about Obama, Kucinich, and Guiliani.

Sometimes a last name is a little too common, and may cause confusion.  So we see less of "Edwards" and more of "John Edwards" or "Sen. Edwards."  As the race wears on, however, and with the lack of any particular other Edwardses in the news at the moment, just-plain-Edwards becomes feasible once again, so that's what we get.

Why not Clinton?  After all, there is no other Clinton running for national office at the moment, and isn't likely to be one until Chelsea reaches the constitutionally required minimum age.  Or are we anticipating the entry of Bill's brother Roger, famous pardon procurer, into the race?

In time past, headline writers would use politician's initials when the last name took up too much space - hence FDR instead of Roosevelt, and JFK in lieu of Kennedy.  With modern computer typesetting, this is less of an issue, and so we haven't seen this in some years.  In any case, something about the initials HRC seems to give off the wrong impression.  Her Royal...

Generally the media bestows such abbreviations on pols for its own convenience.  In this case, however, it's a conscious decision of the candidate.  Her official web page prominently displays a "Hillary for President" logo.  At the moment, this site has such offerings as "Join Team Hillary", "Send Hillary to the Next Debate," "Veterans Speak Out for Hillary", "Women for Hillary", "Hillary at the Iowa JJ Dinner"... ad infinitum.

In fact, the only place where her last name appears is in teeny legal print at the very bottom of the page, with the legally required notice "Paid for by Hillary Clinton for President."  One almost expects her to appear in a campaign ad, "I'm Hillary, and I approved this message."

What possible reason could there be for this tactic?

Unlike the name "Clinton", the name "Hillary" carries with it a clear display of her number one qualification for high office -- the absence of a Y chromosome.

In other countries, great female leaders found it perfectly possible to run on their own names and their own accomplishments; we did not see Maggie in England, nor do we see Angela in Germany, both of whom were equally ground-breaking in bringing their gender to power in their respective countries.  But in both cases, these were leaders who just happened to be ladies; their credentials rested not on their sex, but on what they had accomplished.

Hillary, however, has accomplished nothing.  She's generally credited for the fiasco of Hillarycare in the first Clinton administration.  She was famously in command of the Clinton political war room, which has brought us the never-ending campaign of the "politics of personal destruction."  She was also in charge of handling Bill's "bimbo eruptions" by any means necessary -- potentially a high qualification for becoming director of the CIA or FBI.

Her only elected position has been as Senator for New York.  This is a respectable post, and one which certainly legitimizes a presidential run as we see from Senators Thompson, McCain, Obama, Edwards, and so on.  Why, then, does she not refer to herself as Sen. Clinton?  She is the only Sen. Clinton we have had in a long while, so no possible confusion there.

The trouble with positioning herself as a Senator is that her tenure in Congress produced no new or upgraded legislation whatsoever.  On her own campaign web page, her accomplishments are listed.  "A powerful advocate... Strong advocacy for... introduced legislation... supported efforts to..."  Yes, but what has she done?

Is there any legislation that bears her name?  Do we talk of the Clinton-McCain campaign finance law?  Or Sarbanes-Clinton accountancy reform?  And, interestingly, one might regard a career of advocacy as being the fodder for a legislative run, not an executive one.

A president, like a governor, is not expected to be something.  A president is expected to do something - to both know what to do, and how to do it.  Leaders can fail in both departments.  At the moment, Hillary is having a bit of a struggle with the first: she cannot seem to come up with a position on the matter of granting drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants, a matter of great pressing concern to the American people and an issue on which one might reasonably expect a president to at least know their own mind.

But the best Hillary can come up with is to call upon other women - more than half the electorate, we note - to join her in cleaning up Washington:  "Bring your vacuum cleaners, bring your brushes, bring your brooms, bring your mops" quoth she, despite being about as personally familiar with a mop as Mike Dukakis was with a tank.

There's nothing wrong with having a president who is a woman - we should be so lucky as to have President Margaret Thatcher (said to be the only man in her cabinet).  It's a completely different matter to vote for someone as president simply because she's a woman.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments

A good point. She is also trying to separate herself form the other Clinton in her family. Why then doesn't she run as Hillary Rodham? ... 'Rhodham For President'! - 'Who?'

November 15, 2007 2:07 PM

Ha!  "Rhodham For President" would sound too much like "Rotten for President".  Oh, the parodies...

November 15, 2007 2:27 PM

I do not agree that Mrs. Bill Clinton goes by "Hillary" to be "the obvious woman candidate".  I think it really is just a geniune way for her to disambiguate herself from her husband.

The press corp loved Bill Clinton; they still do.  CNN ran so much stuff by the Clintons in the mid-90s that the acronym became known as the Clinton News Network.  Add to that the fact that she started her own political campaigns while he was still in office.

The usual Dick Morris line on the Clintons is that it was always "first him, then her" in politics.  It was always expected that she would be as big a force as he was; possibly more.

Modern politicians do not burp or sneeze without running a poll on where it will land.  I'm guessing that several White House staffers did some research in the early 90s and noticed that Hillary would have to be "Hillary" early on to make her own way.  And there's nothing really wrong with that.

As you accurately pointed out, there are plenty of women politicians who did not run on their first name.  Some modern politicians have started deciding to that, but it's only a reflection of marketing a younger, fresher image to the electorate.  There are men doing it too.

Of course, it helps to have a unique name.  If you're Senator Edwards, going by "John" doesn't get you a whole lot.

Remember, Condi is rarely called "Mz. Rice" by the press, and she certainly isn't a member of the feminazis.

Your other points on Hillary's lack of experience are good.  The Washington Post ran a surprisingly-good story on this last Sunday.  There is no credible reason anyone should vote for Hillary.

Golda Meir of Israel had several high ranking positions (including Foreign Ministry like our own Condi Rice) before she became Prime Minister.  David Ben-Gurion said "she was the only man in the cabinet" (a phrase often attributed to Margaret Thatcher).  She helped start the nation of Israel -- not an easy task then or now.

Mrs. Bill Clinton biggest accomplishments are nothing more than basket of generic, self-described "advocacies".

November 15, 2007 5:36 PM
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