Will Clinton’s Advisors Tell Her the Hard Truths?

I know it seems a geological eon ago, but in the wake of Clinton‘s major Wisconsin defeat, remember the resignation of  campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle? And how Doyle never told Clinton about the campaign’s massive hemorrhaging of cash, while Clinton kept Solis in the dark when she took out her $5 million personal loan? I couldn’t clear my mind from the endless tape loop of "a candidate ready to lead on day one," and started wondering what that incident reveals about Hillary Clinton’s competence, transparency and trust.


In fact, I wonder whether she specifically surrounds herself with people who are so intimidated they can’t even stand up and disagree with her, or tell her bad news. Personal loyalty is fine, but we’ve had plenty of that in the current administration, with disastrous results. The charges and counter-charges around Doyle’s departure suggest either that Clinton’s built a team that is sharply lacking in basic skills, like high school math, or that she has a character that makes people afraid to challenge her, even people who’ve known her for years.


Think about her foreign policy advisors. As political scientist Stephen Zunes explores, almost every one of them supported the war in Iraq, (while Obama’s overwhelmingly opposed it), and many have spoken out on supporting the Petraeus "surge." Had Clinton surrounded herself with Iraq war skeptics, this might cast a shadow on her own stand. But these people are fine with her rationalizing it.


In fact, Hillary has a consistent pattern of refusing to admit mistakes. Had she flat out admitted her Iraq war vote was wrong, she might well now be the presumptive nominee, but she chose instead to evade its implications through an endless succession of rationalizations and technicalities. She did the same thing with her vote on a regressive bankruptcy bill, which she now claims didn’t matter since the bill ended up not passing. And she’s doing the same thing with NAFTA. Bill Clinton staked much of his political capital in making it the centerpiece of his first term achievements, in the process creating so much anger and backlash among labor and environmental activists that many stayed home and helped the Gingrich Republicans sweep to their 1994 upset victory. Now, Hillary is saying, she’d always privately argued against against it, so bears no responsibility for its hollowing out of America‘s industrial base.


So I worry that if she does get in, we’re gong to end up with one more president who lives in an insular bubble of yes-men — whatever their gender. I worry about the competence question — raised first by Clinton’s squandering of her massive lead, and underscored just today by a report that her quintessentially professional campaign failed to file enough delegates in the critical state of Pennsylvania to actually take full advantage of the votes they could gain. Successful campaigns don’t always correlate with successful presidencies, but if you’re running on the basis of experience, yet end up in such a state of melt-down your only recourse is character attacks, it’s not a good sign.


Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, named the #3 political book of 2004 by the History Channel and the American Book Association. His previous books include Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time. See www.paulloeb.org To receive his articles directly email [email protected] with the subject line: subscribe paulloeb-articles 

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