1. Hillary Clinton has more political experience than Barack Obama. By claiming this, I take it that she’s claiming her time as First Lady and as the wife of the governor of Arkansas as political experience, since otherwise she has only fractionally more political experience than Obama.

2. Therefore she was part of an administration which pushed for NAFTA.

3. But, she says, it’s unfair to say she was a supporter of NAFTA, as she wasn’t in the Senate then to vote for or against it. Plus she’s against it now. Also, she was privately against NAFTA then, but couldn’t say so.

4. Doesn’t 3 cancel out 1? If being a part of the Clinton Administration means she has political experience, then she was part of an Administration which supported NAFTA. If she wasn’t really a part of that Administration and isn’t accountable for its actions (well, leaving aside Bill Clinton’s personal behavior), then it isn’t political experience that counts.

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4 Responses to Puzzler

  1. Not all experiences are positive experiences. Just as not all experiments yield positive results, and negative results are informative even if not always publishable, she can still cite it as a kind of experience. But to do so would require a much more nuanced presentation of “experience” as a category and a much fuller accounting of the political and stylistic differences between her and her husband than she’s given: in the latter case, she’s been relying on a sort of Camelot-effect glow suggesting a return to the bountiful and non-Bush ’90s, only better.

    Better how? No idea.

  2. This doesn’t follow. You can be part of an administration and in your professional role support its policies while differing with those policies as a matter of personal philosophy. Dick Cheney, e.g., has a gay daughter, and has suggested he does not support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Nonetheless, he was part of, and gained significant experience from running serving in, an administration that pushed such an amendment. I don’t have much use for Dick Cheney, but I think it would be wrong to hold him accountable for the administration’s actions in this case.

  3. Cala says:

    Sure, but Cheney isn’t citing his experience with gay marriage as a way to win over the votes of constitutional amendment supporters. That’s what’s tricky about the Clinton position. She wants to claim thirty-five years of experience for the gravitas it lends her campaign, but only insofar as it can be described as taking credit, not accepting blame.

    In other words, she’s not running on NAFTA, DADT, or Hillarycare, but she wants the experience she had as ‘Bill’s closest aide’ to count. I don’t think she can have it both ways. Not that every political platform has to be perfectly nuanced, but to me, the ‘thirty-five years of experience’ claim is met with a visceral ‘oh please.’

  4. ikl says:

    You point to a deep incoherence in Clinton’s messaging. This is one of the reasons that she would be a weak general election candidate. The problem isn’t so bad in the Democratic primary where other candidates aren’t going to attack the Clinton White House too much because that is not a good tactic when you are trying to win votes from people who voted for Bill. But it would become a really serious problem in the general election when McCain would have no need to hold back. I don’t think that Clinton’s strategists have figured out a way to deal with this problem. NAFTA is only one example of this problem – there are lots of other variations.

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