Hillary Clinton, “it’s your time” to run the White House

She’ll have a hard time dealing with countries like Pakistan.

Ahson Saeed Hasan April 13, 2015
United States may finally have a female head of state. Hillary Clinton has formally announced that she will run for president in 2016 and perhaps be the next occupant of the White House.

We’ve been listening to rumours and whispers for as long as one can remember but after tons of denials, rejections and I-don’t-knows, the former first lady and later on secretary of state has decided to give a second shot at the presidency, the so-called ‘highest glass ceiling of American politics’.

The April 12, 2015 announcement didn’t come as a shock. From the time when President Barack Obama was re-elected for a second term, speculations about Hillary’s run have been in the news so much so that many thought that she was unduly stealing the limelight from the president when he, in fact, needed more exposure to highlight his policy decisions and future plans to deliver on his promises.


Now that it’s written in stone, Hillary’s candidature will be the talk of the town for the foreseeable future. She’s a charismatic personality, one who has done remarkably well as an individual and as a supportive, better-half of one of America’s most-loved presidents in recent history.

Hillary will be a force to be reckoned with in the 2016 election. Part of me thinks that it’ll be a walk in the park for her for the simple reason that neither the Democrats, at the nomination stage, nor the Republicans, at the general election stage, have anyone to challenge her credentials and popularity. This is a woman who is resilient and has survived the tests of time over and over again. No matter what her detractors say, Hillary is the woman for the White House.

However, beyond the realm of passion and gullibility, Hillary will have some work to do before she can get to a stage when the road to the executive mansion is cleared of the potholes and bumps. She’ll have to answer questions, connect with people and face a barrage of criticism and scepticism from her opponents. As we will witness in the coming weeks and months, there’s plenty of negativity and mudslinging that the Republicans are ready to indulge in.

Hillary’s record as the secretary of state wasn’t the greatest and her performance was not stellar, to say the least. For instance, there are more question marks about her handling of the Benghazi affair that resulted in loss of critical American lives and the Republicans have neither forgiven nor forgotten to exploit the issue to their favour. Granted Hillary’s testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee soon after the attack was historical and forthright, it did not stop the right-wingers and the Tea Partyers to make a mockery of the situation and drag the issue as long as they could benefit from it. Benghazi will be one tough hurdle to cross.

Then there’s this lack of connection issue between Hillary and the man on the street, especially when it comes to economy. She’s not a typical American with an ordinary bank account. She and her husband have made a fortune that is often seen as a disadvantage when trying to communicate with the little people. However, this will not be the first time when a super-duper rich individual will be a White House candidate. The video that announced her presidential bid can potentially be seen as a first step toward bridging the much-touted gap that exists between the Clintons and the middle class.

Moreover, Hillary has her husband, Bill, on her side that’ll prove to be a tremendous asset on at least a few counts. For instance, Hillary’s catch-22 is her inexperience with respect to domestic US politics. She was and remains a vocal advocate of universal healthcare but then that’s about it. What is generally overlooked is that she did play an active role as the first lady during her husband’s years in the White House and hence is not oblivious or foreign to US domestic politics or issues. This is where Bill’s charm will play a crucial role, a trump card that none of her adversaries, foes or opponents will ever possess. Bill is a super weapon, a Casanova and he’s on Hillary’s side. The Bill-Clinton factor is a fact of life and there’s nothing ‘hilarious’ about it.

Hillary and Bill Clinton at Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, Iowa, in September. Photo: Reuters

Additionally, Hillary has got a trusted team of people who are well-versed in the scope and deliverables of US affairs and hence shouldn’t find it hard to tackle and manoeuvre around churning out a domestic agenda and working on it if she gets into the White House. She’s got all the right people helping her out.

Hillary’s Achilles heal could be the email controversy from her years as the secretary of state. The Republicans needed something against her. They found it and ran with it over-excitedly, bare-naked and unashamed. Big deal, I say. If Hillary’s emails were hacked by anti-US spies, one is sure that the US intelligence community was on top of the matter and was able to do damage control much before the story was leaked out. To me, it was just like the Pope making the headlines regarding the Armenian genocide – a justified but late reaction, one that caused unnecessary ripples and rekindled unwarranted feelings of hatred.

Hillary’s involvement in the Whitewater affair and her vote for the Iraq war that has turned out to be a real pain in the neck for the US are a couple of other monumental disasters that can count against her. However, once again, it’s been so long that these ‘events’ happened, the American public should let go of those issues and move on. Understood that it is not easy to move on, yet Whitewater and Iraq might not bring the kind of mileage that Benghazi can get for the Hillary antagonists.

The Clintons have no problems with fund raising. They are, as a matter of fact, champion fundraisers and enjoy the backing of the rich and famous, including the much respected Warren Buffett, a clean businessman who means well and one who has no skeletons in his closet. Hillary’s stint as a New York senator helped make healthy connections with Wall Street tycoons and that’ll prove to be her real asset as she runs for presidency.

Amongst other challenges, Hillary may face some difficulty in defining her role as a candidate and narrating her stance on different issues in a changed world. It’s been a while since she sought support for her ideas and stance on policy matters. Yes, she’s been vocal and active but there’s a lot that needs to be put out there about what she stands for and how she’ll deal with the pressing issues, as they exist today. Basically she should cut-out the nonsense and get straight to business without wasting any time; get involved and have an honest heart-to-heart conversation on one-on-one basis or in small town hall settings. The people would like to hear the new and authentic Hillary Clinton and make a determination about her fitness to be in the White House.

Hillary’s position on foreign policy issues is known to all and sundry. It’s not really her position that may hold the edge but her experience as a diplomat that’ll weigh heavily against the odds. This is a versatile individual with a worldview of matters, a strategic thinker and a resolute doer of things.

As madam secretary, Hillary was controversial but the fact that she’s been exposed to all kinds of international relations dynamics is a huge plus that’ll facilitate her dealing with the twists and turns of the foreign policy arena. Challenges to US foreign policy will continue to increase. She’ll have a hard time dealing with countries like Pakistan.

Will ‘President Hillary Clinton’ be beneficial to Islamabad’s interests?

This is not a black and white issue or an easy question to answer.

Pakistan’s former prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, shaking hands with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Islamabad. Photo: AFP

During her years as secretary of state, Hillary did show lack of trust in dealing with Pakistan but did visit the country in 2011 to build confidence. The fact that she knows how to negotiate and win friends may work out well for both sides. US strategic interests will be undergoing a transformation as the forces in Afghanistan leave at the end of this year. President Ashraf Ghani’s overtures have been encouraging as far as relationship building with Pakistan is concerned.

Also, with Washington breaking the ice with Iran, Islamabad may need to reconfigure priorities sooner rather than later with its south-western neighbour. The now on, now off relationship with Tehran must change.

One cannot but stress enough on the importance of pursuing a friendly path with India. The Americans want a peaceful South Asia and would like to see the two nuclear powers of the region to behave as mature, grownups and not as quarrelling kids fighting over trivial matters. There’s only so much that Washington can do to patch up and deescalate tensions. What matters is how the leaders of India and Pakistan deal with the short and long term goals based on friendship and peaceful co-existence. True, Hillary’s diplomatic experience during her years as the first lady as well as the secretary of state will come in handy but the bottom line is that South Asia needs to clean up its own mess and work for the common good of their people.

In my humble opinion, if all goes according to plan – trust me, I’ve been told that an incredible amount of planning has been put in place prior to the announcement of the presidential bid – realistically speaking Hillary Rodham Clinton stands a fair chance to win the 2016 US presidential elections. The Republicans, so far, do not have a candidate who can truly catch the eye. Jeb Bush has the obnoxious ‘Bush’ attached to his name. He’s an honourable politician and may claim to be his own man; yet, the public is not ready for another Bush.

The others are just nobodys – empty vessels who have a nuisance value but not national politics, White House-stuff. Essentially they are stage players who have entertainment value, nincompoops in their own right but don’t have the long haul gut to face either the public or a strong candidate as Hillary Clinton. Moreover, the Republican Party is too disconnected and radicalised that has scared away voters lately. Yes, they were able to do well in the 2012 elections but that was only because the Democrats messed up big time.

The fact that Hillary’s announcement tweet was viewed three million times speaks volumes of the growing influence of social media in politics. Barack Obama, the candidate, made a monstrous impact on the American public in 2008 through social media. Hillary’s campaign managers and advisors, especially the trusted Huma Abedin, are smart folks who know the ways of the world.

They’ll be up on their toes and down in the trenches to attract the teeming social media millions. These days it’s all about making that 140-character or 20-second splash. The rest is history and no one cares about it. Literally the human attention span has gone to the dogs. It’s been tweeted away in an Instagram.

As a keen observer of politics, yours truly is truly excited, excited by the life and times we live and breathe in, excited by the time between now and November 2016 that can potentially deliver a female president and a first-gentleman in the White House. Beyond all the doubts and disarray that characterises American politics today, Hillary Clinton could be the best news for the country that can depolarise and bring us all together.

I know that Pakistanis love to keep an eye on the British royals. Trust me, the Clintons are way more fascinating, more so because they are not only self-made but also in step with changing times.
Ahson Saeed Hasan The writer is a proud American and a peacenik who has travelled to over 80 countries and lived in four continents. He tweets @tweetingacho (https://twitter.com/tweetingacho)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.