James Moore: Hillary Clinton is brilliantly qualified to be president
Moore: But it is time for America to move on to a new generation of leaders
He says age is an important factor; do we want another Clinton dynasty?
Moore: Hillary can make a gracious exit; U.S. should look forward rather than back
Editor’s Note: James C. Moore, a Texan, is a business consultant and partner at Big Bend Strategies. He is co-author of “Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential” and a TV political analyst.
Don’t run, Hillary.
Nobody is saying the former secretary of state, New York senator, U.S. and Arkansas first lady, and Yale-trained attorney is not qualified for the White House. In fact, she may have one of the most impressive résumés to ever be submitted for the job. Clinton has a breadth of experience that indicates she has every capability needed to be president of the United States.
But it is time for America to move on.
The first argument against another Clinton candidacy is generational. Baby boomers need to release their arthritic fingers from the torch of leadership and pass it off to another generation. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama will have accounted for 24 years of the presidency by 2016, which seems more than sufficient. Clinton’s election potentially extends boomer influence in a manner that risks creating a generation gap that further increases political disaffection among young voters.
Age is another important consideration, regardless of howls of outrage on this question by her supporters. Clinton would be 69 when she raised her right hand for the oath of office. She would be the second-oldest person to become president – younger than Ronald Reagan by several months.
The pressures of the White House amplify the afflictions of time. Arguably, an optimal president combines an earned wisdom and natural intellect with the residual energy of youth. No one does this by turning 70 during their first year as president, which would be Clinton’s status.
Although doctors pronounced her perfectly healthy after a recent scare with a blood clot on the brain, the probabilities of geriatric disease in office are very real for someone who might be 77 at the end of a second term.
Reagan’s comportment during his last years suggests that he had already begun moving behind the veil of Alzheimer’s. This is not ageism. An accumulation of years defines our range of capabilities, physically and intellectually, and the Clintons as well as the nation need to confront the question of whether a person in their mid-70s is the best to serve as president. The obvious answer is no.
There is, nonetheless, no underestimating the cultural importance of the first female president and the glory it will bestow upon history’s grandest democracy. The Democratic Party, too, will have an interest in being the political organization that gave the country its first female as well as African-American presidents.
Clinton, who is properly positioned with experience, has other challenges that impede her getting a chapter in future textbooks as the first woman in the Oval Office.
America is weary of limited political choices and dynasties. A second Clinton presidency might culminate in 28 years of Clinton-Bush control. We are, more than ever, a nation that desperately needs to renew itself with what is different and hopeful and visionary. Unfortunately, there is too much that is predictable with a second Clinton candidacy.
No one needs a time machine to look into the future and see the grainy video in TV attack ads with a baritone voice rattling on about Benghazi or mumblings about how her husband enriched himself by accumulating a net worth of $55 million since leaving office.
“Don’t the Clintons have enough?” the voice would ask. “And hasn’t America had enough of the Clintons?”
In spite of the fact that Clinton’s accomplishments as secretary of state are significant, including diplomatic efforts that averted a war between Israel and Hamas, she is likely to be forced to endure campaign onslaughts accusing her of character flaws for forgiving her husband’s indiscretions, which means the electorate probably has to endure at least some painful flashbacks.
This is not, however, a recommendation to back away from a fight. Clinton has proved that her political knuckles are toughened with gristle, and she can skillfully marginalize absurd allegations from her opponents. Instead of running and winning a fierce campaign, there might be a more honorable endeavor for the former secretary of state.
There is always a right moment to leave the stage, and failing to recognize that timing can lead to a lingering image that, in the longer term, overwhelms the accomplishments of a person in the prime of their powers.
Hillary Clinton can make a gracious exit. Yes, she has every right to run for president and is brilliantly qualified for the job. That does not mean, however, she is the best person at this time in America’s narrative.
There is also nothing inexorable about anyone’s presidential candidacy, regardless of how vehemently it is argued by Clinton’s backers. Presumptive candidacies, which appear initially like logical choices that are the consequence of devotion and hard politics, often tend toward failure. The Dole, McCain and Romney nominations, presumed candidates with generationally disconnected politics, have sundered the GOP’s power for possibly decades.
Running for president because it is expected and seems like an obvious decision are clearly not the right motivations.
Clinton’s service to her country has already transcended even the starry-eyed youthful dreams she shared with her husband. Beyond her time in office as U.S. senator, and as secretary of state, and as counsel to Bill during his presidency, the namesake foundation she leads with her husband and daughter is having a profound impact in this country and internationally, facilitating education, health care and nutritional programs. That nonprofit needs her guidance and initiative.
America, though, is ready for different choices representing a new generation for president.
Don’t run, Hillary.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of James C. Moore.