A lot of this was originally written as part of an email conversation with a friend, with a greater focus on contrasting Clinton with Obama. Nevertheless, I think it’s still relevant to her 2016 campaign.
Clinton voted for the authorization to use military force in Iraq (a move that gave Bush the power to declare war, even though the Constitution says that only Congress can declare war). Meanwhile, Obama had been actively speaking out against it, saying that he does not oppose all wars but he does oppose “a dumb war”. Note this speech he gave back in 2002:
As Mike Gravel pointed out in the Democratic debates, Hillary supported the neoconservative saber-rattling and drumming up the support for a possible “second Iraq” by also voting to declare Iran a terrorist state. See this video where he confronts her about this in the debates. And then she laughs at him.
A little background on Mike Gravel is in order. He has been a tireless anti-war advocate for decades. He’s known for divulging the lengthy texts of the leaked “Pentagon Papers” into the Congressional record for permanent posterity, in an effort to end the Vietnam war.
The prospect of killing hundreds of thousands more in a second Iraq was a deadly serious matter for Gravel, and whether or not Clinton’s justification was valid, her belittling laughter in the face of such a grievance was very disappointing to me. And I have my doubts about her stated justification for that vote. An account at the time countered, “None of the other Democratic senators running for president supported the measure, arguing that it helps President Bush build a case for war with Iran.”
On the general subject of character and temperament (which I admit is very subjective) there were a number of comments from Hillary Clinton in which the tone and content struck me as overly zealous, and lacking the kind of calm that I think is essential in a pragmatic and effective leader.
Here’s a segment by noteworthy liberal stalwarts Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, addressing Clinton’s claim that she and McCain would “put forth a lifetime of experience”, while Obama would run merely on a speech he made in 2002. Her original comments are here. Maddow argues that’s the kind of thing you say if you’re running to be McCain’s VP. It’s not what you say if you’re running for the nomination of the same party. It’s also just plain offensive. Obama came from a humble upbringing and became the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review, among many other impressive accomplishments. Regardless of which of them was the better nominee, it was just outrageous for her to portray him as an otherwise unqualified candidate who just “gives pretty speeches”.
Now here was one of her responses to some negative ads from the Obama campaign. (Ironically, Chelsea Clinton recently attacked Bernie Sanders on his health care plans, presumably in coordination with Hillary.) I think in that clip, she truly seems unhinged. I don’t doubt that the Obama campaign sent out some negative campaign literature, but she could have responded calmly with objective facts. That would have instilled more confidence in me than a reaction in which she seemed to be letting her anger get the best of her, as if she was on the verge of exploding. I want the leader of the free world to be able to deal with such an incredibly stressful job with immense calm and composure. By comparison, Obama operated as if he was on Xanax.
Then there was the controversy about Obama being a secret Muslim. In this 60 Minutes interview, Clinton says Obama’s not a Muslim, “as far as I know”. As far as she knows? Really? It’s as if she was cynically trying to leave open the possibility.
This all relates back to the Rachel Maddow point that Clinton’s rhetoric was more like what you’d say if you were running to be McCain’s VP. Arianna Huffington actually responded with an article entitled, “John McCain Should Go on Vacation, Hillary Clinton is Doing His Job for Him”.
Clinton also supported a bill to make flag-burning a crime.
She also introduced (with Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh) a bill to criminalize those who “peddle” violent games to kids. This was later ruled unconstitutional by a 7–2 Supreme Court decision. See this Rolling Stone article about it.