In some ways, 14 months does not seem like a very long time to be weighing the merits of the Obama administration. Then again, with the President’s brief honeymoon over and more than one-quarter of his term behind him, it’s not too early to ask what’s going on. Or to put it another way, what isn’t going on.
Historians, not partisan politicians or political pundits, will eventually determine the accomplishments of Barack Obama’s presidency. Clever biographers, in the not too distant future, might pose the question, “how would things have been different had Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama, been elected as the 44th president of the United States?” I’m not that clever, and not a biographer, but certainly some things would have been different.
Although many people discount Hillary Clinton’s eight years as First Lady, that time in Washington, combined with eight years as a U.S. senator, provided her with more than four times the D.C. beltway experience than that of the first-term senator from Illinois. Given those experiences and the relationships that Clinton cultivated, had she assumed the presidency with the same majorities in Congress and the Senate that Obama enjoyed, it is likely that much more legislation would have been passed in the first year of a Hillary Clinton administration. Included in that legislation might have been health care reform that wouldn’t have left the nation black and blue from all of the posturing, bickering and verbal assaults we have endured over the past year.
Love her or hate her, there are few politicians as well versed on national health care as Hillary Clinton. She made mistakes in trying to implement a program in her husband’s first term as president. Undoubtedly, she learned from those mistakes. And she learned from her time in the Senate where she became known for her willingness to cross the aisle to negotiate and compromise with the other side. Windows of opportunity, as Obama now knows, open for a very brief period of time. Hillary Clinton would have seen 2009 as a historic moment to reform health care and her experience, political insights, intelligence and determination might have made all the difference.
Granted, Hillary Clinton would have inherited, as Barack Obama did, two wars and the worst economy that most Americans have ever experienced. The diplomatic skills that she has demonstrated as a globetrotting Secretary of State would have served her well in determining America’s future in Iraq and Afghanistan. And let’s face it, much to the surprise of some of Obama’s supporters, Obama’s plan for those two countries ended up looking very similar to what Hillary Clinton might have done as president. On the economic front, Clinton may have implemented some of the same measures that Obama did, but no doubt, “It’s the economy, stupid” would have resurfaced as President Clinton’s mantra.
Additional experience will breed accomplishments for Obama as he continues in his first term. A second term could be bolstered, however, by having Hillary Clinton, not as his Secretary of State, but as his vice-president.
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