Friday, July 18, 2014

Will She or Won't She?

I grew up in Arkansas. I lived there during most of Bill Clinton's tenure as governor.

And I feel as qualified to say this as anyone who lived in Arkansas when I did: Hillary Clinton has always been a perplexing person. (Well, at least as an adult. I can't say what she was like as a child.)

During her time in Arkansas' governor's mansion, she often took stands or made statements that cut against the grain with average Arkansans. She was a traditional feminist in most of her views, and she was unapologetic for it — which produced kind of a strange dichotomy. I knew people who frequently disagreed with her yet still admired her determination to stand up for what she believed.

Would those same people have voted for her for anything? I doubt it. To my knowledge, most never supported her husband when he ran for governor.

But they admired her integrity — and, like all first spouses, she had no legal authority in that role. She was part of the deal if they voted for Bill — even if they would not vote for her.

Two for the price of one, as Bill liked to say during the '92 presidential campaign. That seemed to upset some folks, but I barely noticed it. I had heard it before.

And I have heard what she has been saying lately before, too.

She had a conversation with PBS' Charlie Rose the other day, and she was asked about 2016.

"I'm about to have my first grandchild, which I'm thrilled about," she replied. "I can't wait. I want to see what that feels like. I'm not going to skip over it. I want to really be present, as I meet this ... new person in our family."

Can't blame her for that. I know several people who have become grandparents, and they all speak of how rewarding that relationship between grandparent and grandchild is.

I have also known many people who did not live to become grandparents. It is a privilege to live that long, and it certainly should not be taken lightly.

So Hillary's desire to be with her family is completely understandable. It is an excuse I have heard before, though.

John Mitchell served as Richard Nixon's attorney general and, for a time, as Nixon's re–election campaign manager, but he left when the Watergate investigation got too uncomfortable for him.

He gave as his reason for stepping down a desire to be with his family. That was hard for some people to swallow, given that it meant being with his wife, Martha, who had made several phone calls to reporters about the emerging scandal and alleged that political pressure was being applied to her husband and others in the administration.

That was sure to be uncomfortable to say the least, I heard many people say.

I don't think it would be that way for Hillary — except, perhaps, for those times she might have to spend alone with Bill. But Hillary would have the benefit of knowing what it feels like to be a grandmother — and sharing a new relationship with her daughter.

Well, that's a pretty good reason for not seeking the job. But Hillary didn't stop there. She spoke about the negative side as well.

Speaking as one who observed the presidency from close range as both the first spouse and the secretary of state, Hillary told Rose that the job has "gotten tougher."

Well, it always has been a big job — but I can see how it could quickly become overwhelming for anyone. A president has to be better than competent in many different areas.

The economy is still sluggish, just not quite as sluggish as it was five years ago.

Her husband's presidency was relatively peaceful, but, with terrorists and Russians on the march, who knows what kind of foreign environment she would inherit?

And then there are all those social issues that divide Americans' loyalties — guns, contraception and abortion, gay marriage, marijuana legalization, the list goes on and on. I don't think anyone will ever be able to bring Americans together on those issues, but a president is obligated to at least try. Good presidents will try to fashion some kind of compromise that, in the end, pleases no one. Not–so–good presidents won't try to do that. But the issues will still demand a lot of their time and attention.

Seems to me it would be a lot more relaxing — and a lot more fun — to play with her grandchild(ren). She and Bill have that nice big place in New York with that nice big yard that they bought back when they left the White House dead broke. Sounds like a great place to be a grandparent and play with the grandchild(ren).

Plus, if Hillary does not run, she will be able to preserve her integrity.

Just about five years ago, when NBC's Ann Curry interviewed Hillary, she asked her about 2016.

It was a direct question. "Will you run for president again? Yes or no?"

And it got a direct answer. "No."

Curry asked again and received the same response.

For someone who has always argued — albeit in a different context — that no means no, this is a good time to drive home the point.

Of course, the problem is that, when someone prominent rules out a run for the presidency, he/she experiences a spike in his/her favorability ratings.

And the whole thing begins all over again.

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