How Would Hillary Govern?

Joanne Butler Contributor
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After her big win in the New York primary, some are musing on Hillary’s governing style if she became president. My one sentence analysis: she’s the high priestess of the power of experts.

Consider how she developed her healthcare plan for Bill:  she gathered her favored experts into a closed room in the White House, and concocted a plan. It flopped.

Contrast that to how Bill Clinton and New Gingrich came up with welfare reform: bipartisan negotiations, with input from various sources, including members of Congress.

Meanwhile, President Obama seems to have little use for experts. He’s his own expert. And why not? He’s got an undergraduate degree from Columbia and his law degree from Harvard. Why should he rely on advice from people who hail from lesser institutions?

And why should he rely on input from the groundlings (members of Congress) when Obama holds center stage at the nation’s Globe Theater?

Look at how he managed to get Obamacare passed. First, he told the American public that if they had insurance, nothing would change for them (the now-infamous promise that you could keep your doctor). Then he made statements about what his reforms would do.  

Obama also knew the Democrat-controlled Congress had been waiting for decades to enact health care reform, and how they would happy to let the president run the public relations show from the White House.

But when it came to the task of working out the grubby details, Obama left that to the Congress, causing then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi to declare that if people wanted to know what was in the law, they’d have to read it – meaning she had no idea about the details herself.

Knowing this, here are my predictions of how a Clinton III administration would operate.

First, there will be a few holdovers from the Obama days, but many of her operatives will be either the elders from her husband’s presidency, their progeny, and Clinton foundation employees. She will cherry-pick others from left-leaning foundations that she favors.

Second, we can expect ‘initiatives’ – lots of initiatives. In the 1990s, the Clintons seemed addicted to them. First it was the ‘initiative of the week,’ later it seemed they had a new one daily.

Hillary will turn to her experts to crank out those initiatives. Again, they’ll meet in closed rooms, write legislation (or an executive order), and, ta-dah, Hillary will present her initiative as the answer to Problem X, as it was crafted by experts.

In the coming months, we can expect legions of non-profit organizations rushing to receive Hillary’s imprimatur, so they can have access to those closed rooms.

No doubt they will remember the Bill-Newt welfare reform discussions in the 1990s and how Hillary can unfriend a formerly supportive non-profit.

When Marion Wright Edelman’s Children Defense Fund opposed welfare reform, Hillary’s once-close relationship with Edelman became very frosty. It’s thawed a bit over the years – but has it thawed enough to get Edelman’s people inside those closed doors? My guess is Hillary may make some token gestures to Edelman, but not enough to allow Edelman or her group to have much influence.

Fourth, unlike her pragmatic husband, Hillary has a rigid streak, and I think it arises from how she’s depended upon her husband for her success for nearly her entire career.  

It began when Bill became Arkansas’ Attorney General in January 1977 and the next month, Hillary joined the prestigious Rose Law Firm. Yes, she was elected twice to the Senate, but Bill was a major force in those campaigns (he campaigned for her during his final year as president). Plus, she would have never been a candidate had she not been the First Lady.

Her life story shows she lacks experience in the political and everyday arts of give-and-take. She’s never sat down with someone with an opposing view and asked, how can we work this out? She hasn’t had a job interview since the early (pre-Bill) 1970s.

Her rigidity bodes ill for her ability to negotiate with Republicans. If she wins in November and one or both houses of Congress remains in Republican hands we’ll have to endure another four years of gridlock.

The main difference from the Obama-gridlock days will be its source: a woman in odd-colored pantsuits who believes in the almighty power of experts.