When the arrogant 50’s thinking Secretary of Defense testified before Congress last week he did no longer get away with murder. At least not before the Senate—he is still allowing troops to be murdered everyday.
Someone finally took him on. Finally refused to allow him to circumvent the issues or glaze over the truth. If you watched that hearing you saw three remarkable things. The military commanders defied the Secretary of Defense and said that civil war in Iraq was inevitable. They had to be subtle or they would have been relieved of command because this White House cannot tolerate any truth that doesn’t confirm their lies. You saw an unusually uncomfortable Republican Senate absent of the usual humorous banter and elbowing jostling insider jokes and you saw Hillary Clinton emerge as a leader, possibly even a candidate.
I’m one of those people who likes Senator Clinton. I liked her when we met as young staff for McGovern, I liked her as the First Lady, and I liked it when she became the Senator from New York. Being a part time New Yorker, I had no problem with our Senator being either an” out of towner” (in today’s always in transition preferred society who isn’t), or a celebrity. I admittedly, didn’t like it when she stayed so far in the middle of the road she was in danger of being a median. I could now leap into other traffic analogies like, we didn’t care if she gave something a red or green light but we wanted orange to remain a fruit or a homeland security warning, but I won’t. Suffice to say, she wasn’t nice, and she wasn’t careful in that hearing. She asked good questions and every time the Secretary tried to dismiss her inquiries she asked pithy follow up questions that illustrated how deceitful he was. And, it couldn’t have been easy for her because she was competing for question time with Rumsfeld who kept asking and answering his own questions.
For whatever reason the hearing took me back to the McGovern campaign in 1972. I think someone is writing a book about the people who were involved in that campaign, where life took them and the impact that their lives made on people throughout this country and around the world. Among those people were, of course, Bill and Hillary Clinton. There were a number of things that we learned from working on a campaign that we knew was futile but hoped would be successful. Maybe, we dreamed would be successful was more accurate. Or maybe we prayed that God would take all the republican first born, and there would be no need to bus the bodies to the polls. Back to our political education. We learned that success is measured not only by victory but by graceful loss. Well, maybe we thought we learned that, but the defeat was no less painful. We learned that friendship was as important as politics. Politics only happens every two or four years but friends are there forever. We learned to value loyalty and discretion. No one in the McGovern campaign parleyed inside information into a best selling book or a new career. And we learned about what we wanted for our children and our future. This was not easy since we were all children, but in that campaign we had a very specific goal—to get our troops out of Viet Nam. We didn’t win the election but eventually being focused worked. The war ended. And for most of us, that focus is what we have taken through our lives.
Did this experience have anything to do with the way Bill Clinton governed or Hillary Clinton might govern. I think so. Surely they both had and have dreams of a peaceful world for Chelsea. Certainly they know how important opportunity is for all people including women and minorities—not hand outs but opportunity. There is a difference. Having spent his life in public service the President now knows how wonderful it is to make and have money. And unfortunately that led to some errors in judgment for the Senator, —like letting millionaires give a glitzy shower for her when they bought their expensive digs in Chappaqua and Georgetown. That’s kind of a Washington gossip column item that passed but not unnoticed. It has taken time for many dedicated McGovern folks not to be embarrassed about making money. But there was no embarrassment when the Clinton’s sent Chelsea to private school because the public school education in the Nations capital is shamefully inadequate. Because developing the tools to be successful has always been important to the Clinton’s—and most of the people that worked for McGovern.
What we saw in the hearing was the Hillary that worked for Doug Coulter during the McGovern campaign. The Clintons are both highly intelligent, in fact brilliant students of issues and life. The President was able to translate that for the American people. (OK he screwed up big time and that was embarrassing, but nobody died.) Hillary is probably as smart, if not smarter but she has become so self conscious and cautious about her politics and positions that she may not have a chance to translate that beyond New York. If only she would remember that incredible McGovern focus and have the courage to share what she is really about. John Kerrey wasn’t ever able to tell us who he was. Of course, he didn’t work for McGovern. During the primaries he endorsed Muskie and by the general election Massachusetts was the only state that didn’t need help. Maybe that is a good excuse for Kerrey but not for Hillary. It is my hope this brief but memorable encounter with the elderly Secretary Rumsfeld will kick start the Bay Booming Hillary to be vocal, courageous and articulate in her desire to try to make a difference. Does Hillary emerge? Stay Tuned. We’re just sayin…