I am not a Hillary fan. I withheld my vote entirely in her last Senate race; I could not vote for her opponent, but I have found her tenure in the Senate to be frustrating and bordering on cowardly, and I don't understand her popularity.
She has about a safe a seat as one can get, and yet I have yet to see her take a position that entailed any political risk whatsoever. Her vote authorizing the use of force in Iraq is a prime example. Her floor remarks
gave plenty of reasons why it would have been a mistake to use force at that time, but she said she was voting yes anyway because she was taking the president "at his word that he will try hard to pass a UN resolution and will seek to avoid war, if at all possible" (despite the evidence at the time that this administration was not to be taken at its word on anything). But the language of the resolution had no such requirements; it was essentially a blank check to the administration. Any competent lawyer knows that if you don't have the language, you don't have the deal, and I think she's too smart not to know what she was doing.
Also, there was a substitute offered by Senator Levin that would have required Bush to at least attempt the diplomatic approach in the UN that Clinton said she wanted, but she voted against it. Why did she vote against an authorization mandating the approach she approved of and for an authorization that didn't? To me it seems obvious: it was calculated political cover for her next election, because going to war was by far the more popular option and she'd look bad if she voted no and the war went well. Now, that's not necessarily something to be ashamed of; many of her more experienced colleagues made the same calculation. But instead of coming clean about it, she says she was mislead. She might have gotten my vote, and the votes of many others, if she admitted that it was a failure of leadership early in her political career, that she had learned from her mistake, and as president she would never let it happen again.
And when it became safe to be against the war, she turned against it. She gave Rumsfeld a good dressing-down in his final year in office, but she said things others had been saying for years instead of saying it years ago when it might have mattered. And Rumsfeld was probably the most disliked member of the cabinet. Taking him on was hardly a profile in courage.
When she was asked recently about she'd address the fiscal problems of Social Security, she said she wouldn't raise the benefits age, and she wouldn't raise the wage tax cap. Well, what would she do? Appoint a commission. We don't need a commission to tell us what we (and prior commissions) already know, that a SS fix will require raising the benefits age, raising taxes, cutting benefits, or some combination of those options. I think she won't admit to any of those options out of fear that she'll lose votes from some constituency or other, but the failure to address the problem doesn't inspire any confidence in me for her. (In fact, it's not her responsibility to save SS; it's the public's responsibility to say what we're willing to do to save SS if we think it's so important. But Clinton, and many others, fail us by failing to ask us if we're willing to take action on SS and many other issues where public action is required to create the change the public says it wants.)
Clinton said she favored a statute to ban flag desecration, but opposed a constitutional amendment on the subject, without which a statute would almost certainly be struck down. This strikes me as a pretty blatant inconsistency, an attempt to avoid alienating her upstate and downstate constituencies.
Her fundraising for her last Senate campaign was borderline offensive, if not actually over the line. She wrote she might be Swift-boated and would need money to respond, so please give now. But her appeals disregarded the possibility that she wouldn't be Swift-boated (as turned out to be the case), failed to explain why she couldn't ask for money after any such Swift-boating, and neglected to mention that she'd win even if she were Swift-boated because she barely had an opponent. Do you know she ran the most expensive Senate campaign in the country, spending over $40,000,000? That money wasn't about winning the Senate race, in which she got 67% of the vote; it was about setting up her presidential run--which of course wasn't mentioned in any of her fundraising appeals. I think this lack of candor was dishonest.
Still, if she were the Democratic nominee, I would vote for her over any of the Republicans who think that any problem we face can be solved with tax cuts that miraculously pay for themselves. I also share MarcC'c concerns about civil liberties, the environment, and the Supreme Court (though I'm one of those pro-choicers who think choice isn't necessarily constitutionally protected). But I think the nation needs a fundamental restoration of the relationship between the people and their government, and I don't see Clinton as the best person to provide the necessary leadership for that to happen. She seems too willing to play the game as it exists if it works in her favor, rather than changing the game which might entail some risk but could transform politics for the better. That last point doesn't make her any worse than any of the Republicans, but I think either Obama or Edwards are better choices.
It's odd to me that some people think she's the only candidate that could win (strong enough to withstand the Republican attack machine), while others think she's the only one who could lose (polarizing, energizing the otherwise dissatisfied Republican base and alienating moderates). I think she'd be in a tough race against McCain, while a McCain-Obama race would be fascinating (as would a McCain-Edwards contest).