It’s Mothers Day, so not surprising that the arc of the personal narrative for 2016 presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton would be motherhood and her impending grandmotherhood.
At least that’s what Vogue magazine has done with what it describes as an “exclusive excerpt” from Mrs. Clinton’s new memoir, “Hard Choices,” to be released next month.
Her own mother’s childhood “was marked by trauma and abandonment,” she writes, including apparent treatment that today likely would have brought intervention by social service agencies. It may help explain Clinton’s faith – Methodism and the social gospel – as well as her liberal outlook on government’s role in healthcare, which she took on as first lady when her husband was president.
“Even in her 90s, Mom never lost her commitment to social justice, which did so much to mold and inspire me when I was growing up,” Clinton writes.
Dorothy Howell Rodham (who died in 2011 at age 92) left the not-so-tender care of abusive relatives when she was 14, working as a nanny and housekeeper for room and board plus $3 a week. Her life got better with help from kind adults, including school teachers – a history of collective upbringing no doubt influencing Clinton’s earlier book “It Takes a Village.”
Will any of this make a difference if she chooses to run for the White House? Perhaps. Personal history did for Barack Obama – a kid of mixed race raised by a single mother and loving grandparents – as indeed it did for Bill Clinton, also raised by a single mother in less than silver-spoon circumstances, then acquiring an Ivy League education as did Obama.
But it’s what has transpired in more recent years that her opponents and most voters will be considering for the most part.
The Whitewater and Travelgate episodes when Mr. Clinton was president. Her tackling of health care, which still rankles many critics – not only because it will be seen in the light of Obama’s controversial Affordable Care Act but because she seemed to muscle her way into government policy as a private, unelected citizen. The Monica Lewinsky affair, brought to mind again today with Ms. Lewinsky’s piece in Vanity Fair.
The Lewinsky affair could cut both ways for Republicans.
“It’s another reminder of the sort of baggage that surrounds the Clintons,” GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak told The Hill magazine. “Is this helpful to them? No, of course it isn’t. It could force [Hillary Clinton] to answer questions about the marriage and Bill’s past sins, and that’s obviously not an area they want to get into.”
On the other hand, warns Ford O’Connell, another GOP operative, “The Monica Lewinsky episode was a minefield for Republicans in 1998, and it is going to be a minefield for Republicans who raise it now.”
More to the point of her possibly seeking the presidency, there’s her tenure as Secretary of State.
Republicans are eager to tie her to the administration’s failures to prevent and then adequately follow up on the 2012 attack by Islamic militants on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American personnel.
“If you look at the diplomacy that was pursued in her time in the State Department, it has failed everywhere in the world,” Sen. Marco Rubio, (R) of Florida, said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday. “If she is going to run on her record as secretary of State, she’s also going to have to answer for its massive failures.”
The Daily Beast reports that under Clinton, the State Department repeatedly declined to fully go after the terror group Boco Haram responsible for the recent kidnapping of girls in Nigeria.
“The actual details of why the Clinton-run Department declined to affix the group with terrorist status are complicated – her former Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, was reportedly concerned about elevating the group among extremist outfits, and potentially giving the Nigerian government latitude to go after them in an inhumane way,” Politico’s Maggie Haberman writes. “But those explanations won’t end up being spliced into a 30-second political ad. And the story gives Republicans another chance to stoke doubts about her leadership at State.”
It's these kinds of questions – more than her role as mother and grandmother – which are likely to dominate any plans she has for higher office.