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A recent Gallup survey shows Hillary Clinton with a 64% favorability rating. She is the clear favorite for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. But why is Hillary so popular?
She came on the national scene in 1992 as presidential candidate Bill Clinton's feminist wife. Hillary saved his campaign by sitting stoically beside him on 60 Minutes as he admitted "causing pain in my marriage," but denied an affair for which there was recorded evidence.
Bill promised voters they would "get two for the price of one," and once elected promptly put Hillary in charge of health care reform. She botched it. Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, but her complex plan never made it to a floor vote. That debacle helped Republicans capture Congress in 1994.
An independent counsel investigating the Whitewater scandal subpoenaed her law firm billing records. For two years she denied knowing their whereabouts. Then, mysteriously, they turned up in her White House sitting room! Another independent counsel investigating the replacement of White House travel officers with Arkansas cronies concluded that Clinton made "factually false statements."
When Bill defiled the Oval Office with a tawdry affair with an intern, lied about it to the public and under oath, paid an $850,000 settlement to another accusing woman, lost his Arkansas law license, and was disbarred by the U. S. Supreme Court, Hillary stood by her man.
After he left office in a blaze of venal pardons, she won a U. S. Senate seat from New York as a carpetbagger candidate. Hillary supported the Iraq War resolution after asserting that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but opposed the successful troop surge in 2007.
She began the 2008 presidential race as the Democratic frontrunner. Her biggest campaign moment was a much ballyhooed comeback in New Hampshire after she cried and used a quivering voice at a press conference. Both Clintons played the so-called "race card" with controversial comments against Barack Obama, but the newcomer ultimately bested her for the nomination.
As Secretary of State, Clinton has seen Iran and North Korea steadily progress toward nuclear power status. Her "reset" with Russia failed miserably. She called Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak's regime "stable" shortly before it fell, and justified administration passivity in Syria on grounds that some considered its brutal dictator Bashir Assad a "reformer."
Requests for more security at the U. S. mission in Benghazi, Libya went unheeded on her watch. A recent report by congressional Republicans claims the administration made "a concerted attempt to insulate the Department of State from blame" after a mob killed 4 Americans there.
Clinton is now giving speeches for $200,000 a pop. She is admittedly experienced, smart, tough, and a political survivor. But her personality is not particularly appealing, her positions are run-of-the mill Democratic liberalism, and her list of actual accomplishments is meager.
So how does she command such a national following? Is it sympathy for suffering through her philandering husband's infidelities and lies? Is it nostalgia for the relative peace and prosperity of his scandal-plagued administration? Is it a desire to break down another barrier by electing a female president?
Obama undoubtedly benefited from a similar urge of some Americans to expiate national guilt for slavery and segregation by electing a black president. As we have seen, however, such sentiments, although understandable, indeed even admirable, are not the best basis for choosing a leader.
Perhaps it is that Clinton compares so favorably to the mediocre field of other potential Democratic nominees. Her biggest competitor for the party's nomination is the buffoonish Vice-President Joe Biden. Yet Clinton looked like a sure thing in 2008 until she went head-to-head against Obama.
Could New York governor Andrew Cuomo or Maryland governor Martin O'Malley upset the Clinton bandwagon in 2016? Maybe. In the meantime, politicians in both parties must marvel at her remarkable popularity.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com.