Election Night appetizer — Obama’s right hand
Who will win the election? Barack Obama or Mitt Romney? The question was raised at a lecture given to LUPEF in October by Erik Åsard, professor of North American studies at Uppsala University. No matter how interesting the analyses of these two gentlemen are, the day of this hugely important election still deserves some thoughts on a third person (and, just possibly, the next election). The person I want to talk about has been covering the headlines almost as much as the president himself for the past four years – Hillary Rodham Clinton.
By: Kristina Olausson
”Tough. Indefatigable. Patient. Smart. Knowledgeable. Superior political instincts. Funny. Loyal team player. Finds opportunities in crises and challenges. Skilled global advocate for American interests and American values.” Those are her characteristics according to TIME magazine in its annual list of the hundred most influential people in the world. Despite these glorious remarks, Hillary has also acquired the epithet: “most hated politician in the U.S.”. I ask Åsard, who has followed Hillary since her first round in the White House, if he thinks she deserves this. According to Åsard this is a result of her responsibility for the healthcare plan that failed during her husband, Bill Clinton’s time in office. After retreating from the fiasco she became a more traditional First Lady. Becoming senator in 2000 she also strengthened her national support and credibility in new areas such as military and foreign policy. This is how Hillary acquired respect, according to Åsard, and is something that she has brought with her in the role as Secretary of State. So, looking back, how has she handled this enormous task? Åsard is asked to grade her efforts on a scale of 1-10. After a few seconds of thinking the verdict falls – a strong 6. What brings her down is the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, which she and her staff did not handle well at all. If Åsard is right, Hillary will have to eat her words for this a long time afterwards.
Let’s now turn to the more positive sides of her work, because she is actually the Secretary of State and has travelled extensively during her time in office. Åsard thinks Hillary’s celebrity status has given her a great advantage in representing U.S. interests abroad. There are many who have followed Hillary on her trips around the world and seen the pictures of her sitting in an Army plane, texting to some other important person on her Blackberry. This has required an enormous amount of work and effort. The path taken under her guidance has been towards what she herself calls convening or smart power, saying that “All power has limits”. The U.S. can no longer wave the magic wand and make problems go away. They have to be solved differently. Therefore, I can’t help but wonder what the future role of the U.S. will be? The question Åsard asks is whether the foreign policy tool in use will be diplomatic negotiations or the rattle of weapons. Here lies a possible difference between the Obama and Romney administration. Which kind of policy that will be prosecuted by the White House is a matter of the result of the November elections. However, it seems as though Hillary won’t be following her President on another White House-tour. She has publicly said that she will resign after the elections, and as Åsard says: “Just thinking of her and her schedule makes you tired!”.
Before saying goodbye, I ask him a final question – does he think we will see “Hillary for President” signs in the 2016 elections? The answer is very determined: “No, we will not. Despite being a hope for the first female president in history, her time in office has been too stressful”. Åsard instead points out that there are many other ways she can be useful and influential. What these will be, we will have to wait to see after tomorrow’s election, when Hillary Rodham Clinton enters a new road in her life.
by Kristina Olausson