Hillary Clinton's advantage going into the final evening of the Democratic National Convention was her nonstop determination. The former first lady and secretary of state never gave up on her bid to become the first female American president. Unlike Donald Trump, she didn't just stumble into the nomination. She reached the spotlight through "steady leadership" — a euphemism for plodding on after personal scandal on an epic scale and a painful election loss in 2008.
It was a convention notable for its role reversals. Break out the tea and cookies: Supporters touted the feminist role model as a great mother first. At some moments the convention seemed like an excursion back in time, to the "The Donna Reed Show." The mommy focus served not only to humanize Clinton, but also to distract from the reckless judgment that has dogged her professional life.
President Obama talked about how everyone in the public spotlight makes mistakes. He's right. Two mistakes that have haunted Clinton through this primary, however, were not caused in the heat of chaos when there are no good decisions. To the contrary, Clinton's decision to use a home-brew server for her State Department emails, which opened a door to hostile hackers, was not thrust upon her. Likewise her hefty Goldman Sachs speaking fees — $675,000 for three talks — were not due to complex forces beyond her control. Clinton has a long-standing record of greed. No worries, the mommy theme coos, as Chelsea Clinton turned out great.
The Philadelphia confab checked all the boxes on Donald Trump's dark side. Khizr Khan — whose Army captain son, Humayun Khan, 27, died saving his comrades during a Baghdad suicide bombing — shamed Trump when he intoned, "You have sacrificed nothing." I dare any American to support a ban on Muslim immigrants after watching Khan extol the U.S. Constitution. Retired Gen. John Allen questioned Trump's judgment on military matters.
The most devastating hit on Trump came from disabled Americans and their families. Last November, in perhaps his most puerile and heartless rant, Trump jerked his arms as he made fun of a New York Times reporter with a physical disability. On the first night of the convention, Anastasia Somoza, who has cerebral palsy, slammed Trump as a man who "shouts, bullies and profits off of the vulnerable Americans." It had to be said.
Policy-wise, Clinton has moved to the left, as has the Democratic Party. She doesn't distinguish between legal immigrants and those who are here illegally. She calls both groups "immigrants," as she ignores federal laws enacted by Congress and never overturned. She waited until 2013 to support same-sex marriage, and now voices contempt for anyone so backward as to oppose it. She supports raising the minimum wage as high as $15 per hour. She assumed vanquished rival Bernie Sanders' plank to make "college tuition-free for the middle class and debt-free for all."
She wants to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United — a decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld critics' free speech right to criticize Clinton in a movie. Having buried Trump in the fundraising department by about 40-1, she promised Thursday night to "get money out of politics." She criticized Trump's temperament handling "a tough question from a reporter" — unencumbered by her own record of not holding a press conference for more than 235 days.
For me Clinton will always be the New York senator who voted for the war in Iraq, before she turned against it. (Her Iraq War vote is the reason Clinton lost the Democratic primary in 2008, and a reason so many Democrats were drawn to Sanders.)
Her 2008 her campaign ran an ad that asked whom voters wanted to answer 3:00 a.m. phone call to the White House after things have gone south in a little-known faraway hot spot. The rookie senator or the lady hawk? That was before Benghazi. Now 2016 Clinton wants to break the glass ceiling via the mommy track.
Clinton's biggest selling point is Trump, who shifts positions more readily than Clinton. "A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons," quoth Clinton. But is Trump, to paraphrase Obama, unlikable enough?
Photo credit: Ted Eytan