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Published: Thursday 31st of October 2013
Hillary Clinton has been a significant figure on the American political stage for a considerable time period, serving as the first lady of Arkansas, senator from New York, first lady of the United States and Secretary of State, but also as a lawyer and law professor, volunteer and activist. This article offers a synopsis of Clinton’s political career, from her political beginnings in the 1960s, till the present day, following the 2016 US presidential elections.
For the purpose of this article, the political career of Hillary Clinton will be divided into four main parts.
Hillary Clinton started out as a young Republican, active in the campaign of the Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater in 1964. As a student at Wellesley College majoring in political science, she supported the elections of moderate Republican candidates John Lindsey and Edward Brooke to Mayor of New York and the United States Senate respectively. Motivated by a speech given in Chicago by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., she was inspired to work in public service and became a Democrat in 1968. She was instrumental in preventing Wellesley from becoming entangled in student disruptions after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and petitioned for recruitment of more black students and faculty members at her college. Already at that time, she was regarded by fellow students as someone with a bright political career ahead of her, with a possibility of becoming the first female president of the United States.
In the following years, Clinton was a student of Yale Law School, volunteered at New Haven Legal Services providing free legal advice for the poor, advocated for civil rights of migrant workers, and interned at a law firm known for its support of civil liberties and constitutional rights. She was active in numerous advocacy projects in the State of Arkansas, such as the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, the Arkansas Educational Standards Committee, and the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. She was already publicly acknowledged to be an outstanding lawyer, with a bright political future ahead of her.
After her husband Bill Clinton was elected as Governor of Arkansas, she became the first lady of Arkansas in January 1979, subsequently holding that title for twelve nonconsecutive years. During this period, she continued to practice law and was twice named one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the USA by the National Law Journal, in 1988 and 1991. After Bill Clinton was elected president of the United States in 1992, Hillary Clinton became the First Lady. She had an active political role during her husband’s presidency. Clinton was asked to chair the Task Force on National Health Care Reform and advocated for the proposal that would oblige employers to provide health coverage to all employees through individual health maintenance organizations. This was known as the Clinton health care plan. Beyond the expansion of health insurance coverage, she promoted nationwide immunization against childhood diseases and raised public awareness of various health issues, such as breast cancer screening and childhood asthma. She sought to increase funding for prostate cancer research and was instrumental in encouraging investigation of an illness later known as the Gulf war syndrome.
In November 2000 Clinton was elected as a US Senator in the State of New York, becoming the first woman to have won elected office while or after being the first lady. Her political views changed somewhat during her tenure as US Senator, she voted in support of American engagement in the Iraq war in 2002 but was later in favor of gradual troop withdrawal. She was willing to work with Republicans on various issues and had an open dialog even with her husband’s political adversaries.
Clinton was shown to be outstanding in her political and legislative endeavors, acquiring more and more attention and support. A potential candidacy for US President has been on Clinton’s mind for some time, and in 2008 she set out to be the first woman nominated by a major political party for presidential elections and the first ever First Lady to run for president. After having lost the Democratic presidential nomination to Obama, she was offered the position of Secretary of State, which she accepted after resigning from the Senate. This marked the beginning of a new phase in Clinton’s political career.
One of the major events that occurred during her tenure as Secretary of State, which had a profound impact on her later political career, was the attack on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya. The attack happened on September 11th, 2012, resulting in deaths of the ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, and another embassy official. Clinton’s potential role in this tragic event became a matter of public scrutiny. Questions were raised as to her failure to realize the danger of trying to open a permanent consulate in Benghazi at that time, and her ignorance of the actual circumstances into which she sent ambassador Stevens. Whether Clinton was actually accountable in this matter or was she accused of it for political reasons is debatable. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the event happened during her mandate as Secretary of State, putting a certain degree of formal responsibility on her.
The following year, Clinton resigned her position as Secretary of State, having been resolved to serve only one term at this post. Although speculations have been made as to the Benghazi affair having something to do with her resignation, on the whole, her tenure as a Secretary of State could not be deemed unsuccessful. In fact, there were opinions coming from high government officials that she ran the State Department in the most effective way. Moreover, she made significant diplomatic efforts worldwide, visited more countries than any Secretary of State has ever done, and led the US response to Arab Spring, supporting some regimes, while backing protesters against others.
Generally speaking, her political career was going the right way at the time of her resignation from State Department in 2013. Clinton had everything going for her in her pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination for elections in 2016.
A rather unexpected issue came to threaten Clinton’s further political career. It became apparent that during her tenure as Secretary of State, Clinton continuously used a personal e-mail account for her official communications instead of a government account, thus violating State Department protocols. Mrs. Clinton neither had an official governmental e-mail address during the four years she served as the Secretary of State, nor did her aids take any action to preserve her e-mails on federal government servers.
In addition to the fact that the use of personal e-mail accounts led to classified information being stored outside secure government systems, all electronic communications made by the Secretary of the State should have been a matter of public record, which was not the case with Clinton’s communications. The personal server she used did not store e-mails in databases which were accessible to the public.
Subsequently, tens of thousands of e-mails were made public by Clinton’s staff members, in an attempt to show that she was not hiding anything and was ready to submit all her official communications to scrutiny by the American nation. However, a number of e-mails were deleted for reasons of being of a personal nature. This opened the door to speculation whether she could have deleted anything which was the least bit politically compromising by simply ruling it to be personal. Obviously, Clinton could have been completely truthful, but there was just no way to prove one way or the other.
Demands were made for Clinton to release her entire server to be publicly inspected which has still not happened. Public confidence in Clinton has weakened at least to a certain degree, as the result of the e-mail affair. Using e-mails sent through a privately maintained server was a serious breach of conduct expected from a high government official. It undermined the expectancy of transparency asked from any Secretary of State by the American public and raised a question whether Clinton actually had anything to hide, or what her motives for using a personal e-mail account for official communications might have been.
As the e-mail scandal came on top of Clinton’s previous involvement in the Benghazi affair, public concern about her knowledge of potential dangers in Benghazi and responsibility for the death of an American ambassador became even greater, as did the uncertainty in her truthfulness and transparency of her actions. The requested release of all documents from the personal e-mail server could potentially clear the air once and for all in this matter.
Certainly, an insight into Clinton’s official communications as Secretary of State could allow the public to get all the facts on her true role in the Benghazi affair, and to understand whether her responsibility was merely formal, as the responsibility of someone positioned high in the chain of command but not informed on all the relevant security issues by her personnel, or she was actually culpable of gross negligence of security procedures leading to a death of the United States ambassador.
After campaigning unsuccessfully for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, in April 2015 Hillary Clinton announced running for the presidency in the 2016 election. In July of 2016, Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be nominated for president by a major United States political party. This was a logical next step in Clinton’s career, after already being a renowned lawyer, the First Lady of the United States, a US Senator and the Secretary of State under Obama administration. If she wanted to advance her political career even further, there was only one thing to do, and that was – run for president.
Although the Benghazi affair and the subsequent e-mail scandal have put a dent in Clinton’s credibility, she managed to maintain considerable support and hold a significant lead over her opponent Donald Trump in national polls through most of 2016. When it almost seemed that the American people practically forgot about the e-mail scandal, came the ruling by the director of FBI James Comey that Clinton was “extremely careless in her handling of classified government material.” After that Clinton started to lose ground to her adversary and finally lost the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump. In her public concession speech, although in pain over her loss, she invited her supporters to accept Donald Trump as president of the United States. It is unsure if the e-mail scandal was what cost Clinton the presidency. Being a public servant means being constantly in the spotlight and living under a public eye all the time. It is virtually impossible to keep your actions above reproach at all times, therefore scandals and gaffes are a common part of all presidential campaigns. If lack of transparency in e-mail correspondence was a problem Clinton had to deal with, surely her opponent had his own skeletons in the closet, so to speak. During presidential campaigns opposing political parties make it a point to dig out everything that might hurt the other candidate’s chances of winning. Ultimately, however, for Hillary Clinton, the e-mail scandal might have proven to be an insurmountable obstacle for becoming a president, despite her remarkable long-standing political career.
After the elections, Clinton is resolved not to seek public office again. She founded “Onward together” a political action committee intended to promote progressive values by inspiring people to organize, take action and get involved.
To summarize, this article attempted to give an overview of Hillary Clinton’s political career. After covering her political beginnings, her engagement as an outstanding lawyer and advocate for civil liberties and constitutional rights, it went on to depict her position as the first lady of the United States, and later service as the US senator and Secretary of State under Obama administration. It discussed the political repercussions of the Benghazi affair and the infamous e-mail scandal. Finally, it gave an account of Clinton’s run for the presidency in the 2016 elections and its aftermath.
It is not an overstatement to assume that Hillary Clinton has had an extremely impressive political career. She has been an outstanding public servant and has dedicated her life to causes she deemed worthy, namely the protection of civil rights, advancement of progressive values and equal opportunities for all. She succeeded in becoming a highly respected figure on the American political scene, although causing a lot of public debate and controversy.