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Commentary: Why Hillary? From close up, personal, answer is simple: She is best person for the job

This is the first of two guest columns about the upcoming presidential race, featuring personal commentaries on the top two contenders — in alphabetical order. Today: Col Owens on ‘Why Hillary?” and tomorrow Marcus Carey on ‘Why Trump’?

By Col Owens
Special to KyForward

Hillary Clinton first came onto my radar screen in 1968. I was a junior at Harvard and was dating a woman at Wellesley. We were walking through a dorm one evening when she pointed across the room and said, “you should take note of her, she’s going to be somebody someday.”

“What’s her name?” I asked.

“Hillary Rodham.”

After graduating from law school in 1977, I went to work for the statewide legal services program in Kentucky. I became its director a couple of years later and got to know our national leaders at the Legal Services Corporation. President Jimmy Carter had appointed Hillary to chair the LSC Board of Directors. The national staff thought the world of her, of her commitment to our mission to serve the poor, as well as her intelligence and political astuteness.

Hillary’s taking a job with the Children’s Defense Fund following graduation from Yale Law School was reflective of her values and commitments. In that position she worked to pursue better lives for children and families, at substantially lower pay than she would have commanded working in the private sector and, experienced people would argue, with significantly greater challenges.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Ironically, during Bill Clinton’s governorship in Arkansas she did turn to the private sector, working for the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, one of the most established and prestigious firms in the state. She also took an active role in statewide education reform. And was criticized for all of this by Bill’s – and increasingly her – political enemies. It was dangerous in that era to be a successful woman in the public realm.

Early on the mutual successes of the Clintons in their respective but closely-related fields proved difficult for some to understand and accept.

During Bill Clinton’s Presidency Hillary received attention for her effort to provide health care to all Americans. She did not succeed – but then neither had any President from Teddy Roosevelt forward.

My admiration for her continued to grow throughout those years.

When Hillary announced for the 2008 Presidential race my wife Milly and I were for her from the outset. We knew little about Barack Obama, other than his moving speech at the 2004 national convention. We supported her throughout the campaign, and Milly was elected as one of her national delegates. Hillary met with her delegates in Denver to release them and ask them to vote for Barack, as she planned to do.

Hillary’s immediate and forthright support for Barack was, in our view, a clear confirmation of both her strong character and her deep commitment to the Democratic Party. His subsequent offer of the Secretary of State position to her indicated he shared that view, that he had developed a deep trust of her and her capabilities. The competence and grace with which she carried out her responsibilities, resulting in extremely high favorability ratings with the public and her peers in government, both in the U.S. and abroad, along with her record selection as the Gallop Poll’s Most Admired Woman in the World 20 times by 2015, were testimony to her enduring character and capacities.

Once she announced her intention to run in 2016, however, much of that adulation began to change. The Republican attack machine, which had set its sights on her when she emerged as a strong woman leader in the 1980’s and 90’s, cranked into high gear. Public opinion, which had been largely with her up to this point, began to turn.

As already noted, this was not new. Hillary had been a target since Bill’s first campaigns, for Jennifer Flowers, for Whitewater, for Vince Foster, for whatever their political enemies could dredge up. Their enemies knew a strong leader – and threat – when they saw it. So they set out to destroy her.

They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That has certainly been the case with Hillary. Whether her strong Midwestern values, her equally strong Methodist faith, her enormous intelligence, her deep commitment to justice and a better life for all, Bill’s and her deep love for each other – all of these things played a role in keeping her strong and focused, despite the vicious attacks against her.

We are now well along in this campaign. The noise about her alleged sins has grown in intensity. E-mails, Benghazi, non-transparency, the Clinton Foundation, being too cerebral – God forbid a Presidential candidate should think about things before voicing opinions – her self-protectiveness, her looks, her health, her laugh – !! – all these and more have been the subject of intense scrutiny and non-stop criticism, by the media as well as the Trump machine and those shadowy figures in the background who have been at it for decades.

Forget the facts – none of it ever held water – charges and accusations and insinuation have been enough to call into question the character and capabilities of this most gifted person.

I am not ordinarily a media basher. I’m a strong believer in the First Amendment. But the media’s employment throughout this election cycle of what is called “false equivalence” has been extremely frustrating.

Double standard

This double standard treatment has extended to many areas. Trump has repeatedly made statements disparaging people with disabilities, ethnic groups, women, minorities – while Hillary said once, in 1996 when discussing the Crime Bill, that there were predators – drug dealers, gang members – in certain communities. These were treated as equivalent by many in the media.

Her failure to remember and his lying have been treated as equivalent. During her FBI interview regarding the e-mail situation, notes of which have been made public, and during the Benghazi hearings, which were televised, Hillary stated some number of times that she did not remember certain details. Meanwhile, Trump has stated over and over again, publicly, such obvious un-truths as that the President is not a U.S. citizen, that he – Trump – opposed the war in Iraq, that he has not denied climate change. Yet these have been reported as equivalent.

Hillary was excoriated for having had meetings while Secretary of State with Clinton Foundation donors at a higher rate than with others in the public at large. Frequently left out of media reports was the Foundation’s having provided life-sustaining drugs to millions of AIDS victims in the Third World, and that Foundation donors included many people with ties not only to the Foundation but to government and to significant private sector actors. Not for purposes of self-dealing but because of shared commitments to the alleviation of suffering.

This “scandal” has been juxtaposed to Trump’s using his foundation to pay for items such as a personal portrait, with only the occasional mention of the scant evidence of it supporting or performing much in the way of good works.

Attentiveness to friends and donors is the common practice of people in politics and government. The Trump Foundation’s activities are embarrassingly inappropriate. But they are treated as equivalent.
Recently, of course, we have learned that Trump has used his foundation to pay his legal fees and to “wash” payments to him, tax-free, by his customers and clients. And further, that he has failed to obtain even the basic certification required by the state to authorize a foundation to raise funds from the public. No equivalence has been suggested here – everyone seems to recognize that there is nothing regarding the Clinton Foundation that could possibly equate to these circumstances.

Despite it all – if current polls are to be believed – and as her first debate performance proved beyond any reasonable doubt – Hillary is the leading candidate to become President. Despite all the criticism, all the smoke – the majority of voters appear to believe that the person at the center of this storm is the best person to lead the country – and the world – in this still-new century.

Hillary is the candidate who says – and means – “I am for you. Even if you are not with me, I am with you. I will work for you, to make a better life for all of us.”

As I have said many times, I am not remotely dispassionate about Hillary. I have admired her throughout my adult life, for reasons that have never changed.

I believe she is the best person to succeed Barack. And I believe she will.

And we will all be better for it.


Col Owens is a Ft. Mitchell attorney and chair of the Kenton County Democratic Party Contact him at col.owens@gmail.com/em>

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