Coattail Politics

by Betsy McCaughey | March 5, 2015 12:06 am

Hillary Clinton’s expected presidential run is being hailed as a chance to shatter the glass ceiling. That’s nonsense. Hillary rose to power solely on her husband’s sleazy coattails. She’s not self-made. And it shows. The recent email scandal is the latest in a lifelong pattern of entitlement and hubris — traits successful women know can torpedo a career.


Strangely, feminists ignore the damning facts about how Hillary got where she is. Recently, Hillary addressed 5,000 Silicon Valley businesswomen — real career women. Vowing to “crack every last glass ceiling,” a hint at her White House ambitions, she urged them to demand equal pay and promotions. She invoked her own supposed early struggles to become the first female partner at the Rose Law Firm in Arkansas while a new mother.

But in truth, even then she was riding on Bill’s coattails. She got the law job in 1977 — surprise, surprise — just after he was sworn in as the state’s attorney general. Then, two years later, when he was inaugurated as governor — bingo — she was vaulted to partner. Hardly the struggle she now recalls. Though Hillary was called a trial lawyer, her former colleagues told The New York Times they couldn’t remember her ever trying a case.

Fast-forward to 1993. Newly inaugurated President Bill Clinton announced a Task Force on National Health Care Reform and made his wife the chair. It was Hillary’s big moment.

With trademark naivete and arrogance, she insisted on keeping secret the names of 500 advisers, barred the public and the press from task force meetings, and presented a Rube Goldberg revamp of the nation’s entire health system to Congress as a fait accompli before even getting their input. Within four months, a federal judge ruled the Clintons were violating federal open meeting laws, and The Wall Street Journal ridiculed her meetings as “an exercise in Soviet-style Kremlinology.” Hillary’s M.O. was to vilify critics (including me) as “extremists.” Her mismanagement sabotaged the momentum necessary to get health reform done, even in a Democratic-controlled Congress, and set the cause back years.

Undeterred, Hillary spotted another chance to capitalize on her husband’s position in 2000, when a U.S. Senate seat became vacant in New York, a state where Hillary had never lived. A mere detail. The Clintons made it a coronation, pushing aside any plausible contenders and ignoring objections of carpetbagging. Hillary went on a “listening tour” of the state, and in her own words, “62 counties, 16 months … and six black pantsuits later,” she was crowned New York’s next senator. Chuck Schumer took pains to deny the obvious on election night, declaring that “she won this election, not because she was first lady, but because she worked hard.” Right.

Many women have been elected or appointed to Congress because of who their husbands were. But in 1980, Paula Hawkins was the first woman to win election to the U.S. Senate with no spousal connection. She cracked a ceiling, not Hillary.

After an unremarkable term as New York’s senator and a failed presidential bid in 2008, Hillary took the consolation prize of secretary of state in 2009. Diplomatically, she failed to “reset” relations with Russia, blindsided Israel by endorsing a return to 1967 borders, allowed Iran to approach nuclear weapons capability and denied Benghazi diplomats sufficient security. Administratively, Mrs. Clinton couldn’t run a gas station. A new inspector general’s report finds that State Department employees “have not received adequate training or guidance” for maintaining official records, and some employees destroyed records, fearing political repercussions.

She is adamantly resisting scrutiny of her record. Accountability and judgment propel self-made women up the career ladder. She lacks both.

It’s a stunning contrast between Hillary and the little known Congresswoman Susan Brooks of Indiana, who, speaking for the GOP, publicly demanded release of the Clinton server last week. Brooks has broken many glass ceilings as a U.S. attorney and a trial attorney for a major law firm.

Whatever your politics, you’ll find women to support who actually have accomplished something on their own. Hillary’s not one of them.

Betsy McCaughey is a former Lt. Governor of New York State and the chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths.

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