Can we really trust Hillary Clinton?

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who both fascinates and infuriates, has a new message in her determined quest to return to the White House, this time as president.

The new TV ad campaign, running in New Hampshire, the latest state she has adopted, trumpets the New York Democrat as the true agent of political change, although she has spent more time in the White House than any other U.S. presidential candidate except for Franklin Roosevelt.

“If we have the will, she has the strength. If we have the conviction, she has the experience. If we’re ready for change, she’s ready to lead,” says a male voice as she is shown shaking lots of hands, while wearing lots of suits. That’s the beauty of TV — you don’t have to say strength for what, conviction for what or change to what.

There have been about 48 books written about Clinton, most of which I have read. I covered her and her husband for eight years in the White House and while campaigning. I have watched her as she matured as a senator, winning respect and re-election in a landslide from a state she moved to in order to run for her very first elective office. And I am still at a loss when pondering what type of president she would make.

Not for nothing is she the Democrats’ current front-runner. Many women are thrilled that a final frontier might be crossed — election of the first female U.S. president. She is smart, disciplined, attractive, tireless and hardworking, and can be warm, friendly and funny. She has raised millions of dollars for Democrats.

She arrived in Washington in 1993 with amazing arrogance and a tin ear on how to practice politics in the nation’s capital, throwing the White House into turmoil, alienating the press and many in her party, stonewalling prosecutors and orchestrating a disastrous health-care policy that cost Democrats control of Congress.

Then she reinvented herself. She went abroad, wrote feel-good books about children and villages and her cat and setting a beautiful table, explored her spirituality, helped her daughter grow up and kept on supporting her husband despite his known serial infidelities. An Illinois native who failed the D.C. bar exam before passing the Arkansas bar, she wrote her memoirs, made millions and decided to become a senator and then president. Along the way, she emerged as one of the most astute politicians ever.

The week her new ad campaign aired, she also aired a new strategy: Here’s Bill! The ex-president, who also made millions writing and giving speeches while traveling the globe and doing good works, was brought forth to campaign with her in another two-for-the-price-of-one deal.

If she wins, their puzzling love affair — he once asked her for a divorce to pursue another woman before humiliating her with Monica Lewinsky and others — and symbiotic relationship no doubt will continue to befuddle us. Is she weaker when she is with him and stronger (and cagier) on her own, as her Senate career seems to indicate? Would he be co-president, as she was for a while to him? She says she would send him abroad to be a goodwill ambassador. (To get him out of the country?)

So far, Clinton fatigue does not seem worrisome to Democrats. There are five months to go before any candidate snares enough delegates for the party nomination, after the Feb. 5 glut of primaries.

But the five months will pass quickly, and voters want to know the real Hillary Clinton.

The other day, in Iowa, another adopted state, she said, “Ultimately, to bring change, you have to know when to stand your ground and when to find common ground.” She added, “You can’t always demand everything your own way or you’ll never get anything done in America.”

That suggests she herself has changed. Many think her health-care efforts were doomed because of her secretiveness, an obsessive need for control and her refusal to compromise.

But the old defensiveness and combativeness return when she defends her positions on Iraq, insisting her vote to go to war was a vote to authorize more diplomacy. She insisted there was a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda when there was none.

This is a woman who wants to make the world a better place but doesn’t always know how to do it, a woman admired and lionized but also hated and demonized. She’s known pain; she’s known glory. The race for the White House is livelier and more provocative than it would be without her, but she is also a woman whose roller-coaster fortunes will always be intertwined with those of her husband.

Stick with her and get “change,” Clinton demands in an often-strident voice.

She has a long way to go before Americans decide whether to trust her to give them the change they seek.

(Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. E-mail amcfeatters(at)


  1. macdoodle

    the dlc shows she is gop lite. san frna chronical leah discussed yet anphter dinner withteh biushes now has to give back 850 ooo of bad money and soemhhow berkeley is alwys comming up in connectiopn with the bad stuff.
    another uc berkeley grad berkely housing authority in hud nonn colmpliance for years dumpes 5000 vocuher holders tookmoney as most accessibel city has no safe accessible housign with parking on section8 ..

    soem how this part of the democratic party seems jhust an extension of the 2 class plan corporate and worker bees anll the cut of civil and human drights nad housing cuts dfro disbeld soem progrms at hud now ask 505 income as affrodable and say mulit disabeld on ssi too poor for most hud programs!!!!!!!..even the emergency shelters that charge rent. recycling the homeless
    and corproate taxs cuts have put into effect through the reagan bush clinton bush timeleine.

    i read a funny line about monica saving social security.clinton was to agree get rid till the scandal hit…

    thank you monica
    no thank you hillary or bill

    america the not so great anymore?
    unless you see 6 figures?
    gOt hOpe?

  2. SEAL

    So far, I haven’t heard Hillary say anything that I could make a decision as to whether to trust her to do that or this. She has stated no position on anything. Now they think the smart thing to say to voters is that she will change things. They are correct. The voters do want change. But notice how careful they are not to identify what she will change. It’s just a bumper sticker slogan – “HILLARY FOR CHANGE” – well, whoopie!

    That was Obama’s message in the beginning. But in his case it was legitimate. He even identified some of the things he wanted to change. However, that is as far as he has gotten with it, so far. The oddity of our political campaigns is that the candidates who are the most specific and forthright about what they stand for and what they would like to do as president are always those who have no chance of being elected. The front runners are always those who are the most vague. Why is that?

    “If you want someone who will fight them, I’m your girl!” That’s what she said. Fight who? For what? She didn’t say. But she sure got a lot of applause. When asked what she would do about the war, she talked about our responsibility to do the right thing. But nothing as to what that “right thing” would be. Obama says we must be very careful how we get out of Iraq. Non-answers is all we ever get from these people. Neither of them has said anything about restoring the civil rights like habeas corpus and/or due process for wiretapping that the Bush gangsters have taken from us. In fact, neither has pointed out the lies and coruption of the Bush gang. But one of them is most likely going to be the next president.

    The voters will make one of them president of the united states without ever hearing what they are planning to do as president. Why is that? We have candidates on both sides that have clearly stated what they would do. And what they say is what most people want. But they have no chance of being nominated. Why is that?

  3. Paolo

    I trust Hillary Clinton to do exactly what she says she will do: maintain the illegal, immoral, and unconstitutional war in Iraq, and probably expand it to Iran and Syria. In other words, on foreign policy, she is just as much a warmonger as Bush.

  4. SEAL

    What a stupid question. No politition can be trusted. If you want a president that can be trusted, write in Carl Nemo’s name on election day. If you want a female, write in Sandra Price’s name. Don’t write my name because I have a terminal disease that makes it unlikely I will survive 8 more years.

  5. mooseman


    Get over it, Lady! Just tell us who you favor. Leave your analysis to your buddies. This election is really simple: Vote for any Republican? Not me. The thugs must go.

    Vote for any Democrat? Yes. See above.

    All else between now and election day is bilge.

    Your cheap shot about bar admission is just that, cheap. I suggest you meet with your buddies in bars of your choosing.