I want a President who is tough as nails and really knows her stuff! (originally published March 23, 2008)

I started the primary season as an Edwards supporter. But when I realized Edwards wasn’t going to win, I started looking at Barack Obama. That was when I discovered that Obama didn’t seem to have any ideology to speak of and wasn’t into sharing details about his proposed programs. He was for “hope” and “change.” Like a lot of other people, I wanted more information about what “change” Obama was offering and how he would accomplish it. Very few of his supporters seemed to be able to verbalize what this “change” would be either. It also made me angry that Hillary was being attacked in such sexist ways by the Obama Campaign, the big bloggers, the media. Being a contrarian at heart, I took a closer look at Hillary Clinton.

I had watched all of the debates, and even while I still supported Edwards, I had developed a lot of respect for Hillary’s intellect and her knowledge base. I admired the way she had all the issues down. She could talk extemporaneously about almost anything. Each time I listened to Hillary, I was impressed with her fluidity of speech. When she confronted an issue, the words just flowed out of her, confidently, clearly, and concisely, and directly to the point. I knew this had to be the result of many hours of study and active engagement with the material. I have seen this same fluidity of speech in the academic world. When academics know their fields inside and out and are enthusiastic about their research, they sound just like that. Riverdaughter wrote about how she and her colleagues at work look at this kind of wonkishness in a recent post, “Feminists and Geeks” here .

We spend our working days listening to our colleagues give us presentations on the work that they have done. Over the years, we develop a keen ear for detecting who has quality work and who has pretty presentations but is BS-ing their way through 20 minutes. Our support for Clinton has less to do with her being a female and more to do with the quality of her presentation.

In December, Steve Clemons wrote about his experience of Hillary’s wonkitude (via eriposte at the Left Coaster)

…one of the things that simply can’t be disputed is her work ethic. I’ve met her a number of times, usually at receptions — and each time I decided not to waste the moment with trivial banter but to throw an idea at her or mention a person or issue that would help me understand how real, how informed, or alternatively — how contrived — she was. Every single time she jumped on the issue I brought up and expressed two or three dimensions to the issue that showed she was deeply steeped in this or that policy. In my New America Foundation role, I helped build and support programs as diverse as debates about genetic scientific advancements to family work issues, health care, and wireless spectrum — not to mention my own core interests in foreign policy, national security/defense issues, and international economic policy. Hillary Clinton and I have had quick encounters that involved her sharing incredibly diverse and serious policy commentary.

The last time I had such a discussion with her was after she had won her last Senate race in New York, and she and Bill Clinton were a bit early to a UN Foundation reception honoring Muhammad Yunus. We had a really interesting discussion about what should be on a roster of 21st century threats and how our national security and foreign policy resources should be reorganized to deal with future challenges rather than keeping vested interests tied to old threats well funded. Her quick grasp of what I was trying to get at — and a detailed response that was serious and level-headed — really surprised me as I’m used to politicians who typically have to fake their way through detail.

 

What it all boils down to is that Hillary knows her stuff and she’s into it. She loves to think and talk about policy, just like her husband. That must be one of the shared interests that have kept them together.

In addition to being a policy wonk and an excellent communicator and debater, Hillary is tough and unafraid. Watching her performance in the debates this year, I was reminded of the many times I have seen Hillary on C-Span in various committee hearings. One really great memory I have of Hillary in the Senate is the time in 2006 when she questioned Donald Rumsfeld about whether his views on the situation in Iraq were trustworthy. She gave a long summary of the situation at the time and finished with this:

CLINTON: A recent book, aptly titled Fiasco, describes in some detail the decision-making apparatus that has lead us to this situation. So Mr. Secretary, when our constituents ask for evidence that your policy in Iraq and Afghanistan will be successful, you don’t leave us with much to talk about. Yes, we hear a lot of happy talk and rosy scenarios, but because of the Administration’s strategic blunders, and frankly the record of incompetence in executing, you are presiding over a failed policy. Given your track record, Secretary Rumsfeld, why should we believe your assurances now?

RUMSFELD: My [pause] goodness[!]

Rumsfeld spoke these words in such a condescending way—as if he were stunned to be spoken to in that way by this woman. How dare she! It really was a smackdown. You have to watch the video to get the full flavor of his reaction. Hillary Clinton is tough as nails, and at that moment, Rumsfeld had to know it, despite his arrogant response.

Those are the qualities I want in a President. I want my President to know policy inside out and have a facility for communicating ideas. I want my President to be strong as steel and have the guts to stand up against all comers. I have seen Hillary’s toughness and smarts during this primary campaign, and I am confident she can be such a president.

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