My Hillary Problem

This is a tough post for me, as I have tried very hard to not criticize the candidacy of Sen. Hillary Clinton for President.  But considering the current economic crisis in America, particularly in the liquidity markets, I cannot stay silent.  Irrespective of the merits or lack thereof of Sen. Barack Obama’s candidacy, I have to say that I feel that Sen. Clinton is the wrong choice for President of the United States.

You see, it’s the economy.

In Pennsylvania yesterday, Sen. Clinton said:

We need a president who is ready on Day 1 to be commander in chief of our economy.

Well, first of all Sen. Clinton, no we don’t.  Because the President of the United States isn’t “commander in chief” of the economy.  The U.S. Constitution is rather unequivocal in its description of the powers of the Presidency, in Article 2, Section 2:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

As you can see, as much as President Bush would like to dispute this, the Constitution is clear that the President is commander in chief of only the armed forces, not of all citizens at all times.  Nor does the President have any authority to be in charge of the economy in any way.  American needs a President who understands what the powers of the Presidency are on day one, Senator.

But while I have no patience for the fantastical claims that the President is commander in chief of our economy, it is precisely the economy where I have the least confidence in Sen. Clinton’s leadership.  Much has been made of the repeal a decade ago of the Glass-Steagall Act during the Presidency of Bill Clinton.  Economist Robert Kuttner believes this has been a major contributor to our present financial crisis, although other economists dispute this view.

But what is more concerning is that the repeal of Glass-Steagall was the brainchild and major policy achievement of former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who is now Sen. Clinton’s chief economic advisor.  This championing of the repeal by Rubin became the target of ethics inquiries when Rubin was hired by Citigroup four months after leaving the Treasury Department.  This was particularly unseemly because Citigroup was the most obvious beneficiary of the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which permitted its merger with Travelers Insurance.

Citigroup is now reeling from losses, as unhelped by Rubin’s role in the company as the American people were by Rubin’s role in the government.  The New York Times reported last week that

Robert Rubin, the former Treasury secretary and current Citigroup executive, has said that he hadn’t heard of “liquidity puts,” an obscure kind of financial contract, until they started causing big problems for Citigroup.

That Rubin continues to be the chief economic advisor of Sen. Clinton shows a lack of judgment that our economy can ill afford.  But this sort of risk taking with economic leadership is a repeated occurrence with the Clintons.  The Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission during the Presidency of Bill Clinton was Arthur Levitt, Jr., who helped preserve the off-balance sheet accounting methods which helped create both the Enron debacle and the present derivatives crises on Wall Street.  Mr. Levitt is now a senior advisor to the Carlyle Group, whose Carlyle Fund went bust two weeks ago, shortly before Bear Stearns.

So not only does Sen. Clinton not seem to understand the role of the President regarding the economy, but those she has and continues to seek advice from and grant power to have a record of poor stewardship of economic matters in both the public and private sector.  Which begs the question not only whether Sen. Clinton can be trusted with the American economy on day one, but whether there will be any improvement by day 2,922.


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  1. …funny how it took me two months after I voted in the primary to actually come out against a candidate.

  2. I have been troubled by some of the rhetoric I’ve heard that has sounded to me like easy answers, without an understanding of the reason for my unease. This helped to clarify one aspect, at least.


  3. and to the point.

    In addition to it being a revealing insight into HRC’s lack of deep understanding of how that group got us into this mess – for me there is a more serious issue.

    Throughout her campaign I have noticed an on going purposeful  dumbing down on issues of huge importance in an effort to appear as the most prepared candidate. She is out there first with ‘the solution’ that ‘appears’ well thought out but actually isn’t. Her solutions, in my opinion, are designed for people who do not really get into the issues very deeply and so these sound bytes of policy, these dropping of familiar names may make the more casual observer feel that she has real solutions when frankly she does not.

    . I have been tracking this for a while – not out of any anti-Hillary sentiment, although I admit I have become an Obama supporter largely because of what I am pointing out here. Most sadly for her is that it is this same tactic of appearing to be one thing when actually being another -that is what she is now being hammered on.

    Add it all up – she is not fit by her own definition to be Commander in Chief. I am very tired of watching the Clintons try and try this same routine and can’t wait until its over.

  4. Rubin often gets a lot of credit for the boom of the ’90s, but not for any specific reason or policy.    

    Thanks for providing some specifics on Rubin’s tenure (and Levitt’s) and how they might impact a Clinton administration.  

  5. is that it has finally prompted a revisionist look at just how  regressive the policies Bill’s administration actually were.

    While the go-go 90’s were riding a short term bubble of technological innovation which created the illusion of long term prosperity, Clinton, Rubin, and the Republicans were busy cutting the strings of the social safety net that might have otherwise helped to cushion the fall once the bubble finally popped.

    From Glass-Steagal to NAFTA to welfare ‘reform’, folks are finally coming to realize that Clinton’s short-sighted ‘centrism’ has helped to create many of the problems we have today.

    Not that Bush does not bear most the blame for the mess we’re in, mind you, but the pro-investor, low wage initiatives of the Clinton era certainly greased the skids for lil’ Georgie’s wild ride.

  6. I value the information. As you know I’m not very wonky about economics. I did know about Glass-Steagall, but this helps me understand more about economic policies I felt were to say the least not ‘free’ market an more like a pyramid scheme.. I’m also not thrilled about a candidate who bandies the term of Commander and Chief around. It doesn’t bode well for a country that seems to have forgotten that we don’t have a monarchy, whose sole purpose is war in one form or another. A little balance on all ‘fronts’ is needed.

  7. makes me feel all warm and fuzzy – or at least warm – to know how many bank failures are being expected.

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