To be fair, the Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty doesn’t frame her story on the struggle to find any Hillary Clinton accomplishments as a mystery. The headline reads, “Hillary Clinton tries to show that her record is more than just talk,” and Tumulty approaches it as a race to see whether Hillary can define herself before her political foes do. Having framed it that way, Tumulty notes that voters can’t name any achievements for Hillary other than winning two Senate elections and becoming a State Department frequent flier. And then, Tumulty proceeds to list … no accomplishments at all:
In polls and focus groups, Republicans are sensing a vulnerability in Clinton’s record that could compound the difficulties she is facing with the controversy over her decision as secretary of state to use a private e-mail account and server rather than a government one.
When Bloomberg News posed the question in May to a focus group of 10 Iowa Democrats, they praised Clinton for strength, experience and competence but could not recall a single thing she had done.
Some Democrats say that they have only a vague sense of Clinton’s actual accomplishments. Liberal activist Arnie Arnesen was the Democratic nominee for New Hampshire governor in 1992, and she often crossed paths with the Clintons as Bill Clinton made his first bid for the White House. But all these years later, Arnesen said: “I don’t really know Hillary. I know Hillary under Clinton. I know Hillary under Obama. And in the Senate she was a workhorse, not a show horse. What does that mean? It means she didn’t take a leadership role.”
Tumulty actually does list a couple of claims from Hillary and her supporters of accomplishments. Unfortunately, they both belong to others. Most recently, Hillary took credit for agreeing to a key concession that allowed for the deal with Iran, which was to accept the Iranian production of nuclear fuel. This concession took place over three years ago, which means that the concession didn’t actually accomplish much at the time. Barack Obama and John Kerry had to give up a lot more, including anytime-anywhere inspections to ensure that those limits were respected, especially at military sites. Besides, the Iran deal has the support of a whopping 21% of the American public, so hitching one’s wagon to that star has some very obvious problems.
In other words, Hillary wants to claim a piece of someone else’s work. The same is true of the only other potential “achievement” Hillary and her team have claimed, an expansion of health insurance access for children during Bill Clinton’s presidency. That, Tumulty explains, was actually the work of two Senators, and she initially helped Bill shoot it down:
Yet some of what she touts as accomplishments have been disputed. In a five-minute video released on the eve of her campaign’s formal launch in June, she suggested that she was the force behind the expansion of health coverage to children in the 1990s.
After her push for universal health care failed, she said in the video, “I was really disappointed. But you have to get up off the floor and you keep fighting. So I got to thinking, ‘Let’s see what we can do to help kids.’ ”
In fact, however, that legislation was created and driven by two senators, Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). At one point, then-President Bill Clinton turned against it, fearing that it would destroy a balanced-budget deal, and Hillary Clinton defended her husband, saying, “He had to safeguard the budget proposal.”
It was only later, when Kennedy and Hatch brought the bill back up, that Hillary lobbied for its passage. That’s not an “achievement” as much as it is a demonstration of influence on her husband during his presidency. That may be laudable, but if those two stolen moments are all Team Hillary can provide, then it turns this question into a real mystery.
Here’s another mystery on top of that. Given the lack of accomplishment — and all of the scandal surrounding Hillary’s time at State — why do her supporters value “experience” over agreement on issues more than other Democrats or Republicans in general?
CNN asked about the importance of on-the-job experience in determining a vote. In the Republican sample, it fell far short in importance than agreeing on issues, 23/65, and slightly worse among supporters of Donald Trump, 21/71 — even though Trump’s positions on issues are significantly different than the conservative agenda. For Democrats in general, experience takes a more significant position, 40/45, and for Hillary supporters, it’s the main consideration at 58/32.
If those numbers were reversed, their support would make sense. As it is, though, the support for Hillary Clinton is every bit as mysterious as her list of achievements.