As I dozed off recently, I recalled that Hillary Clinton had told the press that while in the White House she often “talked with” former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt — whom I had known and worked with in support of John Kennedy in 1960.
Later, Mrs. Roosevelt came to me in a dream, and I questioned her as to her views on the candidates for president in 2008. Here’s how the “interview” went:
What are your views on the qualifications needed to best serve as the next president of the United States?
Eleanor Roosevelt: For me, the primary responsibility of the president to our democracy is to conserve our freedoms. To do this properly requires a leader who has what Benjamin Franklin described as a passion for virtue that puts principles over politics.
Of the current Democratic candidates, whom would you vote for?
Eleanor Roosevelt: I am tempted to say, “Anyone but Hillary!” If she wins the nomination I would vote for a conservative Republican. Also, she is by far the easiest candidate for a Republican to beat. But politics is “the art of the possible” — and I would urge our party to unite behind Barack Obama.
Why is that?
Eleanor Roosevelt: As you will recall, in 1960 you and I originally campaigned for Adlai Stevenson, whom we considered the most experienced. But in the end we gave our wholehearted support to young Jack Kennedy, who was more charismatic.
As Democratic pollster Peter Hart recently noted, Obama’s supporters say that as president he “would be inspirational, motivating, charismatic, and compassionate.” After praising Clinton's experience and intelligence, they say she “would be demanding, difficult, maybe even a little scary.”
If Hillary wins the Democratic nomination, why would you vote for a Republican?
Eleanor Roosevelt: It seems to me that “a little scary” is an understatement. In my view her ascendancy to the presidency would diminish the legitimacy of our party as well as endanger the future of our democracy.
Eleanor Roosevelt: As you will recall, during the impeachment of Bill Clinton, former Watergate prosecutor Henry Ruth, a lifelong Democrat, published an article in The Wall Street Journal entitled “Clinton Has Corrupted His Party's Soul."
Ruth wrote, “Here are the credos for which the party seems to stand today: (1) Character doesn't count. (2) Lying to a federal judge and a grand jury is OK, at least in a sexual harassment suit, because everybody does it and it is a private matter. (3) A CEO may take sexual advantage of a young employee as long as the employee consents. (4) As with professional basketball players, so too with presidents: It is unfair to expect them to be role models. (5) All presidents lie. (6) Presidents may use executive privilege and the secrecy privilege with government lawyers to defend themselves against personal wrongdoing."
During that same period New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, a former Hall of Fame professional basketball player, resigned from the Senate during Clinton’s second term, explaining, “The system is broken.” He then wrote a memoir asserting that “the Democratic Party is in danger of losing its moral authority — a danger that few understand.”
As a former first lady myself, I have compassion for Hillary’s tribulations, but sadly agree with Henry Ruth and Bill Bradley. She is devoid of what Ben Franklin called “a passion for virtue.” Her credo seems to be, “The truth is precious. Use it sparingly.”
Because of her unrequited lust for power, I pray that she doesn’t win the Democratic nomination.
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Jerry Zeifman served for 17 years as Democratic counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, and is the author of “Without Honor: The Crimes of Camelot and Impeachment of President Nixon” (1995) and “Hillary’s Pursuit of Power” (2006), available on his Web site: http://Jzeifman.com.
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