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The right woman for the job

This week she became the presumptive Democratic nominee for the United States presidency, the first woman to be selected as the standard-bearer for either of the two major political parties. Given the all too obvious shortcomings of the Republican candidate she will be facing, Hillary Clinton must also be the presumptive, odds-on favourite to win the White House in November.

While she is incredibly well positioned to move back into the old Pennsylvania Avenue digs she shared for eight years with her husband, Bill, she probably should not be booking the moving vans for next January. At least not just yet. After all, whenever her political ascendancy is termed “inevitable”, things have an unfortunate habit of straying off script for Mrs Clinton.

Recall her bruising loss to Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries during her first White House attempt. And Bernie Sanders's fierce populist insurgency against her seemingly preordained march to this year's Democratic presidential nomination certainly dented the somewhat contrived “Hillary, The Great And Terrible” image she entered the campaign with in April 2015.

To a permanently enraged minority of American voters, of course, the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency will never, under any circumstances, be acceptable.

Their paranoid hatred for her, fuelled by right-wing talk radio and television as well as Republican lawmakers on the extreme-most fringes of a polarised US political scene, will never abate. As a result of this unchecked hyper-partisan animus, Mrs Clinton is now almost certainly the most thoroughly scrutinised major party presidential aspirant of all time.

Her handling of the Benghazi affair as US Secretary of State, for instance, has now been subject to more, and entirely more intensive, congressional oversight than the 9/11 attacks — or even, remarkably, Pearl Harbor.

If she was found wanting in some organisational regards for the 2012 attack on a US diplomatic compound in Libya, she certainly wasn't found criminally negligent.

These politically motivated witch-hunts, which some senior Republicans openly crowed were fully intended to damage her 2016 presidential prospects, failed to uncover any smoking guns pointing to systematic wrongdoing.

After millions of taxpayer dollars were spent on a seemingly endless series of inquiries, in the wake of all manner of froth-mouthed accusations levelled by lawmakers and their surrogates, successive Benghazi investigations ended up repeatedly exonerating, not incriminating, Mrs Clinton.

And there was another consequence, one entirely unintended — and unwanted — by those of her interlocutors who deliberately attempted to encourage a political atmosphere of what is so aptly been termed “fervent malice and humourless imbecility” around the Benghazi tragedy.

What these repeated grillings ended up doing, entirely inadvertently, was underscoring her reputation for stoicism and steadiness of purpose.

They allowed her to demonstrate her ability to remain both imperturbable and steadfast while subject to the most extreme personal and political provocations.

Of course, indomitability and the ability to remain calm in the face of sometimes overwhelming pressure are qualities to be highly valued in any prospective occupant of the Oval Office.

A fixture on America's national political stage for almost 25 years now, first as the wife and senior adviser to a president, then as a New York senator and, finally, as Secretary of State, Mrs Clinton is among the most thoroughly tested and proven public figures of modern times.

Well versed in domestic and international policy matters, well blooded in the political arena, she is a pragmatist rather than the progressive she unconvincingly claimed to be on the campaign trail to woo Sanders supporters.

She is a commonsensical centrist with a proven track record of success in consensus building and bridging Washington's partisan divide. When elected to the Senate, many of her Republican colleagues famously wondered out loud why their party leadership had been so insistent that they lambast her as First Lady, given her natural instinct to seek common ground and co-operation.

In some ways, Hillary Clinton is the very model of a postmodern machine politician. Her idealism is of the decidedly manufactured and focus group-tested variety; her integrity somewhat stained and shopworn.

Respected rather than beloved even by her most loyal supporters, sometimes bringing too much didacticism and not enough passion or spontaneity to the campaign trail, she's obviously a competent, experienced and highly intelligent presidential candidate.

But, of course, for many voters, the best thing Hillary Clinton has going for her is that she isn't Donald Trump.

And that crucial distinction could be sufficient to secure her a landslide victory in November, just as it is being credited for her late-stage surge in the Democratic primary elections.

With the bombastic billionaire and TV personality completing his hostile takeover of the Republican Party presidential nomination last month, millions of Democrats are believed to have had last-minute qualms about continuing to back Sanders's quixotic insurgency campaign.

With the prospect of a Trump presidency becoming a real possibility, rather than a statistically improbable eventuality, Democrats opted to put pragmatism ahead of Sanders-fanned idealism in the final primary races. They began closing ranks behind the battle-tested Mrs Clinton, providing her with the kind of unexpectedly large margins of victory in the last Democratic primaries, which confounded pollsters and Sanders's campaign team — and which entirely dismayed GOP analysts looking at the figures.

Trump has come perilously close to invalidating the entire concept of “politics as usual” this year. He has run a campaign that owes more to professional wrestling's cheap theatrics, insult comedy and the direct marketing approach of TV infomercials than the traditional political playbook.

Like many of his business ventures, Trump's candidacy has been more about selling a mood, a feeling and a state of mind rather than a product — let alone a viable product capable of providing actual solutions to the many problems that America and the world face in the 21st century.

Undisciplined, unruly, both unwilling and seemingly congenitally incapable of learning, Trump has routinely placed entertainment and shock value ahead of even the most long-established American values.

While Hillary Clinton is a flawed candidate, certainly, her failings and limitations fall well within the bounds of what's considered tolerable in the tawdry field of American national politics.

From a narrowly economic Bermudian point of view, a Clinton Administration sworn into office next January could certainly pose some risk to the island. Mrs Clinton has repeatedly spoken out on the campaign trail about her desire to close what she calls the “Bermuda reinsurance loophole” in the US tax code, what amounts to the cornerstone of the island's offshore insurance and reinsurance sector. However, so did the more authentically progressive Barack Obama, both as a Democratic candidate and as president. But his lip service was never matched by any attempts at legislative enforcement.

When it comes to Bermuda's broader self-interest, though, it should be remembered a Trump Administration would be ranked as a top-ten risk event that could disrupt the world economy, lead to political chaos in the US and heighten security risks for the entire world, according to the well-regarded Economist Intelligence Unit.

Until Trump's lock on the Republican nomination, that geopolitical analysis firm had never before rated the possible election of an American presidential candidate as a quantifiable risk to the US and the world. The EIU has already announced that it has no intention of rating a Clinton candidacy as a similar risk.

The grim reality is Republican primary voters have prostrated themselves before a latter-day snake oil salesman peddling miracle cures every bit as worthless as the degrees his “university” sells. He is a man who routinely traffics in falsehoods and false hope. His vision for America, inasmuch as he has actually articulated one, remains an incoherent jumble of often contradictory position, consistent only in its fever-dream inconsistency and sheer loopiness.

It is true that Trump has been defying conventional political wisdom ever since he announced his candidacy. So, no, he can never be counted out. But the electoral arithmetic he will be contending with in November is hugely challenging.

The GOP's own post-2012 election post mortem concluded the party risked being relegated to permanent runner-up status in presidential races if it did not do a much better job attracting minority voters and winning back those moderates put off by its more extreme manifestations of social and cultural conservatism. In very many ways, Trump's candidacy has not only made such a repositioning and rebranding of the Republican Party impossible in this election year, it has actually amounted to a defiant repudiation of that exhaustive report's findings.

Democrats and moderate independents will likely coalesce around Hillary Clinton in record or near-record numbers in an attempt to block Trump's election this autumn. And so, too, will a fair percentage of traditional Republican voters.

This is, after all, what conservative commentator David Brooks has correctly called a “Joe McCarthy Moment” for GOP supporters. Right-thinking Republicans and Republican-leaning independents to decide between even tacitly accepting the rantings of an unscrupulous demagogue for reasons of short-term political advantage or actively distancing themselves from his verbal bomb-throwing.

“The time came when Donald Trump's outrage had reached such a level that I simply had to speak out,” said 2012 candidate Mitt Romney, the most prominent Republican Trump refusenik. “You get to the point where you say, your grandkids are going to say to you, ‘Papa, what did you do to stop Donald Trump?' I had to finally get out and speak.”

And South Carolina's GOP senator Lindsey Graham has argued that millions of his fellow Republicans possess the intellectual honesty and moral courage to eventually acknowledge that they face a stark Hobson's choice at the polls in November. “There'll come a time,” he said, “when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”

Should this come to pass, America might not have selected the best possible person for the presidency. But they will have made the best choice available to them — choosing the right woman for the job at the right time.

Timing is everything: Hillary Clinton pictured at Bermuda's Cambridge Beaches hotel in 2009 with her husband, the former American president Bill Clinton, during a vacation on the island (File photograph)

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Published June 11, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 11, 2016 at 12:13 am)

The right woman for the job

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