Mrs Clinton has not said she is running for president, but most people seem to think she is. She has written a book about her time as Secretary of State, and writing a book is usually the first step towards a presidential campaign. That she is running was the verdict of the experts on Newsnight last night, which screened a long and interesting interview between a kittenish Mrs Clinton and an unusually genial Jeremy Paxman. (Watch the whole thing here.)
The interview was something of a triumph for Mrs Clinton. She looked extremely well for a woman more than half way through her seventh decade – Paxman mentioned that they were of an age. Paxman was born on May 11 1950, which makes his 64. Mrs Clinton was born October 26 1947, which makes her 66. Her age is of interest, because there comes a time when one is simply too old to be president, and several recent runners have been a little too old; but looking as she does, Mrs Clinton’s age should not count against her. She is a very good 66, and if she becomes president in January 2017, one can reasonably hope she will be an energetic 69.
So that is one question this interview and others like it serve to put to rest. Another question that was raised was the idea of sending help to the beleaguered government of Iraq. Mrs Clinton is against this, and this sends out a strong message: she will be a non-interventionist president. This may well help her chances, and we all know that Americans, like the rest of us, are sick to death of the seemingly endless intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, which they have been trying to draw down for some time. But it raises a question: given that the woes of Iraq are largely the fault of Britain and America’s original invasion, can we really walk away now? The cataclysm that has overtaken Iraq, and which is still continuing, must give us pause. Mrs Clinton spoke of America as a non-imperial power that intervenes then leaves. But if one leaves a mess behind one, should one ever have intervened in the first place? I ask this question with the fate of the Christians of Mosul at the forefront of my mind.
The other interesting point that Mrs Clinton made was both refreshing and welcome, to whit that Russia has no excuse whatever for interfering in the affairs of another sovereign nation such as Ukraine. This is refreshing, as she said this in no uncertain terms, and she did not shy away from speaking harshly but accurately of Mr Putin. And it is welcome, because we have heard from some surprising sources of late, including several on the British left, that Russia has “legitimate interests” in Ukraine. It is good to hear Mrs Clinton call this out for the nonsense it is. It was also good to hear Mrs Clinton speak of Georgia, another victim of Russian aggression that many in the West have conveniently forgotten. That Mrs Clinton will stand up to Russian aggression will perhaps be a vote winner. That she tells the truth, too, should gain her support from many reasonable people, hitherto exasperated by the caution of their politicians.
Paxman did speak about Mrs Clinton’s personal life, a matter of abiding interest to many, and she spoke about how keen she was to be a grandmother and enjoy that role. If she runs, Chelsea’s baby won’t be seeing much of Granny, we can be sure. You would think, given that she has played a considerable role already, and given her age, that Mrs Clinton might now be inclined to lie back and enjoy life. But those who know best, or so Newsnight suggested, see her as hardwired for power, and unable to pass up this last chance to take the top job, despite the fatigue of such a long and arduous election campaign, which might not, in the end, be successful.
This interview was an interesting indication of just how far Mrs Clinton has come; before the interview played, Newsnight treated us to some of the highs and lows of her career to date, including the now famous quote about Tammy Wynette, though not, I noticed, the quote about the “vast, Right-wing conspiracy”. Or maybe the interview was an indication of how far we have all come in the way of perceptions of Mrs Clinton have been moulded and changed. Perhaps she has remained the same, and it is we who have grown. She has certainly made us like her more than we did. This raises huge questions about the electioneering process in America but also here in Britain as well: it is largely about the manipulation of public opinion. It is more a beauty contest than a discussion about ideas.
In this beauty contest we need to keep in mind certain facts. Mrs Clinton has been a strong proponent of so-called “abortion rights”, which may strike one as somewhat at variance with her current projected image. Mr Paxman seems to like her a great deal; we Catholics, and other people who care about life issues, should exercise more caution.