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How Would Hillary Clinton Govern if She Were Elected President?

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign rally, Nov. 6, 2016, in Manchester, N.H.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign rally, Nov. 6, 2016, in Manchester, N.H.
How Would Hillary Clinton Govern if She Were Elected?
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How will presidential candidate Hillary Clinton govern if she is elected president?

Will she act as she did when she served New York as a member of the United States Senate, from 2001 to 2009? Will she act as she did when she was U.S. Secretary of State during President Barack Obama’s first term in office? Or will she behave as she did during the presidency of her husband, Bill Clinton?

John Hudak works as a researcher for the Brookings Institution, a public policy group based in Washington, DC.

“If, as president, Clinton is more like she was as first lady, it’s going to be problematic for her,” he says. “If she’s more like she was as senator, she’ll find much more success.”

First Lady Clinton

Clinton chose to be a more active first lady than the wives of many other presidents. She led her husband’s efforts to reform healthcare, helping to write a healthcare bill. Congress rejected it in 1993. Opponents criticized the measure’s complexity and her involvement as the president’s wife in helping to write it. Her public approval ratings dropped by almost 20 points.

Her approval ratings rose in 1998 when she strongly defended her husband against accusations of wrongdoing. His critics attempted to remove him from office for having a relationship with a young volunteer at the White House.

Reporter Michael Isikoff first uncovered the story of the relationship.

“There’s always been that side of Hillary Clinton who has looked with suspicion towards the news media and has been quite combative and that sometimes contrasts with the public image that Clinton likes to present,” he said.

Isikoff said Clinton is still careful when she talks with reporters.

“While she gives TV interviews,” Isikoff said, “she doesn’t give press conferences where reporters can ask anything they want or are likely to badger her with questions she doesn’t want to spend a lot of time answering.”

This unwillingness to speak with reporters, and her weakness as a politician -- a weakness she has admitted -- can make Clinton look like a poor candidate. But Indira Lakshmanan says it is important to remember that campaigning for office is not the same as governing.

Lakshmanan has written for Politico, a newspaper specializing in national politics. She reported on Clinton’s campaign for the presidency in 2008 and her time as secretary of state.

“She’s much better when she’s actually in office, and you see it even in just her body language and her behavior. She was much more relaxed around her own staff, around the press, just more relaxed and comfortable when she actually was in office,” Lakshmanan said.

Senator Clinton

Lakshmanan believes Clinton will continue the work and build on the programs of President Barack Obama if she is elected.

“We know that she has more hawkish tendencies. She is more of a traditional Cold War, realist Democrat. But I think she would double down on health care and she would perhaps try to do more interventionist -- for humanitarian reasons -- foreign policy than the Obama administration has been willing to do.”

Clinton would likely deal with U.S. lawmakers differently than Obama did. He has not had strong relations with congressional leaders during his presidency.

The Brookings Institution’s John Hudak says Clinton’s experience as a senator would be helpful, especially in the first few months of her presidency.

“If it’s controlled by Republicans, she’s going to have to veto an Obamacare repeal. She’s going to have to deal with all of the things President Obama has had to deal with coming from Congress,” he says.

Hudak adds Clinton could tell Congress she would agree to not make major changes in tax laws or try to extend President Obama’s health care reforms. Then, he says, she could say, “I want to get things done, and I want you to help me.”

Lakshmanan says Clinton should try to govern as she did when she was a U.S. senator. At that time, she worked quietly on policy and legislation that the two main political parties would support.

Political lessons learned

Experts say if her presidency is to be effective, she should learn from mistakes she made in her first presidential campaign and during her time as secretary of state.

Ron Fournier reports on politics for National Journal. He says Clinton was not successful as head of the State Department.

“We saw in 2008, and at the State Department, an inability to run a big operation in a 21st century way,” he said.

Fournier says Clinton’s actions during and after the deadly raid on a U.S. government building in Benghazi, raises questions about her leadership style and believability.

Fournier has reported on Clinton since the 1980s when her husband Bill Clinton was the governor of Arkansas. He says she is a nice person. He likes the way she looks at solving problems.

“She thinks like a lawyer -- ‘Here’s what we got to get done. Boom-boom, get it done. Think it through; work it through,’” he said.

I’m Mario Ritter.

VOA Correspondent Katherine Gypson reported this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

first lady – n. the wife of the U.S. president

suspicion – n. a feeling of doubt

contrast – v. to compare (two people or things) to show how they are different; is different from

badger – v. to bother or annoy (someone) with many comments or questions

hawkish – adj. a person who supports war or the use of military force

tendency – n. a quality that makes something likely to happen or that makes someone likely to think or behave in a particular way

double down – v. expression to work hard on a project; to use renewed effort on a project

repeal – v. to officially make (a law) no longer valid