by Sherif Tarek
Hillary Clinton is once again seeking to make history by becoming the first female president of the United States. This is her second bid after losing in 2008 to fellow democrat Barack Obama.
In this election, the 68-year-old needs to beat off competition from Republican contestant, Donald Trump, in a highly anticipated two-horse race in order to realise her long-awaited dream. Clinton’s second campaign has received robust support from the Democratic Party compared to eight years ago, when her nomination caused a split between the democrats.
Clinton has long been promoted as an advocate of women’s rights, but in this election the former first-lady had an extra reason to receive endorsements from feminist organisations.
A ten-year-old video of ex-reality TV star Trump appeared in various news outlets weeks ahead of the election, which caused outrage among the female community. In the video, he could be heard saying crude comments such as “grab them by the pussy,” and that given his celebrity status he was allowed to do what he pleased to women without objection.
The multiple allegations of sexual assault against Trump and how he dismissed his own sexist comments as “locker-room talk” have landed Clinton some valuable extra points.
The National Organization for Women, a renowned American feminist group, is now not only supporting Clinton, but also campaigning actively against Trump with slogans such as “women’s rights are on the line,” next to his photo.
“Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger,” said Clinton in an October debate, when asked about the sexual misconduct allegations against her rival made after the tape scandal. “He goes after their dignity, their self worth, and I don’t think there is a woman anywhere who doesn’t know what that feels like.”
In spite of all this, recent polls have shown that Clinton’s lead over Trump has significantly been narrowed, with both candidates almost neck to neck.
Unlike the businessman-turned-candidate, Clinton has had a long career as politician and diplomat, with many leading roles. The Yale Law School graduate became governor of Arkansas in 1978. She was elected in New York as senator in 2000, before being re-elected in 2006 by a wide margin.
From 2009 to 2013, Clinton served as Secretary of State to the Obama administration, visiting 112 countries – more than any of her predecessors.
Haunted by Secretary of State history
Clinton’s action-packed four-year tenure has stirred up a great deal of controversy and drawn criticisms, which have wounded her presidential campaign. Her critics use her political history to question her ability as a leader and raise concerns over the possible effects of her foreign policy on the US’ international ties, mainly with the Arab World and Russia.
Clinton faced a scathing attack in Congress for not ensuring the safety of her diplomats following the killing of US ambassador in Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans in Benghazi. She had earlier persuaded Obama to intervene militarily in Libya following the eruption of the civil war in 2011, a step that she was scrutinised over.
“The idea of it being a limited humanitarian operation was a genuine one but it was a naive one,” Jeremy Shapiro, former adviser on Northern Africa and the Levant commented on Clinton’s policy planning staff, as quoted by the Guardian. “The idea that you are going to intervene in a civil war to save a bunch of people and then walk away while the civil war goes on and while a genocidal mass murderer still has the upper hand in armaments seems untenable.”
Obama’s speeches during the 18-day Egyptian uprising in 2011 reflected snap changes in the US’ position; from supporting then President Hosni Mubarak to calling for a smooth transition of power, and finally, hailing his ouster. The US’ volatile stance caused Clinton to be heavily criticised both domestically and overseas, since she was leading the responses to the Arab Spring developments.
Clinton has been evidently wary about the possibility of repairing bilateral relations with Russia while being Secretary of State. In the looming election, the Kremlin publicly supports Trump and his campaign.
Moreover, accusations have emerged that Clinton, while Secretary of State, has breached federal rules by using a private email account for official business, including potential sensitive information.
It was one of the main cards used against her by her opponents, mainly by Trump who often refers to the incident as evidence that Clinton cannot be trusted as a leader. The FBI did not press charges against Clinton, but described her and her staff as “extremely careless.”