In the last GOP debate, Carly Fiorina quipped “If you want to stump a Democrat, ask them to name an accomplishment of Hillary Clinton.” The Republican audience lapped it up.
Your involuntary response might be to try to think of a signature accomplishment for Clinton, and you might even have trouble coming up with one. After all, almost all of the media stories about her have been one made up scandal after another.
But here’s the irony. Try the same question for any of the Republicans running for president. In particular, what is the signature accomplishment of Carly Fiorina? Getting fired from Hewlett Packard, where she laid off 30,000 workers shipped jobs overseas, and generally made a mess of things (while flying in private planes and buying a yacht)? Or losing every political campaign she’s ever run?
How about Ben Carson? He’s known as the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins who were joined at the head (no, not the Koch brothers). His other major accomplishment seems to be avoiding being a member of any political party until he joined the GOP in 2014 just so he could run for president as one.
Sorry, I can’t think of any accomplishments of Jeb Bush, other than being able to say with a straight face that his brother kept us safe. Is 9/11 invisible to him? Anthrax? Two wars? Is Jeb trying to become the first blind president?
Or how about Donald Trump, whose only accomplishment is being rich, which isn’t even an achievement because he inherited it.
That leaves Chris Christie (causing traffic problems for political revenge?), Scott Walker (busting unions and getting recalled?), Ted Cruz (being a sleezeball?), Marco Rubio (being the only Latino Republican Senator who isn’t a sleezeball?), Bobby Jindal (giving a pitiful response to Obama’s State of the Union address?), Mike Huckabee (getting a job on Fox News?), Rand Paul (being the son of Ron Paul?), Rick Perry (memory lapses?), John Kasich (successful investment banker?), and George Pataki (one of only three Republican governors of NY since 1923?).
In fact, I’m having quite a bit of trouble naming a really major accomplishment of any living member of the Party of No. Compared to the GOP, for Clinton it is relatively easy to come up with the SCHIP legislation that she championed as First Lady, or her promotion of women’s rights as a senator, especially her speech in China.
But the really ironic reason why this jab works is because it is so easy to come up with a long list of achievements for Obama. The list includes the ACA (Obamacare!), turning around the Great Recession (despite sabotage from the GOP), saving the American auto makers, ending the Iraq war, promoting gay rights (striking down DADT and DOMA, leading to the legalization of gay marriage), the normalization of relations with Cuba, negotiating the New START arms treaty with Russia and the nuclear deal with Iran, killing Osama bin Laden, being the first black president, and winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
Note that as Obama’s Secretary of State, Clinton played a major role in Obama’s achievements. In fact, Clinton probably had more to do with killing bin Laden than Obama, she laid the groundwork for normalizing relations with Cuba, and her sanctions on Iran were the primary driver toward the current nuclear deal. She had more foreign policy achievements as Secretary of State in four years than the entire eight (embarrassing) years of the preceeding Bush administration.
Fiorina’s jab actually highlights how bad she and the other Republican candidates look compared to Clinton. And Clinton only looks bad compared to Obama, and she helped him.
Perhaps Clinton’s biggest achievements are yet to come. How does “first female president” sound?