Is Hillary Clinton Responsible for Bill’s Policies?

I feel like Hillary isn’t making this argument because 1) It goes to her whole appearance as a “flip-flopper” even if she didn’t explicitly support these policies. If you’re defending yourself you’re losing the “narrative” 2) A lot of these policies she actively pushed for as an very involved first lady.

While I don’t think this is a political mistake here, I think it would be pretty rational to think that Hillary is not really responsible for Bill’s policies, even if she did advocate for them.

Why? Think about the consequences of disagreeing. A President has enough problems on his plate without his wife publicly disagreeing with his policies. Well, maybe she could just stay out on the spotlight in areas of disagreement. But as an active advocate the administration, an absence could be conspicuous, and she couldn’t be avoid be asked about it. She served very differently than Laura Bush and Michelle Obama, who stick to a few nonpartisan, generally apolitical issues.

Even if Hillary did privately agree with Bill on some of his more controversial issues, I’m not sure she should be responsible. Imagine being the President’s wife. It’s easy to argue she had a moral obligation to fight for what she believed in. But Hilary shares an ideology with Bill, so there judgements should generally be very similar. Furthermore, there’s no need to correct for some kind of consideration that Bill hasn’t heard. Presidents are adequately advised on all sides of an issue. His decisions don’t suffer from lack of information. So the only way Hillary could affect his decision making is by leveraging her status as her wife, not by adding information. I’m not going to go as far as saying that leveraging that status would be unethical but at the very least is very understandable.

Finally, this is easy example of where motivated reasoning would play a role in opinion formation. If Hillary decided that she is not going to advocate any areas where she disagrees with Bill, there’s no real cost of just impulsively agreeing with Bill. If she did privately disagree but never voiced those concerns, evenly publicly advocated for those policies, she’d have a textbook case of cognitive dissonance. For those unfamiliar with Social Psychology, Hillary’s private attitudes would conflict with her actions if she disagreed on some issue with Bill. People try to ameliorate the discrepancy between actions and beliefs (cognitive dissonance) by either changing those actions or beliefs. Since Hillary couldn’t change her actions, she would change her beliefs. Or even better, avoid dissonance altogether by reflexively agreeing with Bill.

When you really put yourself in Hillary’s shoes, I think that it’s easy to understand how she would reflexively agree with Bill, and how she shouldn’t be held responsible for those beliefs. This is especially true when she has a long political record after Bill’s presidency as Senator and Secretary of State which can be scrutinized. But I can certainly understand why Hillary herself doesn’t make that argument. 500 word blog posts full of excuses don’t make good politics.


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