CRB: Déjà Two

The Summer 2014 issue of the Claremont Review of Books has arrived just in time for Fall, and our friends at the Claremont Institute have once again dropped the paywall to allow us to preview some of the issue’s best pieces. We will be rolling out four that I have selected with a bias toward deepening of our understanding of the challenges before us. Subscribe here for the ridiculously low price of $19.95 and get immediate online access to the whole shebang.

We kick off our preview of the Summer issue with the cover essay on a possible Clinton co-presidency — “Déjà Two,” by Ethics and Public Policy Center senior fellow Stanley Kurtz. In 1992 the Clintons touted themselves as a package deal: “Buy one, get one free!” It remains to be seen whether Clinton Inc. will once again offer Americans their package deal in fall 2016. If Americans heed Kurtz, they will shop elsewhere.

Eschewing the typical examination of Hillary’s particular strengths and weaknesses as a potential candidate — notably, her various political failures and policy blunders — Kurtz raises instead what he calls the “deepest political problem” facing a Hillary presidency: the fundamental “structural defect” of “Bill and Hillary’s still poorly-understood power-sharing arrangement.”

No matter how much you know about Bill and Hillary, I think you are likely to learn something about them from Kurtz’s essay. Amassing evidence from the major biographies of the Clintons, Kurtz shows just how fully the couple has embraced the notion of shared, or plural, executive power, from Bill’s early forays into electoral politics in Arkansas, to Hilary’s 2008 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Over and over again Kurtz demonstrates the failure of the Clintons to either resist the lure of their power-sharing arrangement, or to learn the lessons past failures might teach. What could be learnt? Mostly, argues Kurtz, the lesson that the Founders had already discovered: that the division of executive authority leads inexorably to a weakened, conflict-plagued, and irresponsible executive: ” From ancient Rome to contemporary Latin America, history shows that in the absence of clear, hierarchical lines of authority, joint executive power tends to produce debilitating confusion and weakness.”

The scandals, hesitancies, and failures of the Clinton years were exacerbated by their “co-consular” arrangement. Far from being a feature of a Hilary presidency, the presence of Bill ensures that another Clinton Administration will be structurally compromised from the get-go. Read the entire essay to see a case study of the dangers and debilitations of the plural executive. As Kurtz puts concludes: “Buy one, get two—but at far too high a price.”

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