Clinton's art

TheAmerican | In Italia

Published November 28, 2016

Clinton: "I still believe in America, and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future."

Clinton: "I still believe in America, and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future."

I've never been one to hold an artist's personal transgressions against their art. The same goes for actors, musicians and sports figures. We're all complex beings. It's wrongheaded to suggest one artist's work deserves higher esteem based on an exemplary life.

Paolo Picasso is adored for his work yet famous for his disrespect for women, though he depended on his many muses. Poet Ezra Pound holds huge literary respect and esteem in spite of a widespread belief he was an anti-Semite. Merle Haggard and Chuck Berry both did hard time as did Robert Downey, Jr. O.J. Simpson, a sublime athlete, is still in the slammer. Yet I can still appreciate their gifts without their transgressions nagging at me.

Ours would be a diminished culture if it failed to appreciate artists with tainted life resumes.

I now feel the same about the "art" of Hillary Clinton's political life.

Though I've never understood the hatred she provokes, I've criticized her in this column for her use of a personal server to do State Department business, one of several conflict-of-interest controversies that have dogged her career. Doubts about the integrity of the Clinton Foundation, the Whitewater, Paula Jones, Sidney Blumenthal scandals, and paid speeches to Wall Street insiders make it easy to understand why she failed to stir passion in the electorate, even among many of those who voted for her.

Given her abilities, experience and legal background, there should be no doubt that Clinton knows very well when she's confronted by a conflict of interest, and that in each of the now-contentious cases she made a conscious decision after parsing the pros and cons of each option.

I admit the controversies left me with a gnawing sense of doubt about the extent of her involvement. I also admit some of her decisions seemed to me boneheaded.

Yet throughout her career she's been a consistent and unflagging crusader and a champion of many important causes — universal health care, women's and children rights among them. All distrust aside, her exit from the crucible of a grueling election campaign she fought and lost showed an exemplary concern for the nation.

Her concession speech — she urged her supporters to give Donald Trump an "open mind and a chance to lead" — and subsequent remarks at the Children's Defense Fund put her priorities and principles on bright display. Though she won popular vote by a wide margin, grounds for further contentiousness (consider the 2000 election), she choose instead to speak unselfishly about what was good for the country. "We have work to do," she said in the Defense Fund speech, "and for the sake of our children and our families and our country, I ask you to stay engaged, stay engaged on every level."

Hillary Clinton did not lash out. Hillary Clinton did not mope. Hillary Clinton stepped up.

It is difficult to make great art. She did.