Ayers: Will Hillary ‘dare to compete’?

Apr. 19, 2013 @ 12:41 PM

Hillary Clinton has been discussing with her husband, Bill, and other Democratic veterans of national campaigns whether she should run for president, the negatives and positives, the key supporters and fund-raisers.

Already a Super-Pac, "Ready For Hillary," has been established, lists are being made and the money is beginning to roll in. It will allow her to survey the scene without declaring one way or another.

She has said she is not inclined to run, which in political terms is a long way from "No."

Why would a woman who had been first lady, had run for president and served as secretary of the State Department want to run the gauntlet of blows in the press and from GOP opponents, sleepless nights, navigate cross currents of conflicting issues and moral choices only to win the most difficult job in the world?

She is not crazy. She is one of those rare individuals endowed with the physical stamina, diamond-hard intelligence and a vision not yet achieved, qualities that the vast majority of us do not possess.

If she determines she has the physical strength to wage the campaign and do the job, that she will not face a bruising Democratic primary, I believe she will run and she will be elected.

I hope she is, because she is uniquely equipped to help realize my personal vision: making the South into a two-party region, which would mean dividing on weighty national issues rather than the pettiness that springs from one-party governors and legislatures.

She can speak to the South in its own idiom, learned as the wife of an Arkansas politician, thus gaining the trust of a region not inclined to listen to Barack Obama because he is a stranger who has shown no interest in the region.

A serious, outward-oriented South would encourage both parties to raise the quality of the national debate.

Because most of us don't have the stamina and the driving vision Hillary has, we don't understand why she would run. Close friends advised her not to run for the Senate seat in New York and to instead accept offers to head foundations, colleges and universities.

Although I am not a close friend, I was one of those counseling her not to make the New York Senate race. I am embarrassed now to have asked her in a letter if she was "teasing" New Yorkers. She did not answer.

There she was: repairing a strained marriage, waiting for the Senate vote on the House impeachment charges against Bill and pondering whether to take on the conflicting demands of 19 million New Yorkers, a tough press and the five boroughs of Manhattan with characters who would have stunned Homer.

She went through the process of deciding with all the negatives laid out by pros such as Harold Ickes. He gave her a list of prominent Democrats to call, where she found significant support. Retiring Sen. Pat Moynihan gave her a rousing endorsement as the candidate to take his seat.

She was still undecided when a push from outside triggered an internal moral response, which could not be denied.

In her memoir from the White House years, "Living History," she tells the story of joining tennis legend Billie Jean King to promote an HBO film about women in sports.

She was to speak to dozens of women athletes assembled under a giant banner, "Dare To Compete." The captain of the girls' basketball team who was to introduce her as they shook hands whispered, "Dare to compete, Mrs. Clinton, dare to compete."

Taken off guard by the unexpected encouragement, she likely left the event and began to think: "Could I be afraid to do something I had urged countless other women to do? Why am I vacillating about taking on this race? ... Maybe I should 'dare to compete.' "

Having traveled nearly a million miles abroad to repair damages to U.S. prestige caused by the Bush years, steering through the treacherous cross currents of nationalities, ideologies and interests, learning the shibboleths of dozens of different religions, would a presidential race be less daunting?

No conceivable candidate could match her experience or her standing in the polls. Should she "dare to compete;" she would be a unifying force, especially on behalf of my personal vision: Coaxing the South back into the Union.

Run, Hillary, run!

H. Brandt Ayers is the publisher of The Star and chairman of Consolidated Publishing Co.