Hillary Clinton is not the most likeable politician. And there's good reason for it. Her political career paints a picture of naked self-interest and a win-at-all-costs attitude. Her public persona is endlessly cautious and poll-tested. It is impossible to believe anything that comes out of her mouth.
And yet... And yet...
Empathy is an important virtue, and we should always exercise it, especially when it's hard. And I have to recognize that it's important to empathize with Hillary Clinton.
She almost certainly married, at least in part, out of political interest, and because of her belief that as a woman in 1970s America she couldn't have a political career on her own. And the man she married was not only serially adulterous (and maybe worse), but humiliated her globally in the most mortifying way imaginable. And yet, for political interest, she had to stick by him and defend him.
She became a culture war flashpoint almost as soon as she stepped onto the national stage, and has been on the receiving end of everything in politics that you can imagine. Everything she does is bound to be criticized, and taken unfairly, at least by some people. She has made countless enemies in both parties, some for good reason, but some, undoubtedly, not.
And the reward, the ultimate reward, everything she's worked so tirelessly for, the Oval Office, keeps eluding her every time she tries to snatch it. First, Barack Obama came out of nowhere to rob her of her coronation. Now, Bernie Sanders. Will it ever end?
Is it any wonder, then, the bunker mentality? Is it any wonder, the defensiveness? Is it any wonder, the over-cautiousness, the poll-testing of everything? Is it any wonder, turning the other eye to corruption, or engaging in it, if it's the price to stay on the treadmill? Yes, using a private email server as secretary of state may have harmed national security, but you have to put yourself in her shoes and understand why she was so anxious to avoid having her emails in U.S. government records.
Don't get me wrong. I detest many of the policies Hillary Clinton supports. I think that she doesn't have the right temperament to be president. And I think that her ethical baggage, as well as that of her husband, disqualifies her from the presidency.
But I do empathize with her at a human level. Many of her worst traits are probably the consequences of deep, personal wounds. And as we get into a campaign where everyone will demonize everyone, I don't want to forget that.