Is Hillary Clinton Qualified for the Presidency?

Democratic Candidates Attend New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention
Democratic Candidates Attend New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention. Scott Eisen / Stringer / Getty Images

When it comes to the Clintons, one of America's great political families, personal opinion rather than cold hard facts dominates the discussion. And when it comes to Hillary Clinton, Americans either love her or hate her. She's been vilified by conservatives who not only dislike a strong feminist voice, but object even to her use of private emails to discuss personal family issues. Liberals look forward to the first female to serve in the Oval Office. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi even told an audience in Little Rock, AR, "I pray that Hillary Clinton decides to run for president of the United States."

So let's get down to brass tacks: Is Hillary Clinton qualified to be the President of the United States?

The indisputable answer is yes. No matter what you think of her, no matter what party you vote for, Hillary Clinton is more than qualified to be the President of the United States - more, in fact, than many winners and losers of the presidential races in our history. Starting when she was a young adult, Clinton's political career has been varied and rigorous, and given her both knowledge and experience in domestic and international politics. Democratic political analyst Dan Payne argues that "she may be the most qualified candidate for the presidency in a generation."  

The Basics: Early Experience

First, let's eliminate the basic qualifications from controversy with regard to gender. As the U.S. Constitution simply states,

"No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States." 

The article does not state that the president must be male. And at 67, Clinton more than meets the age qualification; she is also a natural born citizen who has lived in the United States her entire life. Right there she's already got everything the Constitution requires.

But the popular understanding of qualifications for the Presidency goes beyond the mere demographic requirements. Clinton also possesses all the things we want in a president. She is very knowledgeable, the result of an extensive education, including law school, that gave her the intellectual training useful for dealing with the many facets of the presidency. Of the 44 presidents of the United States, 25 have been lawyers.  

Clinton combined her interest in law and politics at an early age, and it informed her career. As an undergraduate at Wellesley College, Clinton majored in political science and combined academic excellence with school government. As the first ever student speaker at the college graduation ceremonies, she said,

"The challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible."

She then attended Yale University law school, where she worked on social justice campaigns and provided legal support to children and the poor.  

Star Ascendant: National Political Experience

Clinton then brought her concern for disenfranchised Americans into the national arena as part of Senator Walter Mondale's Subcommittee on Migratory Labor. Not long after, she worked under John Doar on the team that advised the House Committee on the Judiciary about the impeachment process during the Watergate scandal (contrary to a popular lie, she was NOT fired from the Committee.) As the director of field operations in Indiana for Jimmy Carter's presidential election campaign, she learned about high level electoral politics; later President Carter appointed her to the board of directors of the Legal Services Corporation. From 1987 to 1991, she was the first chair of the American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession.

As First Lady of Arkansas and First Lady of the United States

When her husband Bill was elected governor of Arkansas, Clinton brought her legal and professional experience to the job of First Lady for 12 years. There, she continued to advocate for children and families by co-founding the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. She also chaired the Arkansas Educational Standards Committee to reform the state's struggling education system, and served on the boards of the Arkansas Children's Hospital, Legal Services, and the Children's Defense Fund. In addition, she worked with the business community by serving on the boards of Wal-Mart and other Arkansas-based companies.

When Bill was elected President of the United States, he drew upon her extensive legislative and legal experience by appointing her to spearhead the administration's attempt at introducing a national health care program. This drew controversy and failed, but her other activities, including working to create the Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Foster Care Independence Act, were more successful.  

National Political Experience

Clinton's own political career took off after Bill's two terms as president ended and she was elected to Congress as the first female senator from New York. There, she satisfied conservative critics by supporting military action in Afghanistan and the Iraq War Resolution following 9/11. As part of her service in the Senate, she worked on the Armed Service Committee for eight years. This may be why, after her failed attempt at securing the Democratic party's presidential nomination in 2008, the winner of that election, Barack Obama, appointed her as Secretary of State by Barack Obama. Though not a great risk-taker, and continually hounded by conservative critics looking for some way to pin Benghazi on her, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has nonetheless described her as "one of the most effective secretary of states, greatest ambassadors for the American people that I have known in my lifetime."

The First Female President?

Clinton is thoroughly qualified for the presidency. Her combination of gold old book learnin' and extensive political and legal experience can be an invaluable contribution. The real concern about Clinton seems to be whether or not people like her, not whether or not she's qualified. Now, the American people will have to decide in 2016 whether or not she will be the first female elected to the Presidency.

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Silos-Rooney, Jill, Ph.D. "Is Hillary Clinton Qualified for the Presidency?" ThoughtCo, Oct. 29, 2020, Silos-Rooney, Jill, Ph.D. (2020, October 29). Is Hillary Clinton Qualified for the Presidency? Retrieved from Silos-Rooney, Jill, Ph.D. "Is Hillary Clinton Qualified for the Presidency?" ThoughtCo. (accessed January 25, 2021).