Way back when she first considered running for president of the United States (which was likely sometime during her undergraduate career at Wellesley, if not earlier) Hillary Clinton doubtless nursed, along with an enormous personal ambition, the impersonal goal of opening up that great
frontier of power and responsibility to women at large. An abundant supply of classmates' reminiscences make it clear that she was widely regarded as a natural for such an office. Indeed, it seems to have been a remarkable act of will that allowed her to subordinate herself for so long to the political career of her uniquely talented husband.
Hillary Clinton was, in a strictly modern sense of an old-fashioned concept, a model wife and helpmate. She paid the dues, putting up, as we know, with a multitude of indignities. And this year, after eight years of honorable service in the U.S. Senate, it seemed to be her time — and, not so incidentally, time at last for her gender to succeed at the very top of ambition and success in America.
Only, when a heartfelt cry went up — "This is our time! This is our moment!" — in this pivotal political year of 2008, it was uttered not by her but by her chief opponent, a relative political newcomer on the national political scene with the odd name of Barack Obama. He, too, like both of the political Clintons, was clearly gifted, but, as an unknown Illinois state senator as recently as 2004, Obama's platform for a presidential race had come out of nowhere, via fluke situations that basically disqualified both his Democratic primary opponent and his original Republican opponent in that year's U.S. Senate race.
Once launched in national politics, Obama was self-propelling, and when he scored early success in the Iowa caucuses, he became the person to beat for the presidency. And he was an African American. Literally. He was the son of a Kenyan father and a Kansas-born mother. A collateral advantage of his unusual heritage was that he was not descended from American slaves, a fact that may explain an appealing lack of racial tension in his makeup.
Cutting to the chase: Whoever wins the bitterly contested fight for the Democratic nomination will ipso facto extend the possibilities of American citizenship in an unprecedented manner. That's something for the partisans of both candidates to remember when the time comes to reconcile.
The aforesaid advance will be true even if Republican John McCain turns out to be the winner in November. And, come to think of it, if McCain should take office at 72 as the oldest elected president in our history, he'll also revise the frontier of opportunity, won't he?
There are activists in government, and there are time-servers. David Kustoff, who offered a surprise resignation as U.S. attorney on Tuesday (see City Beat), was clearly the former. His attention to detail, coupled with a determination to extend the reach of justice, especially in cases of political corruption and other white-collar crime, will mark his time in office as worthy of serious attention in the annals of law and politics.