No one said this was going to be easy.

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Stop Trashing Clinton's Management Skills

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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Hillary Clinton has pulled off one of the most impressive accomplishments in U.S. political history: She has unified her party around her, perhaps securing the presidential nomination earlier and more easily than any politician ever.

Naturally, the press has concluded she doesn’t know what she’s doing.

QuickTake Benghazi

New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait wonders what the flap about her e-mail “reveals about her political judgment and managerial acumen.” David Corn at Mother Jones says her attitudes (and Bill Clinton's) amount to a “testy, overly sensitive, secretive and aggressive approach to the rest of the political-media world.” Paul Waldman of the American Prospect has similar criticism.

And that’s just from the liberals! Even political scientist Brendan Nyhan at the Upshot wonders whether the botched health-care plan in 1993-1994 reveals a deep problem with Clinton’s executive abilities.

Enough already. Yes, it's fair to examine her record for evidence of how she might perform as president, but most of these comments are one-sided and near-sighted. Regardless of what storm the media kicks up today from her press conference on the e-mail issue, let's look at the bigger picture.  

Does Clinton become defensive when the press attacks? Sure. That’s what almost all politicians do. Though Barack Obama has been unusually good at avoiding this trap, he too has fallen into it more than once.

Has Clinton been guilty of poor judgment in some cases with respect to hiring, delegation, organization or other management decisions? Yup. Again, find me a politician who hasn't taken flak for this.  

Were Clinton’s eight years in the Senate and four at the State Department filled with constant chaos and controversy. No, they weren't, the Republican obsession with Benghazi notwithstanding.  That -- and her apparent achievement in locking up the Democratic nomination -- should count for something.

Yes, the health-care plan was bungled, just as pretty much everything in Bill Clinton’s first two years as president was bungled. I’m inclined to blame him mostly for that one. And it was more than 20 years ago.

More recently, infighting and poor decisions reportedly plagued her 2008 presidential campaign -- making it like most high-profile losing campaigns in that respect. 

None of this is to say the press shouldn’t go after the e-mail story, or raise questions about the funding of the Clinton Foundation, or follow any other story that pops up. Or examine her management style, such as Nyhan's claim that Clinton could have a “barnacle” problem of an “impossibly large retinue of hangers-on, advisers, supporters and sycophants” (although this might just be the necessary downside of putting together an impressively large network of supporters). 

The main point, however, is that no one should understate Clinton’s political accomplishments. The nomination contest is something she has (seemingly) won, not something that was just given to her.

  1. Too harsh? Not by much. Clinton became very good at the job, but his transition might have been the worst among the modern presidents.  

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net