Sorry to post this in its entirety but I couldn't get the url to work. Hillary Clinton, Executive? By Byron York, USA Today July 11, 2007 Here's a question that could decide who wins the Democratic presidential nomination, and possibly the White House: Does serving as first lady count as executive experience? We know that voters like governors chief executives when choosing presidents; Govs. Bush, Clinton, Reagan and Carter could tell you that. The problem for Democrats is that only one candidate in the race today, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, has that experience, and he's a long shot. Besides him, there's not an executive in the bunch, unless you count Dennis Kucinich's time as mayor of Cleveland. But the front-runner, Sen. Hillary Clinton, has a card to trump her colleagues: eight years in the White House. And when she says, as she did at a rally recently, "I have the experience to get this country back on the right track," she's not referring just, or even mostly, to her Senate experience. If she were, she would have scarcely more case to make for herself then Barack Obama or John Edwards. No, what she is saying is: I've been in the White House, I know the job, I've got the right executive stuff. In her memoir, Living History, Clinton wrote that during her husband's administration she and her staff were "fully immersed in the daily operation of the West Wing." And in a recent interview with the online magazine Salon, she cited her time as first lady not only of the United States but also of Arkansas. For her critics, of course, the problem with Clinton's résumé is not that she was in the White House but what she did there. In his biography of Clinton, A Woman in Charge a nice executive title Carl Bernstein writes that a number of Clinton's Democratic allies were deeply concerned about her performance in the White House, concerns that went beyond her mismanagement of the health care portfolio. The core problem, some felt, was that she just wasn't suited for the job. Ex-senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey chafed at the first lady's "arrogance" and her "assumption that people with questions are enemies." White House aide Rahm Emanuel quietly approved when a newspaper columnist urged Clinton to remember she had not been elected president. Former Health and Human Services secretary Donna Shalala told Bernstein she was never convinced by those in Clinton's circle who claimed the first lady would have reached high office even if she had never met Bill Clinton. "They assume that (just) being smart is enough," Shalala said. "And it's not enough. It's judgment. It's experience. It's being strategic at the right points." Exhibit A, of course, was Hillary Clinton's mishandling of health care reform. It was the president's premiere policy initiative, she was the chief executive in charge, and by almost all accounts she made a hash of it. After its failure, she went into internal exile for a couple of years an option not available to a president. On the campaign trail these days, Clinton often says she has learned from her mistakes in the White House. And in the end, what voters might find most important is the simple fact that she has been there. "People associate her with the White House because she was such a visible first lady," Democratic strategist Donna Brazile told me. "They give her de facto executive experience, even though she wasn't chief executive." She'd need that executive image come general election time. Of the leading Republican contenders, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani is the prototypical man-in-charge executive, and Mitt Romney is a former governor. Both would be strong GOP candidates, and Clinton would have to show her governing bona fides to compete with either one. On the other hand, if the GOP nominee were John McCain or Fred Thompson, a senator and a former senator, she would undoubtedly claim an executive advantage. It's an advantage if you accept service as first lady as true executive experience. For most of our history, that would have been an unlikely proposition. For many people, certainly the nearly half of the electorate that has a negative opinion of Clinton, it probably still is. For everyone else the voters who will provide the winning edge it will be the crucial question.