Noel Rock is a very good friend of mine who I know for years now. For the past few summers he’s worked as an intern for Hillary Clinton and was one of the folks that recently campaigned for her in Iowa, in between studying and doing exams back in Ireland. As you do. I’ve been pestering him for months now, perhaps even years at this stage to do a guest blog post here to explain his thoughts on Hillary and he finally sent them on. He’s also just started his own blog so head over and subscribe. I expect great things from Noel in a few years (and told him so now theres loads of pressure) and he’s already done extremely well for himself for someone barely in his twenties. I’m really proud of him. (Further pressure). Noel no Hillary:
Hillary â€“ our nominee?
A tantalising question mark looms over the once inevitable candidacy of Ms. Clinton right now though, for many both here and in America, an even more tantalising question mark looms over Ms. Clinton herself: just who is she?
Iâ€™ve travelled across fourteen states in the last year â€“ spent a night in a Ron Paul youth camp, sat beside an elderly man smuggling drugs across the border for him and his wife and met a cacophony of people representing the length and breadth of American opinions. Iâ€™ve really tried to get in touch with what people were thinking and why and, at this stage, Iâ€™d imagine Iâ€™ve talked to well over a thousand people representing a real spread of American interests, values, thoughts and beliefs. Some Republicans, some Democrats; yet all are united in their discontent with where America is and where it seems to be going.
In such situations, the topic invariably shuffles as to why Iâ€™m in that particular state since Iâ€™m Irish, far from home and completely inappropriately dressed for whatever climate I happen to be in and â€“ without effort â€“ Hillary comes into it eventually. Without fail, upon the mention of her name, people tend to volunteer an opinion and, indeed, Iâ€™ll bet that you may also have had an opinion from the outset of this piece: Iâ€™m not out to change your opinion, thereâ€™s no hard sell here or heart-jerking stories, just my own experiences during the last two years on and off the Clinton bandwagon.
Having grown up with only a vague interest in American politics, Iâ€™m now indelibly linked with Hillary as you have probably guessed, yet it wasnâ€™t always this way. In the never-repeated (and with good reason) words of Jackson Browne, people need some reason to believe and â€“ for me â€“ it was my first experience interning in her Senate office in 2006 that made me commit to her.
The first thing that really struck me, upon spending a few days in the office, is the incredible amount of constituency work that takes place. As a Senator for New York, she is responsible for the welfare of nineteen million Constituents: no mean feat and, perhaps tellingly, she has a huge staff to correspond with them.
Yet, whether itâ€™s a new bridge being constructed in Buffalo, farming issues in upstate New York or crime in a local community on Long Island, she seems to be aware of it all. Sheâ€™s keen to keep an eye on New York even while sheâ€™s campaigning and â€“ consequently â€“ has still shown up to a raft of Senate votes while on the trail. This consistent attention to detail during her Senate termwas rewarded aptly with a 68% re-election rating, something which is not as inevitable as many would believe as â€“ in the last three decades – there has generally been at least one Republican holding a Senate seat in New York. It isnâ€™t thrilling, it isnâ€™t flashy; itâ€™s just good, solid policy work â€“ and she gets it done. Thatâ€™s the first thing I think America needs: an industrious President who knows what needs to be pushed through in order to create lasting reform.
Obama has talked about â€˜changeâ€™: itâ€™s the bedrock of his campaign and, Iâ€™d like to talk about that for a moment because â€“ for me â€“ change isnâ€™t some spontaneous act. Much like patriotism, I donâ€™t believe it can be expressed in a sudden way if it is to be in any way effective: rather change, when it is real, lasting and meaningful, marches to a slow beat and â€“ in that sense â€“ I think the change that Hillary provides is one that is more useful for the situation that America currently finds itself in.
Moreover, an absolute expert in international relations, diplomacy and someone who is at the top of her game in every field: she had nuance and expertise on a wide, wide variety of topics and always seemed to be eager to learn more and add to her depth and range of knowledge. This was particularly illustrated to me one day when â€“ during one of our short but pleasantly insightful conversations â€“ I mentioned to her the issue of nuclear power in America and, after a little back-and-forth, she broke in â€œwell, itâ€™s an issue at home for you too? You donâ€™t want to build any plants yet you import most of your own power – and then thereâ€™s Sellafieldâ€¦â€. I found this to be stunning and, the notable thing was that I introduced the topic of nuclear power, not her. There was no conceivable way she could have prepared for the conversation, yet she had insight and nuance. There are so many more examples of such knowledge that I could share.
Indeed, it was perhaps telling that, when Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley visited Ireland, they requested to see Senator Clinton after all she had done for the peace process. I was sitting in a conference with Mr. McGuinness once and she came up and, it was quite insightful what he had to say, as he stopped to note what an instrumental role she had played in that process by â€œknocking their heads togetherâ€ and â€œmaking them realise they had to wise upâ€. And that was without a mandate as First Lady. Goodness knows how well sheâ€™d apply those skills to a Presidency.
Getting back to the office itself though, it was a fierce environment and an intimidating prospect: being joined by over thirty fellow interns from Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Brown and Columbia among others, I was working with some of the most academically gifted young people that America had to offer and, in order to get meaningful work, you had to â€“ in Hillary speak â€“ â€˜dare to competeâ€™. And, thankfully, I did: I got to collaborate on two speeches: one on farm policy (â€œYouâ€™re Irish, you can do this!) and one on foreign policy (â€œYouâ€™re foreign, you can do this!â€) but â€“ to be honest â€“ the most enjoyable job for most interns was the most mundane-sounding one: giving tours of the Capitol. Maybe it was because I just liked walking and talking too much. I donâ€™t know.
One thing is for certain, whatever bit me during the first three-month stint in her office has kept me coming back and, some twenty thousand miles later, after working through the humid urban swamps of D.C. and the freezing plains of Iowa, I am most definitely hooked on Hillary.