Politics & Policy

Dear Hillary Clinton Fans, Ambition Isn’t ‘Sacrifice’ — It’s not Even ‘Service’

Clinton on the campaign trail in Nevada in February. (David Becker/Reuters)
America’s choice is between two supremely selfish candidates.

Last week, Gold Star father Khizr Khan made headlines when he ripped Donald Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, declaring at the crescendo of his speech at the Democratic National Convention that Trump had “sacrificed nothing and no one.” It was an undeniably powerful moment — made only more powerful by Trump’s personal counterattack against Khan and his wife, Ghazala. The Khans’ son, U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, was killed in action in Iraq in 2004. At the same time, however, calling out Trump’s lack of sacrifice was an odd choice — especially when Hillary Clinton is his opponent. After all, what has Hillary ever sacrificed?

On Saturday, I made that point on Twitter, and the backlash was immediate: Hillary gave up high-paying jobs to work in Arkansas and teach law school; she has a lifetime of “public service.” How dare I compare Trump’s private-sector greed with Hillary’s public-sector “sacrifice.”

Let’s be clear. Hillary Clinton hasn’t sacrificed — she’s lived the progressive dream. And she’s certainly not a “public servant” — she’s a cynical, grasping, and ambitious politician. Her accomplishments are meager, and her one guiding star is her own self-advancement.

First, let’s dispense with the notion that there is anything at all sacrificial about her career. Walk into any elite law school and lay out her career path — work for fashionable left-wing causes, teach law school, make partner in a state’s premiere law firm, move into the White House, and then run for a gift-wrapped Senate seat — and you’ll watch students knife one another in the back for the opportunity to have half her chances. Every one of her jobs has been “cool.” Each of her jobs helped build her résumé. Not one of her jobs involved any serious sacrifice for her country.

RELATED: What Does Hillary Want?

Most progressive students don’t want to start or end their careers in big corporate law firms. Indeed, they often choose that life only because they feel boxed-in by student loans and try to escape the big firm the instant they’re financially able. It’s not a “sacrifice” to choose to escape the 70-hour work weeks. It’s not a “sacrifice” to avoid endless hours of thankless document review and mindless discovery. It’s a dream.

Second, it’s simply false that activists, politicians, or bureaucrats are — by definition — “public servants.” Instead, they’re often wannabe rulers, seeking their own good at the expense of the public. Activists and politicians have pulled off a neat trick. Unlike other professionals, they’ve figured out a way to cast their naked ambition as selfless and righteous. If public office is such a sacrifice, why do senators and representatives hold on to their offices with a vise grip? Many of them love the perks. Most of them love the power. Some of them love the public.

Let’s be clear. Hillary Clinton hasn’t sacrificed — she’s lived the progressive dream.

So, please, spare me the rhetoric that any given politician is a public servant. Hillary Clinton has mainly been a destructive force in American life. Her zealous defense of abortion-on-demand has helped maintain a culture of death that has cost millions of young lives. Her foreign-policy missteps have helped turn Libya into an ISIS playground and assisted in squandering American victories in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her Russian “reset” merely lulled Americans into believing the Russian bear was benign. Her unrelenting personal corruption has helped degrade American politics. She serves mainly herself.

It is a fact of our modern elite that true sacrifice or service is the exception rather than the rule. The number of veterans in Congress keeps declining, and it’s even rare to see veterans run for president — only two of the 17 Republican candidates, Rick Perry and Lindsey Graham, were veterans. Military service is hardly the only sacrifice that can teach a person the humility and self-awareness necessary to become a true public servant, but look at the résumés of our non-veteran “elite” and you see depressing, dreary sameness. They catapult from one elite posting to another, and there is always a disturbing symmetry between the “public interest” and their own advancement.

#related#But don’t tell that to Hillary’s hagiographers. A nation founded by great men — and that has spawned many great presidents — still yearns to look up to its leaders. And so we commence the selling of a president. A real-estate developer develops his own strongman cult, and a glorified political wife tries to transform herself into a heroic trailblazer. But in the end we’re left with nothing but grasping cynicism and petty personal corruption. Neither candidate sacrifices for this nation. Instead, they sacrifice our nation on the altar of their own ambition. In calling out Trump’s lack of sacrifice, Khizr Khan condemns his own candidate.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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