In his new interview with Hillary Clinton, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham compared Hillary’s somewhat morose spiritual views with not only Reinhold Niebuhr, but Abraham Lincoln. In case this seems incidental, please be reminded that Meacham also compared Lincoln and John Kerry in 2004, actually bringing Abe down to Kerry's level as a flip-flopper. (Ronald Reagan would have joked, a la the late Lloyd Bentsen: "I knew Abe Lincoln. Abe Lincoln was a friend of mine. Hillary is no Abe Lincoln.")
NEWSWEEK: My sense of your theological world view, to oversimplify, is that it is more in line with Lincoln and Niebuhr than with, say, more feel-good kinds of evangelism. Life is tragic, and all that.
HILLARY: Yes. Life is tragic, human beings are flawed, you can't take anything or anyone for granted, it may not be there tomorrow, and you have to rely on yourself—and hopefully, if you are a good person, you will also take care of other people on the way and try to give them the opportunities to also withstand the vagaries and vicissitudes of life.
NEWSWEEK: Do you agree with Niebuhr that "the sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world"?
HILLARY: I agree with him that that always has to be one of the missions. I believe that human nature being what it is, our Founders were not only political philosophers but great psychologists, and understood the limits of human power but also the reach of human ambition … But I also believe that human beings are capable of not only the most debasing and terrible actions but ennobling and enlightening ones as well.
NEWSWEEK: How important is Wesley and your faith?
HILLARY: It is the core of who I am. In my family, we were Americans, we were Republicans and we were Methodists. It all kind of combined in me to motivate me in my faith life, in love of my country, in my work in politics. "Do all the good you can"—how do you do that?
NEWSWEEK: A theologian once described Wesley's doctrine as "the push of duty and the pull of grace."
HILLARY: I feel that every day. I have been sustained over the course of my life by prayer, and by those who have prayed for me, by my understanding and commitment to my faith, and by those inexplicable moments of grace. Sometimes you are down as far as you can go, and you are there for a long time before it happens. And you try really hard to make it happen and it doesn't happen, and you have to be willing to let it go … What happened to me last Monday morning in Portsmouth [N.H.] was a moment of grace. It was so touching and so affecting to me. If I had sat down and thought of a thousand ways I can better let people know who I am, and what I care about, that would not have been on the list, but it was who I am and what I care about, and it was a connection that I find often when I am out doing this work. I have been so run through the gauntlets time and time again, I've had my motives questioned, my personality, my performance, everything derided and undermined.