A former White House official who was one of the highest ranking Latinos to serve in the Obama administration says Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton will be ready to lead the Oval Office from the first day.
How does he know?
Jose Fernandez, a partner in a New York-based international law firm, worked directly with Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013 and he served there during the same years. Fernandez, who lived in a Cuban enclave in New Jersey after arriving from Cuba as a child, served as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs during Clinton's tenure at the agency.
After Fernandez participated in briefings and brainstorming meetings with her at the State Department, he said he quickly saw how prepared she was – armed with facts and the latest information on any given subject – at every gathering.
“You realize how well she prepares,” said Fernandez.
Fernandez, who describes himself as a supporter of Clinton’s campaign, said his former boss was mindful of the fact that he was a political outsider when he started his State Department job.
At a meeting during his first few days on the job about Central America, she made a point of turning to him and asking if he wanted to be part of a delegation going there.
He said there was no real reason why he had to be part of the delegation, but he realized that it was Clinton’s way of making him an integral part of the group, and encouraging others to see him as a team member.
“I learned a lot from her – one of the things was team-building,” he said, adding that she has a gift for inspiring loyalty among her staff. “The people who are working for her have been working for her forever. That says something. There’s intense loyalty.”
He lamented the negative tenor of the campaign; the last debate, in New York, was prickly.
Each candidate questioned the other's fitness for the Oval Office, and Sanders hammered away at Clinton's speeches to major corporate groups.
But, Fernandez said, he's not surprised.
The stakes are higher, he said, "the Sanders campaign has become more desperate."
Fernandez said Sanders may stir excitement, but said he falls flat when pressed about details of how he would solve the problems he most frequently addresses.
The Sanders campaign said that its candidate has exceeded expectations, winning primaries and drawing large crowds at his rallies, because he is reflecting many Americans’ wariness with Washington D.C.’s business as usual.
“They’re going to keep saying” negative things about Sanders’ credentials, said Erika Andiola, spokeswoman for the Sanders campaign. “They’re trying to get Bernie to leave the race, that’s not going to happen. We will continue this movement, which is not just about a political candidate – they don’t get that.”
Clinton's campaign has been trying to move past questions about her reliance on an e-mail server in her New York home during her time as Secretary of State.
The FBI is looking into whether any sensitive information may have been compromised through Clinton's home e-mail server. Other agencies are looking into what laws, if any, may have been broken.
"People will use it," Fernandez said of the e-mail controversy, "when they can't beat her on the issues or her record or positions, they have to create enough noise to confuse voters."
Fernandez believes the controversy will not be detrimental to the Clinton campaign.
"I'm not concerned from a legal point of view," he said, saying that now it is being portrayed as wrong, when it wasn't at the time. "If I'm driving a car, and you put a red light at an intersection, you can't get me for the all the time I drove past the corner [without making a full stop] when the light wasn't there."