August 10, 2007
Grade the Dems: Hillary gets an B
Posted by: Chris
Hillary Rodham Clinton confirmed last night what we already know about her — whether the issue is gay rights, Iraq or any other political hot potato. She will talk a good game, connect with her audience and ultimately commit to doing the absolute minimum she thinks she can get away with committing to.
Whether it's gays in the military or gay marriage, Hillary will calibrate her position according to the political winds, and so will accomplish nothing more and nothing less than what's achievable without the expense of any political capital. That is not leadership.
Just look at how she defended her record: DADT was justified as a "transitional" measure to spare gay service members from witch hunts. I'm old enough to remember that (Bill) Clinton seemed so shell-shocked by the whole debate that he never actually defended his view. He just kept repeating "we don't have a person to waste." Same with DOMA, where Hillary rationalized her support for it, even though she now supports a repeal of it — well, a half-repeal of it. (Obama opposed it from the beginning and backs full repeal.)
Joe Solmonese dominated the early questioning of Hillary and after an inexplicable softball on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," pushed her on marriage. Even with such a friendly questioner, Hillary was unable to articulate the reason she's opposed to gay marriage except to say "it's a personal position." At least Edwards admits to being on a "journey." At least Richardson says he wants to focus on what's achievable. Hillary says nothing at all. She instead skillfully changes the subject, focusing on Karl Rove, George Bush and every other applause line that occurs to her.
She did say that the right strategy was to leave marriage up to the states to decide, leading Solmonese to ask why states' rights isn't any more a red herring now than it was during the black civil rights movement. Hillary's response was telling: "This has not been a long-term struggle yet," she said about the push for marriage equality. So don't expect anything approximating rapid progress if she's your president, she might as well have added.
Melissa Etheridge ended up asking the same tough question of Hillary that I had hoped would be asked. She recalled coming out publicly for the first time during the week of Bill Clinton's inauguration, and all the excitement and encouragement felt by gays because of his election. But she also remembered how "our hearts were broken" when "we were pushed under the bus." Bill Clinton signed DOMA and DADT, and nothing got done on ENDA or hate crimes.
Challenged to explain why we should expect better from her than her husband, Hillary signaled that we pretty much shouldn't. She defended her husband's record, even though she now opposes his two signature pieces of gay-related legislation, and suggested we should have been satisfied that a few gays got White House jobs and Bob Hattoy spoke at the Democratic National Convention.
Why don't you lead, asked Melissa. "I think I am a leader," responded Hillary. I think I disagree.
Hillary Rodham Clinton is no doubt more genuine in support of gay rights than John Edwards, but neither of them impresses me as likely to truly lead on our behalf. Richardson may be gaffe-prone, but at least he's proven he can get things done, and Obama has the potential to truly inspire progress on our issues in a way Hillary and John Edwards can't fathom.
The choice gets clearer and clearer.
Here's Hillary's full 15 minutes:
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