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    January 13, 2008

    The HRC-LBJ analogy

    Posted by: Chris

    Mlkandlbj Picking up on Hillary Clinton's disparaging comparison of Barack Obama to Martin Luther King and herself to Lyndon Johnson, reader Craig Ranapia writes:

    [President Johnson's] support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was as much raw pragmatism and sheer bloody-mindedness as high principle. Dr King's ability to "get it done" (as Sen. Clinton puts it) was somewhat curtailed by the fact he was never a senator (let alone of the youngest caucus leaders ever on either side of the aisle), vice president or president. I don't think its over cynical to suggest Johnson wouldn't have broken a sweat over a civil rights bill if King and so many others hasn't been loudly raising 'false hopes' for so many years."

    Exactly right. In that sense, Clinton's original comparison of herself to LBJ is particularly appropriate because she and her husband both appear very much in his mold, like most politicians, willing to do pretty much the minimum that will satisfy any given constituency.

    That's ultimately why Bill Clinton threw us under the bus in his first term. His theoretical commitment to our cause was no match for the political heat he was taking on gays in the military and gay marriage. Hillary may be more committed to our cause in theory, but she's more cautious politically than her husband.

    If she's elected, expect nothing more than (gay-only) employment non-discrimination, hate crimes, domestic partner benefits for federal workers and a lot of openly gay appointments. And, of course, gay-friendly appointments to the federal bench. That's not nothing, of course, but it's what the Democrats have been promising for more than a decade now.

    It's unthinkable to me that Hillary would refight the battles that so scarred her husband in her own first term, including gays in the military -- especially as the first female commander in chief and during a time of war. Half-repeal of Defense of Marriage Act, the other bit of damage to be undone from her husband's LBJ-ism, would risk reopening the gay marriage debate.

    Craig's point applies to the gay rights movement as well. LBJ acted because of constant pressure from King and a civil rights movement that rallied and protested and lobbied friend, foe and mushy middle alike.

    The gay rights movement, on the other hand, is led by an organization that is such a part of the Democratic Party machinery that putting on the pressure -- much rallying and protesting -- is out of the question. Now that the movement has been a captive interest of the Democrats for so long, the party reacts with angry contempt at activists and media that buck the system.

    It's no wonder, then, that the establishment-types who lead the gay rights movement are in bed with the Clinton campaign. The question is just how much longer it would have taken to pass basic civil rights laws on the basis of race if MLK had been so acquiescent toward LBJ and the Democrats.

    The other question, of course, is whether Obama would be any different, which I'll leave to another post to consider.



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    1. tedlindstrom on Jan 13, 2008 8:31:00 PM:

      I am more optimistic that Hillary would rescind Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) in favor of a policy allowing gay folks to serve openly. There is broad support for this in the Democratic party which means she would have political support for it. She might face resistance from the miliary establishment, but even there, attitudes among enlisted men and women are changing. It won't be easy, but I think she'll do it.

      That said, I don't think she'll do it right away, the way Bill did. When he did DADT so soon into his first term, it cost him politically. I think she'll wait a while and then do it quietly.

    1. Andoni on Jan 14, 2008 7:57:09 AM:


      In today's NYTimes, there is a fact check on Bill and Hillary's latest attempt to "undo" her Iraq War Vote by saying it was a vote for UN inspectors and not for war because Senator Hagel wrote the bill. A blatant lie, just as is their new tactic of trying to go after Obama's strength (a Carl Rove tactic pointed out by Andrew Sullivan) by saying he wasn't consistently against the war. Also a huge lie, but if repeated enough may stick.

      Here is the link and following is the story. Can you imagine, both Bill and Hillary blatantly lying?


      January 14, 2008
      Check Point
      In Defending War Vote, Clintons Contradict Record

      WASHINGTON — Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton have repeatedly invoked the name of Senator Chuck Hagel, a longtime critic of the Iraq war, as they defend Mrs. Clinton’s 2002 vote to authorize the war.

      In interviews and at a recent campaign event, they have said that Mr. Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, helped draft the resolution, which they said was proof that the measure was more about urging Saddam Hussein to comply with weapons inspections, instead of authorizing combat.

      Mrs. Clinton repeated the claim Sunday during an interview on “Meet the Press,” saying “Chuck Hagel, who helped to draft the resolution, said it was not a vote for war.”

      “It was a vote to use the threat of force against Saddam Hussein, who never did anything without being made to do so,” Mrs. Clinton said.

      But the talking point appears to misconstrue the facts.

      In October 2002, Mr. Hagel had in fact been working with Senators Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, and Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, on drafting a resolution that would have authorized the war.

      But while those negotiations were under way, to the disappointment of some Congressional Democrats, the Bush administration circumvented their effort and reached a separate agreement with Representative Richard A. Gephardt, Democrat of Missouri, then the House minority leader.

      That agreement resulted in a bill, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, now an independent, which was slightly less restrictive than the proposal that Mr. Hagel had been helping to develop.

      In the original proposal Mr. Hagel had backed, force was authorized only to secure the destruction of Iraq’s unconventional weapons, not to enforce “all relevant” United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq, which was the language in the version that ultimately passed.

      It was the White House proposal, not Mr. Hagel’s, that Mrs. Clinton supported, explaining in an Oct. 10, 2002, speech on the Senate floor that it was time to tell Saddam Hussein that “this is your last chance — disarm or be disarmed.”

      The repeated references to Mr. Hagel by the Clintons make it clear that they are trying to distance her from the Bush administration’s handling of Iraq, by associating her with a persistent critic of the war.

      Bill Clinton has raised the claim at least twice, including in an April 2007 interview on “Larry King Live” and, most recently, at a campaign event in New Hampshire just before the Democratic primary there.

      “Chuck Hagel was one of the co-authors of that resolution, the only Republican Senator that always opposed the war, every day, from the get-go,” Mr. Clinton said on Jan. 7. “He authored the resolution to say that Bush could go to war only if they didn’t cooperate with the inspectors.”

      A spokesman for Mr. Hagel declined on Sunday to comment about the matter.

      In an interview published in GQ magazine in January 2007, Mr. Hagel said that he helped shape the course of the debate — even if it was not his resolution that ultimately passed. He said he helped convince the White House to narrow its request for authorization to go to war just to Iraq. Initially, the administration wanted Congress to approve a broad measure that would not have necessarily specified Iraq as the only target, potentially allowing action elsewhere in the Middle East.

      Phil Singer, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, said Sunday that the statements by the senator and Mr. Clinton accurately reflected the role that Mr. Hagel played in the overall negotiations, even if it was not his bill that Congress voted on.

      “Senator Hagel not only played a key role in drafting the 2002 authorization,” Mr. Singer said, “but has spoken about those efforts at length.”

    1. Michael on Jan 14, 2008 2:01:11 PM:

      One can dismiss your predictable slurs and distortions against the Clintons as "opinion" distorted by the ever-raging fevers of your terminal Clintonophobia disease. But your account of LBJ's actions and motivations are a distortion of historical fact. Before you embarrass yourself again, I suggest you read the relevant sections of John D'Emilio's brilliant biography of black gay civil rights icon Bayard Rustin, "Lost Prophet." Sample: "Except for the New Deal years of Franklin Roosevelt, Rustin had experienced the American presidency as a force for reaction. ...Now, in 1964, Rustin saw something else at play. Lyndon Johnson was emerging as an instigator of progressive change. He had embraced the core goals of the civil rights movement and was championing a domestic war against poverty. ... By 1968, the world had changed and [Rustin] saw national politics through different eyes. However inadequate he judged Johnson's Great Society programs and whatever misgivings he held about the war, he still believed Johnson 'will go down in history as having done more for civil rights than any single President who ever lived.'" Pages 376 and 466 respectively. Nowhere do I find any characterization by Rustin who, unlike you or Ranapia OR Obama, lived through it, that Johnson did only "the minimum" and only becaue of "raw pragmatism."

      You often demonstrate an ability to see uncomfortable facts and the courage to speak unpopular truth against the tide, e.g., the Jenna Six Nonsense. But this is not the first time your insight and judgment has been overcome by your rabid Clinton hatred. Another example is your incessant echoing of Obama propaganda re his alleged superior position on the repeal of the now functionally irrelevant Section 2 of DOMA when, as his supporter Lawrence Tribe has revealed, Obama still supports a state's "right" to DENY legalizing same gender relationships as much as he does their right to affirm them. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=3468949&page=1 How does that make him functionally different, let alone better, than the Senator from New York? Does the Betty Ford Clinic offer detox programs for Hillary Haters?

    1. Craig Ranapia on Jan 14, 2008 2:50:39 PM:


      Why don't you and the rest of the Clintonistas get off the cross, because I need the wood for something more useful than you whinging martyr trip. But what a depressingly typical reach for the Rove play book -- don't engage with the substantive issue, instead smear you critics as pathological 'haters', misogynists, liars etc. Heavens forbid Hilary Clinton be subject to any critical scrutiny of her own voting record or public statements. If we keep going down that road the terrorists win!


      I have enormous (but not unqualified) respect for Bayard Rustin and John D'Emilio's biography was long overdue. But I suggest you take a look at Robert Caro's exhaustive -- and exhausting -- biography of LBJ. Far from character assassination, it's not mindless hagiography either. Taylor Branch's three volume 'America in the King Years' is also worth a careful reading if you can open the both eyes for a bit.

      And, yes, I still stand by my comment that the whole analogy is fundamentally flawed. But, hey, I'm not the one running around implicitly comparing herself to LBJ. I guess the First and Last Commandment of Clintonism is "do what I say, don't say what I do."

      Just as an FYI, Michael, no comment I post here is holy writ . But I'd like it if you'd no longer assume that everything you disagree with comes from a place of 'hate' and bad faith. And I don't appreciate the snide Betty Ford cracks, either. As a recovering alcoholic, I'm quite happy to explain the difference between substance abuse and a political point of view. But I don't really think you care.

    1. Monster Beats Sale on Nov 30, 2011 1:26:08 AM:

      I'm quite happy to explain the difference between substance abuse and a political point of view. But I don't really think you care.

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