2.02.2008

Pillory Hillary

As a new New Yorker, I have something in common with Senator Clinton. As a Yale graduate, I have something in common with her, too. We're both women, smart women, women who have made professional sacrifices to support our husband's careers. I don't think any of these facts are reason to vote for her on Tuesday, in part because I also, proudly, call myself a feminist and a liberal.

I am so tired of New Yorkers telling me how well she's "reached across the aisle" (as though, as a freshman in the Senate and one who arrived with unliftable baggage , loathed by the other party, she had any other choice) and what a "great job" she's done for New York. This letter, from a local activist, begs to differ. I think it offers an interesting perspective on what's wrong with the consummate politician, Hillary Clinton.

    Dear fellow Hudson Valley Democrats:
    When it comes to Hillary Clinton, there is no shortage of unfair and unprincipled reasons for disliking her -- and if you listen to AM talk radio for an hour, you'll probably hear them all.

    I reject the sexism of those who still think a former First Lady has no place in policy debates, just as I reject the absurd theories of those who think she had a hand in the death of her close friend Vince Foster.

    Having volunteered on Clinton's first senate campaign, I get mad when I hear Rush Limbaugh savage her as a liar and an opportunist. I'm also grateful to her for keeping Rudy Guiliani and Rick Lazio out of the Senate.

    But you don't have to be a sexist or a conspiracy theorist to oppose Clinton's candidacy.

    I don't dislike Hillary; I distrust her. And my reasons are both substantive, and based on direct personal experience. When a major issue hit the Hudson Valley, Clinton was less than honest with her constituents, and all to eager to take credit where none was due.

    For nearly 7 years, our communities were riven with controversy about a vast, coal-burning facility proposed by St. Lawrence Cement here in the Hudson Valley.

    Given the harsh health, scenic, noise, traffic, economic and other negative potential impacts, opponents naturally wanted to get the ear of Mrs. Clinton -- and we tried everything. She was approached at campaign whistlestops, at private dinners, and public fundraisers. Printed factsheets were pressed into staffers' hands, and handwritten letters beseeched our new Senator to help end this dangerous idea. But
    she refused to take any public stand.

    Finally, as the leader of the grassroots opposition, I tried an old-fashioned political route. A friend identified a celebrity donor in nearby Dutchess County who was opposed to St. Lawrence's plans, and hecalled in a big favor. Driving to the capitol in his limo, we met with Hillary first in a chamber outside the Armed Services Committee, then took a long walk and tram ride under the Capitol to her offices. Hillary was both charming, and surprisingly well-informed on our issue.

    At last, here was my big chance to make a full case for her involvement.

    But when I launched into a carefully-prepared spiel, the Senator stopped me: "You don't need to do the presentation," she said. "The plant is a terrible idea. Just tell me how I can help." Delighted, I described the various Federal permitting processes in which she could intervene, and the benefits of her taking a public stand.

    She called in her chief environmental policy advisor, and gave detailed instructions: Get a memo on her desk right away, listing the necessary action steps and the policy rationales for each, and she'd get right to work on it. Her performance was smart and convincing, and her celebrity backer and I practically floated down the Capitol steps
    on the way out.

    The rest was silence. After promptly delivering the requested memo, I was never able to get her staff (let alone the Senator herself) to discuss the issue again, let alone take action to stop the plant.

    About a year later, Clinton was cornered on the SLC issue by an interviewer from The National Trust for Historic Preservation, who finally got her to say that she thought the proposal was "not the right direction for the Hudson Valley." These remarks were published in Preservation Magazine, which Clinton apparently thought no one
    would read... because when we then alerted local media to her statement, Clinton's staff denied the remarks and claimed she still had not taken a position.

    Only after nearly 14,000 residents and 40 groups wrote in opposition to the Republican administration of George Pataki did this terrible project get scrapped -- without any help from either of our Democratic Senators.

    But there was one more damning chapter in our Clinton saga.

    After we won, the group I co-founded received an award at the Waldorf-Astoria from the Preservation League of New York. During the awardceremony, it was announced that there would be a video tribute from someone who couldn't attend, but who wanted to pay her respects. Up on a giant screen came Hillary Clinton, talking about how we'd all fought
    such a good fight together.

    Those of us who had been in the trenches for years looked at each other in amazement. All the awful things people say about Hillary were horribly validated: She didn't deliver on her promises, and then she took credit for a victory achieved without her help.

    Now, some friends say, "Come now, Sam -- all politicians are the same. They tell you what you want to hear, and then do the opposite. Get over it!" Others say, "Well, Hillary dropped the ball on that one, but I still trust her on health care, education, abortion, the economy, et cetera."

    To these excuses I say: Other politicians from five states had the guts to take a stand on an issue affecting hundreds of thousands of downwind residents; why couldn't Clinton?

    Why should we expect her to act differently the next time a major regional controversy hits? If she won't stand up for the health of children and the elderly, and won't expend any political capital to save a broad swath of her own adopted State as its Senator, why should we expect her to behave differently as President?

    And why shouldn't I get behind another candidate who is just as strong on core Democratic issues, such as Barack Obama -- whose campaign overtly rejects this cynical brand of politics?

    The whole experience brings to mind that phrase famously mangled by our current President: Fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice, shame on Hillary.

    And that's why Senator Clinton doesn't have my vote on Super Tuesday. She will almost certainly carry this State, but our votes can help ensure that at least a portion of New York's delegates to the Democratic convention are awarded to a more deserving candidate.

    Sam Pratt - Founder - Friends of Hudson


It's not that I don't respect Hillary Clinton. I do. But I don't feel, as I fear she does, that she deserves to be president. I don't believe in dynasties. I do believe that the boomer generation is far from the "greatest" generation, and they've screwed this country up beyond belief. It's time for them, at long last, to step aside.

Now some more, from another friend, a friend from Hollywood:


    This is a short (ish) letter about politics. From somebody with only the most basic understanding of politics. So, feel free to click over to The Washington Post right now. But I had a dream last night that George Clooney liked where I was coming from (and that's all. We were just friends, okay?) and I figured if Dream Clooney could dig it, maybe my friends could too.

    A lot of people I know are very conflicted about who to support -- Hillary or Obama. What I'm hearing -- and what I have thought myself at times -- goes something like this:

    Obama is smart and exciting, he's charismatic (okay, maybe not so much in debates). He's new and he doesn't have the baggage "Billary" does. But this is not the time for on-the-job training. Hillary may pucker up like she smelled something bad too often and I don't like her jewelry -- but she's brilliant and she knows what's up in Washington. (And she's a woman and how can you even think of supporting anybody else when you were raised by radical lesbians!?...or...maybe that part's just me...)

    There are variations on this theme, but that's the basic script.

    I checked Obama out early on and he didn't seem totally ready yet. Give him eight more years to "bake", I thought. But I've been pretty disgusted by Billary's entitlement act since Obama won Iowa - so I did some more homework. I saw Obama in person a few times, I read stuff and I talked to all my friends. Two things sealed the deal:

    One -- Someone I know recently had dinner with a major GOP player. The player confided that the Republicans think they have a real chance against Hillary. Even after eight years of BUSH. So that's saying something. But -- they are scared of Obama. Really scared. Which leads to--

    Two -- I watched Obama speak to community college kids in East LA. Most have you have seen how he can genuinely move a crowd, how fine he is at delivering his message of hope. And this day was no exception. But he also took questions and talked at length about policy and strategy. I don't agree with everything he says, but I no longer feel he is naive about "how things work" in Washington. But is he "dirty" enough? Can he "play the game?" Maybe not. And that is why I'm voting for Obama. The reason people are turning out in record numbers to see him, to vote and campaign for him, to finance his bid (NO money from special interest groups, ya'll) is because he rejects cynicism. He doesn't deny that he has to battle it, in the world and in himself. But if anybody can inspire people to become their better selves -- it is this man. I don't believe Hillary has that power. No matter how much she smiles.

    We don't just need a new White House, we need a new populace. We need a new commitment from every person who can act, to act. Obama said he didn't have eight more years to wait because of the "fierce urgency of now." (thank you, Doctor King). He didn't want the hope he has beaten out of him over time. He understands how dire our place in the world is, and how dire the state of the planet itself. It's going to take more than a president to change it, it's going to take all of us.

    Ted Kennedy, maybe the most effective democratic legislator ever, understands this too. He and his family are throwing down for Obama because they believe he can transform our country in the same way John F. Kennedy did.

    The only thing that would make Omaba better for me is if he were a lesbian.

    If you are wavering -- I urge you to take the leap. Decide to believe and, better still, get involved. Dream Clooney urges you too.

    With love and, yes, HOPE,

    [my friend]


The friend who wrote this is a (striking) writer, a brilliant and passionate (and funny) woman whose shows you probably watch. If she says it's ok, I'll put her name on the letter.

6 comments:

swimgirlseries said...

Wow. I like Sam Pratt. I like what both of those letters say. I'm just not 100% decided yet...

rebecca said...

OK, I'm feeling the slightest bit more interested in this race. It would help, frankly, if the candidates were given some couture design challenge.

Anonymous said...

I so want to meet you, Rebecca! I've been lurking on your blog linked from Paige's since last fall.

mk

Christina said...

As I told my similarly enamored friend this week - if for some reason we had not settled on Obama on our own, the Clooney endorsement would have tipped me over the edge! OK, not really, I am not that shallow (Am I?)I do love both letters, especially the last one. It so well describes how Obama moves people to participate.

Froggymama said...

Amen. I feel like a traitor for not liking Hillary, but I just don't trust her. She voted for the war again and again, while preaching against it. And as much as I respect her stance on healthcare I don't trust that she will stand behind her own beliefs.

Anonymous said...

"As an new New Yorker"? Really, you went to Yale? I know your classes were pass/fail but how did you fare in English?