Thursday, February 24, 2005

A Winding Road on disappointing remarks by two senators

Saturday Folding Star of A Winding Road was kind enough to agree (at the last minute) to an interview. You can find the interview at The Third Estate Sunday Review. What had been sold to Folding Star as "thirty minutes tops" (sold by me) quickly extended to an hour and then an hour and a half (possibly two hours).

During this time, I brought up remarks made by Hillary Clinton. Folding Star hadn't yet heard of the remarks. Without any knowledge of it, FS wisely refrained comment.

(The remarks had been reported -- and one played -- on one of the hourly news breaks during The Laura Flanders Show.)

On Sunday, FS weighed in on the remarks after having checked them out. Martha had e-mailed this in noting that she felt it was important and asking that we highlight it.

There are two things I want to focus on.
Both are comments made by Senators in recent days.
[. . .]
The comment I want to highlight [. . .] came from Senator Rockefeller of West Virginia at the end of last week. After pushing the White House to make a nomination to begin with by pointing out in Committee last week how unacceptable it was that Bush was dragging his feet on the matter, Rockefeller reacted not with the outrage I'd hope for from any decent person, but rather with these words:
"People grow and change over twenty years."
Unbelievable. I've considered placing Rockefeller in our DINO Hall of Shame over this comment, which is too outrageous to be believed.
[. . .]
Rockefeller can be a a center/right voice on some issues, but he can also be an ally on others. For example, the Senator has a 93% rating from NARAL and is generally a strong supporter on pro-choice issues. On other issues, he's not always reliable. For example, he did vote to include sexual orientation in the definition of a hate crime and voted in favor of prohibiting job discrimination because of sexual orientation, but he's also voted against same sex marriage in the past and been in favor of a Constitutional Amendment banning the burning of the American flag.
In the end, I've decided not to include Rockefeller in the DINO Hall of Shame. I don't think Rockefeller can truly be called a DINO at this point and I never want to rush to label someone that unless they truly deserve it, for more than just one vote or comment. But we'll be watching.
His comment just demonstrates how easy this confirmation is going to be for Negroponte. For the third time in less than four years, he's going to be overwhelmingly confirmed by the Senate in spite of the dark stain on his record, a stain which we all bear on our own hands to some degree. After all, it's the people we've elected to be our voices who have confirmed him time and again, turning a blind eye to the past.
[. . .]
The other comment from a Senator that needs addressing came from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York this weekend.
During the Senate recess, Senators Clinton, Feingold of Wisconsin, McCain of Arizona, Collins of Maine, and Graham of South Carolina took the opportunity to travel to Iraq in a Congressional Delegation and assess the situation there first hand.You'll recall that Senator Clinton made a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan in November of 2003 (many believe, and I'm one of them, that it was the Senator's high profile trip that lead to Bush's surprise Thanksgiving trip that month. Unlike the Senator from New York, however, Bush went no further than the safety of a bunker with hand picked American soldiers surrounding him). Back then, Senator Clinton came home with some criticisms of the way things were being managed.This time around, she seems to have found things more to her liking.
You see, the fact that the bloodshed continues is a good sign, according to the Senator. The very existence of suicide bombers, who killed 55 people the day Clinton made these comments, shows that the insurgency is weakening. Huh? Let me give you her exact words:"The fact that you have these suicide bombers now, wreaking such hatred and violence while people pray, is to me, an indication of their failure."
The Senator went on to say that:"It's regrettable that the security needs have increased so much. On the other hand, I think you can look at the country as a whole and see that there are many parts of Iraq that are functioning quite well."
Quite well? This [in]spite of the fact that things are worse than during visits in 2003, as Senator Susan Collins acknowledged that same day:
"We were able to move more freely in Baghdad (in 2003). And one impression I have is how much more fortified Baghdad is than it was during that summer."
So, Senator Clinton sings the praises of how things are going in Iraq, commenting that things are 'functioning quite well' and that the rash of suicide bombings, instead of showing the continuing rage and bitterness of occupied Iraqis actually shows that they're failing. Meanwhile, her Republican colleague from Maine points out that Baghdad is more of a city under siege now than it was over a year ago. To me, that sounds like things are getting worse, not better.
Why does Senator Clinton feel the need to slap a happy face on this mess, to ignore that we're in a situation where the Iraqi people are never going to stop hating us until we get our soldiers out of their country? The insurgents aren't going to stop. The fact that they still feel strongly enough to be blowing themselves up indicates that they're as dedicated to ending the occupation as ever before.
We need the truth. We don't see it in the media. They strive to cover up harsh realities. Clearly, we can't depend on elected officials for much truth, either. Senator Clinton is just as engaged in Operation Happy Talk as the Bushies. Just as dedicated to ignoring that this war was illegal and that our troops are only causing more problems by remaining in Iraq.
The Senator from New York voted in favor of giving Bush the right to launch his war, as a majority of Democrats in the Senate did at the time. She now compounds her past mistake by trying to pretend like things are getting better every day, when clearly things are falling apart, elections or not.

That was a hard one to highlight because it's so packed with information. (I'm pretty sure that with Folding Star, I could post the entire entry here and that works the other way as well.)

I agree with Martha that this needs to be addressed, the remarks by Rockefeller and Clinton. Since Sunday, I've heard a rush to defend from various commentators, a rush to justify Clinton's comments. Hillary Clinton is a smart woman. No one's accusing her of being stupid.

To those that support her, her strongest characteristic has always been her public honesty. To her detractors, her most visible characteristic is a tendency to change (the right has documented each hair style change -- and don't think that visual won't find itself in an ad -- "Which One Is the Real Hillary?" -- if she attempts to run for president*). Now really isn't a time to be anything less than authentic.

If there's a reason for her disagreeing with Senator Collins' assessment (and John McCain's), she needs to say so. Surrogates rushing out to "explain" the remarks on reproductive rights while she remained silent don't provide an impression of a strong core. As some members pointed out, we're going to ask hard questions and we're not going to go into a primary again without them answered. So any candidate thinking they'll get a pass (any Democratic candidate, my apologies to third party community members) better realize that a lot of people pulled together in 2004 and will probably attempt to pull together in 2008. After the primary.

Point? People better get used to answering for their statements. And those who rush in to silence discussion of the statements of an elected official need to ask themselves why that is?
There are no pin ups on my wall. And I'm not a member of a fan club.

And when elected officials make statements, they need to be responsible for them. (Something Lawrence Summers is learning currently. The long delay in releasing the transcript only allowed the controversy to simmer to its current boil.)

Let's talk about Maureen Dowd for a moment. I'm not going to evaluate her opinions because that's not the point here. [Maureen Dowd, for anyone unaware, is an op-ed writer for the New York Times.] (And again, I do have a copy of Bushworld.) There are people circulating her columns like crazy. With one exception, whenever she writes about Bill or Hillary Clinton. Then we don't see the column linked all over the net (by the left) or shooting up the most e-mailed list at the Times. It's as though Dowd's on some sort of vacation.

I'm not e-mailing out her columns. (I don't e-mail anything out from the Times proper anymore since they no longer allow you to e-mail the article in full. Note, however, the Washington Post still allows that.) But it seems to me, that if someone is, or someone's citing every column that doesn't mention the Clintons, it's kind of strange this imposed silence when she writes about them.

Is she right? Well I guess that's a topic most of us will never discuss because instead we go into silent mode. (Bob Somerby has long addressed Maureen Dowd's columns -- on many topics including the Clintons at The Daily Howler. He is an exception.)

I really don't understand this zone of silence. And when she was First Lady, I defended Hillary Clinton constantly. She's the original reason I was excited about candidate Bill Clinton. However, she's now an elected official. And she's responsible for her remarks.

And if there's a 'cult of Hillary' that's carrying over onto her new role as elected official, I think it needs to stop (my opinion, I could be wrong). With the idea of a presidential run becoming more and more likely, Senator Clinton needs to speak clearly and if she's misunderstood by some, it's incumbent upon her and/or her office to clarify.

It's not incumbent upon some dee jay or commentator to tell us, "Well, these people don't get that she's a lifetime history of support for reproductive rights and that's she's always been . . ."

I don't care. I don't care about that history as a private citizen or as a non-elected public citizen. I do care about her public record as an elected official. And there are questions that arise from her voting record and from her public comments.

The idea that people are going to rush in and say, "You can't question that!" or "You're wrong!" without addressing her voting record feels like (to me) a knee-jerk reaction. We need to be a little more rational than that (my opinion).

This is not about 'hating Hillary.' That cottage industry was created and pioneered by the right and they're welcome to it. But if Joseph Biden made similar remarks, it would be discussed.
This attitude that we're going to fall silent whenever a remark or a vote is made by the junior senator from New York speaks more of a cult of personality than of an evaluation of a public official (my opinion).

Hillary Rodham Clinton was an inspiring person, a strong advocate for many issues and she deserves to be noted for that, no question. Senator Clinton is an elected official and, as such, her comments and her voting record are subject to examination the same way that we would examine Senator Kent Conrad's or Senator Joe Lieberman's. (That's not to equate Conrad and Lieberman. Nor to equate Clinton with either.)

"She's always been a public figure!" someone might attempt to argue. Sonny Bono was always a public figure. Because I knew the words to "I Got You Babe," that didn't really have anything to do with the way Bono voted or the remarks he made while he was in office.

I make no apologies for being a feminist and don't attempt to hide that I am. Point, Gloria Steinem has noted parallel therapy. For those unfamiliar, to apply it to Senator Clinton, that would mean taking her remarks or her vote and applying it to someone else. Would we still have questions?

In the last few rounds, questions have been dismissed (often rudely) by commenators who have argued that in her past (prior to being elected to an office), she did this or she did that. So what's your point?

You're not addressing what was said or how a vote went down if you're bringing up some past issues prior to elected public service. It might even appear that you're using that past to minimize or justify a current reality. And were that the case, then that's a serious problem if we have to drop into the past to justify a current reality resulting from an elected official.

People can (and will) do whatever they want. But my understanding of a democratic, open society is that the elected officials are responsible to the people for their votes and for their public statements. A zone of silence around Senator Clinton won't help the party. If we're slapping Senator X on the wrist for comments he/she made but we're giving Hillary Clinton a free ride, we're also not helping her.

In many ways, she was a great first lady. (And even when I feel she was less than great, she was still a strong one -- my opinion.) She's chosen to serve in public office. Her actions as an elected official are open to positive criticism and to negative criticism the same as anyone else holding an elected office.

Those wanting to support a potential run for president by Senator Clinton should be especially concerned that she not be given a free ride because that will result in a candidate that's never been tested attempting to now secure the highest office in the land.

People imposing a zone of silence aren't doing Senator Clinton any favors. Those who were opposed to the war/occupation (including myself) were encouraged not to press John Kerry on addressing this issue. We were encouraged to go along with the hope that he would have answers. I think, personally, that he did. Some voters don't think he did.

I'm not talking about die hard Republicans. So before commenators, dee jays or whomever attempts to stifle discussions on what Senator Clinton has said or how she has voted, they might want to reflect on that.

Her core is strong enough that she could probably sail through a primary and win or come in a close second. (Unless Senators Barbara Boxer and Russ Feingold both decided to go after the nomination.) No one's questioning her celebrity. But after the primary, her celebrity won't be enough. So when people (predisposed to voting for her) are bothered by something she's done, shutting down discussions hurts Senator Clinton and hurts the notion that our elected officials are supposed to be held accountable.

[Anyone wishing to weigh in is welcome to do so -- And, for the record, this 'failed insurgency' has resulted in 47 official US military fatalities thus far this month -- that would be post-election -- and the official count for US military fatalities since this war began is 1487. The official figure for wounded US military from Feb. 2nd to right now as I type is 161. The overall official figure for wounded US military is 5,312. No official count is kept by our government for Iraqis.]
[*Though a strong visual, the hairstyle motif would probably aid as much as harm Clinton's chances since most people, women and men, have changed their hairstyle at least once as an adult.]