clap clap blog: we have moved

Friday, May 30, 2003
In what can only be a good sign, the New York Times reports that liberals are mad at Hilary Clinton. Wahoo! Start making your "Clinton in '08" stickers now! If the liberals are grumbling, we hit gold, boys!

There are two main things complained about in the article. The first is her day-late-dollar-short condemnation of Santorum:

Matt Foreman, the former executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda and now the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said Mrs. Clinton was slow to respond to Mr. Santorum's comments. And, he noted, she refused to join a chorus of Democrats — including New York's senior senator, Charles E. Schumer — who called on Mr. Santorum to step down from his leadership post in the Senate Republican caucus.

Mrs. Clinton's aides acknowledge that she was not quick to respond to Mr. Santorum's remarks. But when she did, they say, she offered a forceful condemnation. Responding to criticism that Mrs. Clinton should have gone further and called for his resignation, Ms. Dunn, her spokeswoman, said, "It is the responsibility of the Republican Party to choose how it wishes to be represented."

Let's read between the lines here. First off, it has to be said that Hilary was right: no way was Santorum going to be pulled down, because not only does a majority of his party support his point of view, a whole lot of Americans do, too, certainly way more than supported Lott's "keep down the darkies" stance. (This has been discussed well elsewhere, but I am too lazy to link.) So while it was expected and good for GLADD and its crew to protest, you have to recognize that if you're serving a constituency that has a whole lot of fag-haters in it (and since Hilary represents upstate NY as well as the city, trust me, that's a good few million people) sometimes you just have to shut up about that shit and let the folks whose job it is do that. But this is just justification, and needless at that--she did condemn his remarks, as they should have been.

The issue then becomes that she didn't call for his resignation. Is the argument that if only Hilary had called for it, Santorum would be waxing beets in Mississippi right now? That seems unlikely. But like I say, read between the lines. The message in that final quote from her spokesman is: how great is it for the Democrats for the Republicans to have an unrepentant fag-basher so high up in their leadership? It's great! You can break out that quote in front of liberal audiences for years! A similar argument was made with Lott, and while there I think it was probably good for the left to flex its muscles a bit--and the new conservatives hate the old dixiecrats almost as much as liberals do--in this case, we have an attitude that is widespread through the party, and to have it so publicly represented is great when we're trying to keep the gay vote away from the Log Cabin folks. Santorum's continued presence in the party hierarchy is a good reminder of where their true allegiances lie.

The other complaint concerns welfare:

The disagreement involves the president's proposal to increase the number of hours that welfare recipients must work in exchange for cash assistance and other benefits. Many advocates for the poor regard this as one of the biggest issues Congress will take up this year and have been lobbying Mrs. Clinton and other Democrats to oppose such requirements.

But Mrs. Clinton has joined a group of moderate and conservative Democratic senators in supporting a bill to increase the work requirement to 37 hours a week, a significant increase over the current 30 hours and only slightly less than the 40 hours Mr. Bush would require.

Mrs. Clinton's advisers say that no one should be surprised by her position, noting that she supported the bill her husband signed in 1996 overhauling the nation's welfare program, despite opposition from many of her liberal allies. In addition, they say, Mrs. Clinton has insisted that any additional work requirements be tied to billions of dollars in child-care financing.

This is, of course, more difficult. Yes, we know that she's for welfare reform, but it was also a position strongly opposed by most Democrats, and indeed I think it was one of the sources of the rage that drove so many people away from Gore in 2000. It's a bad policy, and it's a position we'd like Hilary to change. Liberals shouldn't be surprised that she supports it, but she shouldn't be surprised that we're still pissed off about it. And I'm not sure it's the best bone to be throwing the opposition right now.

That said (and ignoring the issue of her not condemning the war, which is also understandable), all the stuff in there about her being very humble and recognizing the rules and traditions of the institution is very good. She recognizes that she has no interest in rising to the Senate leadership, since that's a position that inevitably fucks up larger political ambitions, so she builds goodwill with the right, which is, needless to say, desperately needed. It's no secret that she wants the top spot, and good for her if she can do it. I'm willing to wait until then for her big policy initiatives--at which point she will hopefully have learned something from the health care debacle.

This quote at the end sums it up nicely:

Philip Friedman, a Democratic operative in New York, said that criticism over these positions was not likely to hurt Mrs. Clinton, who is not up for re-election until 2006. Mr. Friedman said the state's sizable liberal base would ultimately stand by her, just as liberals stood by her husband, despite their complicated relationship with him.

"It's not going to mean anything," he said. "Democrats love the Clintons, and that's why her husband was able to get away with going off the reservation now and then."

Sigh, we do love the Clintons...