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Clinton: The Inauthentic Candidate By: Joseph Klein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, January 17, 2008

Campaigning in a heavily Hispanic section of Las Vegas last week, Hillary Clinton declared that "No woman is illegal."  After a pause, she added "... and no man, either."

How does Senator Clinton square that bit of pandering to Hispanic voters in advance of the Nevada caucuses on January 19th with her rejection of the idea of drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants during a nationally televised Democratic debate held in Las Vegas on November 15, 2007?  When CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Clinton whether she would support drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants, she gave her flat ‘no’ answer. The exchange followed shortly after her earlier waffling during an earlier debate:

BLITZER: Well, let's go through everybody because I want to be precise. I want to make sure the viewers and those of us who are here fully understand all of your positions on this barring -- avoiding, assuming -- there isn't going to be comprehensive immigration reform. Do you support or oppose driver's licenses for illegal immigrants? Senator Clinton?


Note that when Congressman Kucinich was asked the same thing he attacked the premise of the question.  He said that “I take issue with your description of people being illegal immigrants. There aren't any illegal human beings.”  If she truly believed her subsequent campaign rhetoric to voters in a local Hispanic Las Vegas community, why didn’t Hillary give the same answer Kucinich did when she had a chance to do so on national television?  Instead, Senator Clinton chose to portray a tough anti-illegal immigrant stance to the national audience watching the debate, which was preceded a day before by her tough statement on protecting the borders against illegal immigrants.

Conveniently, just before the Nevada caucus in which Hispanics are expected to play a significant role, Hillary has suddenly found ‘her voice’ on the subject. Her ‘heart’ told her that it is impossible for anyone to be “illegal” in the United States, no matter how they entered the country. Will she now reverse her answer in the debate and align with Senator Barack Obama’s steadfast position, which favors the issuance of such licenses to all ‘undocumented’ persons in this country illegally? Tune in and find out, depending on the venue and the political expediency of the moment.

Meanwhile, in an effort by a Clinton surrogate group to suppress caucus participation by casino workers whose union has endorsed Obama, a lawsuit filed late Friday in federal court seeks to stop the Democratic Party from holding caucus meetings in special precints that had been established at nine Las Vegas hotels. These precincts were created with the goal of allowing thousands of hotel workers - who often cannot leave work to attend the midday caucuses in their normal precincts - to participate in their party's presidential selection process.

A founding member of Senator Clinton’s Nevada Women’s Leadership Council just happens to be the deputy executive director of the Nevada State Education Association, one of the plaintiffs in the case. The law firm representing the plaintiffs, Kummer, Kaempfer, Bonner, Renshaw, and Ferrario, includes a former congressman, James Bilbray, who is playing a leading role in Hillary Clinton’s Nevada campaign.

This lawsuit is a blatant attempt by allies of the Clinton campaign to suppress the voter rights of American workers – Hispanic and non-Hispanic - whose union has endorsed Obama. At the same time they are appealing to latent hostilities between the Hispanic and black communities. A Clinton pollster put it this way: “The Hispanic voter—and I want to say this very carefully—has not shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates.”

Elsewhere, we find Hillary Clinton playing games with the African-American vote for which, of course, she faces a stiff challenge from Obama.

She regularly panders to African-American audiences. For example, speaking at Selma's First Baptist Church on the 42nd anniversary of the "bloody Sunday" freedom march there on March 4, 2007, before an African-American audience, Sen. Clinton declared: “As a young girl [age 16], I had the great privilege of hearing Dr. King speak in Chicago. The year was 1963. My youth minister from our church took a few of us down on a cold January night to hear [King]...And he called on us, he challenged us that evening to stay awake during the great revolution that the civil rights pioneers were waging on behalf of a more perfect union.

Too bad Hillary failed to be quickly moved to action by Dr. King’s challenge, as many other students of her generation were at the time.  Hillary remained, in her own words, “a Goldwater girl, right down to my cowgirl outfit until her college days at Wellesley College. It apparently did not faze her one bit that Barry Goldwater was one of only six Republican senators who joined with Southern Democratic segregationists in opposing the Voting Rights Act of 1964 inspired by Dr. King.

Even after converting her allegiance to the Democratic Party midway through college, Dr. King’s cause was far from her top priority. When, at age 22, she became the first Wellesley student ever to deliver the commencement address, she spoke out for more student rights in academic decision-making, not for civil rights. Her only reference to civil rights in her speech, in fact, was to call it a movement dominated by “men.”

Former Massachusetts Senator Edward W. Brooke, a black moderate Republican, spoke at the Wellesley commencement just before Hillary.  Brooke emphasized the progress that had been made in reducing poverty by working together as a nation.

For her part, Hillary acknowledged Senator Brooke in her commencement speech by sharply criticizing what he had just said.  “What does it mean to hear that 13.3 percent of the people in this country are below the poverty line? That's a percentage. We're not interested in social reconstruction; it's human reconstruction,” she said without explaining what such New Left psychobabble actually meant. She went on to imply that Brooke lacked respect for people and only thought of them in terms of “percentage points.”

Like Senator Obama today, Brooke sought to reach across the political and racial divide. He spoke about hopeful aspirations for the future for all Americans. In his memoir years later, Brooke had this to say about Hillary’s strident reaction to his speech:

The next speaker was the student government president and the first student ever to speak at a Wellesley commencement. She was blonde, slight in her academic robe and wore the round oversize glasses that were popular then. What she had to say took me and most of the audience by surprise. The young woman was not rude but her tone was strident. She challenged my comments as if we were in a debate. What does it mean that 13.3 percent of Americans are poor? she demanded.

Wellesley's President Ruth Adams and several members of the faculty and graduating class apologized for the stridency of the young woman's speech, which could only be taken as an affront to me. I was a little stunned by her anger and wondered how my rather mild remarks could have generated such fury.

Perhaps one could excuse young Hillary’s patronizing response to an African-American leader’s articulation of his own people’s progress toward reaching the American dream. Perhaps it was just an example of youthful impatience. But nothing has changed for Hillary over the years, even after accumulating all of the experience and wisdom she touts as reasons for choosing her to be president rather than Obama.   

Fast forward to the recently concluded New Hampshire primary in which there were few African-American voters to impress. The close-up of the teary-eyed woman, played over and over on TV, was not the real Hillary Rodham Clinton, no matter how much her image makers would have us believe otherwise. The real Hillary remains an angry, condescending elitist. The seasoned, experienced senator from New York was just as strident and patronizing toward her principal rival for the Democratic presidential nomination as the young Wellesley commencement speaker was toward Senator Brooke.

Clinton has regularly derided Obama’s calls for positive change and national unity as ‘false hope.” She has belittled his references to the inspiring words of Dr. King that helped bring an end to legalized segregation, claiming that “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act. It took a president to get it done.”

That is an especially interesting observation coming from the same person who had supported Johnson’s opponent in the 1964 presidential election – Barry Goldwater – and even campaigned door-to-door for him, after Goldwater had voted against the Civil Rights Act.

In any case, President Johnson rode on the wave of the movement for change which Dr. King had put into motion. Clinton showed disrespect for Dr. King in two ways: She has diminished the importance of his role back then by saying that Dr. King was dependent on a white president to succeed. She has diminished the continued resonance of Dr. King’s dream today by attacking Obama for daring to think that he can be an effective president for the whole country in his own right. As usual Clinton whines that her words have been distorted but the pattern is clear, starting in a clear line that goes way back to her strident attack on another black leader of reconciliation, Senator Brooke.

Hillary’s surrogates have time and again appealed to negative stereotypes and fears regarding Obama – for example, that he might have been a drug dealer at one time, that he was educated in a radical Muslim school or he may now be an assassination target because of his race. And here is what a Clinton advisor recently had to say about Obama, as quoted in the The Guardian:  “If you have a social need, you’re with Hillary. If you want Obama to be your imaginary hip black friend, and you’re young, and you have no social needs, then he’s cool.”

Clinton lets all of this rhetoric continue on her behalf as long as she can get away with it.  She is not a racist, but she is an opportunist. For Hillary, voters represent only percentage points in terms of votes for or against her, no matter their race or economic circumstances. 

Hillary Clinton believes only in one thing - her own entitlement to the presidency. She will do and say anything to win it. Thus, we see her pandering to blacks in Selma, Alabama, one day and demeaning Dr. King’s accomplishments in New Hampshire another day – or saying no to drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants on national TV one day and declaring that there are no illegal women or men in the United States a few days before the Nevada caucuses in which Hispanics are expected to play a major part.

In her commencement speech at Wellesley College, Hillary talked about “freedom from the burden of an inauthentic reality.” Nearly 40 years later, she has come to embody such inauthenticity in its entirely.

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