• I believe I am registered as a Democrat. I go back and forth between Democrat and Unaffiliated depending on the primaries in my state, but basically, I'm a lefty.• I recently and for the first time donated $25 to Obama's campaign. He is now my number one preference partially because he has the best shot at beating Hillary, partially because he's got the most potential to inspire new participation in the political process. He is not perfect, but he's the best option I see to bring about the severe change we need to survive this country's coming challenges. And yes, I chose the terms "severe" and "survive" intentionally.• Two influential sources for this series are the book Her Way by NY Times reporters Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr and a November Vanity Fair article, "White House Civil War" by Sally Bedell Smith. At least with Her Way, I know there are folks (including Media Matters) that call into question the motives and accuracy of the authors. Still, my impression is that the book was tough on Clinton but not unfair and certainly not a conservative think tank-funded hit job.Finally, let there be no misunderstanding: I prefer Hillary Clinton to any of the Republican candidates, but a preference is not the same as support.Part 1: Abandoning Friends and Principles (many of whom happen to be black women)You can judge a lot about people by the company they keep, who they count as friends, who they tap for important roles (<cough Giuliani & Kerik </cough>). Your associates are a reflection of you as a person. So, knowing that Marian Wright Edelman -- founder of the Children's Defense Fund and something of a saint -- hired Hillary back in 1970 to lead the organization, is a big deal to me. The fact they became close friends is an endorsement. Discovering how badly the Clintons alienated Edelman with the welfare reform bill is a major strike against them.According to Her Way, "a key opponent of the legislation was Marian Wright Edelman, the founder of the Children's Defense Fund, and the woman who Hillary credited with inspiring her in 1970 to commence a lifelong advocacy for children. Twenty five years later, however, Hillary was no longer an idealistic advocate..."In fact, by all accounts, Edelman was devastated by the Clintons' support for this bill and took great pains to let her position be known. A New York Times story at the time reported that Edelman "sent a blistering memorandum to the Cabinet, warning that one of the welfare options being considered will 'violate every standard of decency and fairness.'"Back to Her Way: "Publicly, Hillary denied compromising her principles or values when she endorsed her husband's support of the welfare legislation, which came as he was facing reelection. She believed, she claimed, that the third bill passed by Congress went far enough in its guarantees of medical benefits, child care and food stamps to warrant her and Bill's support. (Others, both liberals and conservatives, noted that the third bill was almost the same as the previous two Bill had vetoed.)"This sort of self-deceptive justification sounds too familiar. When Hillary describes her vote for this blood-draining, money burning, illegal occupation known as the Iraq War, she likes to say the bill she voted for was for diplomacy. She's the only one who believes that.Back to Her Way: "Years later, the welfare reform bill was viewed by many as a success; others considered it an abandonment of the truly needy for the sake of scoring political points. In her book Living History, Hilary found the space to acknowledge more than four hundred friends, colleagues and supporters. Marian Wright Edelman was not one of them"Damn. That's cold. It's one thing to have a disagreement. It's another to completely and utterly dis a friend, supporter and mentor of over 20 years.This past July, Marian Wright Edelman was interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. The subject was, in part, Hillary Clinton and welfare reform. Here is the exchange:
AMY GOODMAN: Marian Wright Edelman, we just heard Hillary Rodham Clinton. She used to be the head of the board of the Children's Defense Fund, of the organization that you founded. But you were extremely critical of the Clintons. I mean, when President Clinton signed off on the, well, so-called welfare reform bill, you said, “His signature on this pernicious bill makes a mockery of his pledge not to hurt children.” So what are your hopes right now for these Democrats? And what are your thoughts about Hillary Rodham Clinton?
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Well, you know, Hillary Clinton is an old friend, but they are not friends in politics. We have to build a constituency, and you don’t -- and we profoundly disagreed with the forms of the welfare reform bill, and we said so. We were for welfare reform, I am for welfare reform, but we need good jobs, we need adequate work incentives, we need minimum wage to be decent wage and livable wage, we need healthcare, we need transportation, we need to invest preventively in all of our children to prevent them ever having to be on welfare.For the sake of looking tough on "welfare queens," Bill and Hillary (and they were indeed a team) sacrificed the well-being of millions, forced single mothers into underpaid, underinsured work and added further strain to many families. Edelman continues:
And yet, you know, many years after that, when many people are pronouncing welfare reform a great success, you know, we’ve got growing child poverty, we have more children in poverty and in extreme poverty over the last six years than we had earlier in the year. When an economy is down, and the real test of welfare reform is what happens to the poor when the economy is not booming. Well, the poor are suffering, the gap between rich and poor widening. We have what I consider one of -- a growing national catastrophe of what we call the cradle-to-prison pipeline.
A black boy today has a one-in-three chance of going to prison in his lifetime, a black girl a one-in-seventeen chance. A Latino boy who’s born in 2001 has a one-in-six chance of going to prison. We are seeing more and more children go into our child welfare systems, go dropping out of school, going into juvenile justice detention facilities. Many children are sitting up -- 15,000, according to a recent congressional GAO study -- are sitting up in juvenile institutions solely because their parents could not get mental health and healthcare in their community. This is an abomination.You know what else is an abomination? The way the Clintons so quickly sacrificed so many friends, black women especially, in their quest to appease the Right, move to the center, win elections or all three. Yall remember Lani Guinier? Oh yes, let's revisit that painful episode..Guinier was nominated by Bill to head the DOJ's Civil Rights division. The two knew each other from back in the day at Yale Law School, but when a fanatical group of conservatives and a shamefully lazy press manipulated Guinier's positions on race to the point that she was being called "quota queen," the Clintons were nowhere to be found. They withdrew Guinier's nomination with the quickness rather than defend a friend and intellectual powerhouse who they'd know for 20 years.The Center for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting put out an article on the manipulative press and cowardly Clinton:
But there was also an ideological agenda at work: promoting Clinton's media-celebrated shift "back to the center." It seemed as if the hiring of Republican spin doctor David Gergen had to be complemented by dumping a representative of the "radical left." "How he deals with Ms. Guinier in the weeks ahead may show whether Mr. Clinton is moving back to the middle of the road," the New York Times' R.W. Apple wrote (5/31/93) in a front-page news analysis of the Gergen appointment.
To make her a proper sacrificial offering, however, the establishment media had to reinvent Guinier -- transforming a sophisticated advocate of racial reconciliation and participatory democracy into a sinister, race-baiting enemy of the American Way.Finally, there was the sacrificing of Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, a longtime friend of the Clintons from back in Arkansas. After conservatives got their knickers in a bunch over Elders's suggestion that kids possibly should be taught about masturbation as an alternative to sex, the Clintons tossed her out as well. Of course, those same conservatives would be glued to their computer screens years later, reading the sordid details of Bill's ever-distracting and disgusting adultery, but at the time, they were trying to protect children from their own nasty, nasty genitals.The Clintons' abandonment of Elders is especially frustrating because she seemed to really be about the business of the job, coming in ready to make real change. In 2005, Elders was interviewed by CNN:
"I went to Washington, not to get that job but to do that job," Elders said. "I wanted to do something about the problems that I saw out there that were happening in our country. I wanted to do something to make sure that all people had access to health care. I wanted to do something to reduce teenage pregnancies and begin to address the needs of our adolescents."
As surgeon general, she advocated universal health care and comprehensive health and sex education, but some of her comments -- such as her remarks about masturbation -- enraged conservatives.
"Our country talked about masturbation more in December of 1994 than they ever have in the history of the country, and you know, people would think you'd be embarrassed about that," Elders told CNN in 1996. "I'm not embarrassed about that."I hope this post has shed some new light on Hillary and the Clintons generally. There is a dangerous messianic air about the Clinton name, especially among African Americans, but it is a gross disservice for us to idolize the past merely because the present is so abominable.I welcome your comments and questions. I'll do my best to write back. My overall disappointment is that they have sacrificed good people and/or good principles in the name of political expediency. I'm sure this is not unique to Hillary as a politician, but I have a higher standard I guess. I could settle for people who did this, but I won't actively support them.Stay tuned for part two tomorrow, tentatively titled "No War for Polls." In it, I plan to document how Clinton went below and beyond even the neocons in promoting this disastrous war and still refuses to acknowledge the biggest error in judgement on the biggest immediate issue facing our nation. Hundreds of thousands of people have died, and she bears significant responsibility for that.Stay tuned.