The Huffington Post attack on Hillary by Sam Stein is getting a lot of play at Memeorandum but it is based on a phony, creative excerpt from the book in question. In reality, Hillary was advocating for the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party in opposition to DLC centrists. The gist from the Huffington Post:
But a telling anecdote from her husband's administration shows Hillary Clinton's attitudes about the "lunch-bucket Democrats" are not exactly pristine.
In January 1995, as the Clintons were licking their wounds from the 1994 congressional elections, a debate emerged at a retreat at Camp David. Should the administration make overtures to working class white southerners who had all but forsaken the Democratic Party? The then-first lady took a less than inclusive approach.
"Screw 'em," she told her husband. "You don't owe them a thing, Bill. They're doing nothing for you; you don't have to do anything for them."
The statement -- which author Benjamin Barber witnessed and wrote about in his book, "The Truth of Power: Intellectual Affairs in the Clinton White House" -- was prompted by another speaker raising the difficulties of reaching "Reagan Democrats."
Oh, for heaven's sake. First of all, let me toss a rope to Christopher Orr of TNR who laments that
I don't have a copy of Benjamin Barber's book The Truth of Power, and so can't verify the Huffington Post's Sam Stein's characterization...
Well, I don't have a copy either but I have a subscription to Amazon, where the book is searchable on line, so I can forcefully dispute Stein's characterization.
The gist - Hillary was imploring Bill to battle for traditional Democratic ideals rather than compromise with entrenched conservative interests. This is how the author describes Hillary's "screw 'em" moment (my transcription, my typos):
Hillary had jumped in with her own response to Panetta, speaking with warrior forcefulness on behalf of traditional democratic politics - a habit she had to unlearn later, when she entered politics in her own right. Hillary seemed to be playing conscience to a President who was all politics... her role struck me as vital. She referred feelingly to the oligopolies and monopolies, the special interests trying to manipulate the average American into thinking the represented the common good, manipulating him to obstruct the progressive agenda. Her hard, angry rhetoric resonated with the ancient ardor of class war. She was with Starr and Skocpol [Earlier we are told that Starr wanted the Democrats to stand up for women, children, minorities, and the poor who would be victimized by the Gingrich revolution]. She was not persuaded that the soft, if well-meaning, language of civil society could contend with the hard power of well entrenched socio-economic groups. If working white men and white women in the South no longer wanted to support the president, if ethnics were continuing to jump the Democrats ship then - she looked her husband in the eye - "screw 'em. You don't owe them a thing Bill, They're doing nothing for you; you don't have to do anything for them." This was liberalism at its fighting best. The point was not to heal in the name of soft consensus but to attack in the name of hard justice.
As an aside, I have not been able to pin down the "if ethnics were continuing to jump the Democrats ship" reference - my guess is that it relates to proposed welfare reform, but that is just a guess. Amazon fans will remember that it restricts how many pages forward and back you can search, so bear with me.
Anyway - the notion that this passage in
its entirety depicts a Hillary who is uncaring or out of touch turns
the book on its head. But it got good play for Sam Stein of the
normally pro-Obama Huffington Post, which needs a label - Mistrust but
The book does bear out this point made by Alan Wolfe that Obama sounds a lot like Bill Clinton, who is portrayed here as determined to reach out to all other sides and bridge all differences, unlike his battling wife. However, I adamantly disagree with Sam Stein, who claims that this passage describing Bill Clinton's response to Hillary sounds a lot like Obama's "small town" gaffe:
I know how you feel. I understand Hillary's sense of outrage. It makes me mad too. Sure, we lost our base in the South; our boys voted for Gingrich. But let me tell you something. I know these boys. I grew up with them. Hardworking, poor, white boys, who feel left out, feel that our reforms always come at their expense. Think about it, every progressive advance our country has made since the Civil War has been on their backs. They're the ones asked to pay the price of progress. Now, we are the party of progress, but let me tell you, until we find a way to include these boys in our programs, until we stop making them pay the whole price of liberty for others, we are never going to unite our party, never really going to have change that sticks.
Obama's argument was that government was not responsive to the economic plight of the working class, which was consequently embittered and re-focused on guns, church, and racism.
Clinton is saying that government had been entirely too responsive to the concerns of minorities and other beneficiaries of "every progressive advance... since the Civil War" at the expense of now-angry whites - affirmative action, busing and welfare might have been cited by Clinton as examples. That is quite a different argument.
HuffPo wants you to believe it’s indistinguishable from what Obama said, but there’s no contempt for anyone’s values or imputation of false consciousness in his comments.
Yeah, the two comments are very similar except for their differences.