Monday, December 26, 2005

Hillary Clinton Must Give Democrats Reason to Support Her

I live in New York and have had a sidebar banner promoting the reelection of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on my blog since sometime last summer. I removed it yesterday.

I appreciate liberal readers who have written saying that I should not support Senator Clinton and citing, among other reasons, that she is allegedly the worst example of how all national politicians are in bed together and that, as one reader said "they're all the same, Democrats and Republicans."

Those of you who buy the whole they're-all-the-same mentality are simply wrong and need to spend more time on the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives web sites reading legislation sponsored by both parties -- and associated roll call votes -- to see how incorrect you are.

(I humbly submit Party of "No" is Not The Democrats and Legislation Killed By GOP Senate Defines Republicans on this site as a good start toward dispelling that myth.)

I've never been an adoring fan or a detractor of Hillary Clinton. I think she's done an able job as a New York senator—as has Chuck Schumer – and, yes, I support her simply because she's a Democrat. Indeed, I'm probably inclined to defend her a bit more because there's not a Democrat out there who will attract the GOP slime machine to the extent her campaigns will always experience. I may disagree with her on some of her stances (or the lack thereof) but I view it primarily as a family squabble – we're both Hatfields and I'll defend her against the McCoys any time.

But, as I've said previously in this space, our need for true leadership is immediate and, despite her de facto status and power as one of the perceived leaders in the Democratic party, Senator Clinton has not shown the courage or leadership required to maintain the enthusiastic support of people on our side of the political spectrum.

Not that she needs to go begging for grassroots support right now. Hillary Clinton could strangle a kitten on prime-time television in Times Square and still win back her Senate seat next year and, unless the Republicans find a way to swift boat her beyond recognition, she'll be reelected by a wide margin.

While I will immediately come to her aid if the GOP puts a serious dent in her candidacy, I resent the lack of a strong voice coming from her office right when we need her most.

And she has no excuse.

The demarcation between Democratic and Republican values has seldom been so clear and it manifests itself in many ways, including the divide over the Iraq war, tax breaks for the rich coupled with massive cuts in social programs, a soaring budget deficit and the culture of corruption and criminal, treasonous conduct on the part of the GOP. I don't recall a time when the need for Democrats to stand up and yell loudly was more apparent than it is now.

Can you imagine the sheer weight Senator Hillary Clinton could add to the national dialog if she were to raise her voice and get good and mad along with Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha, Barbara Boxer and John Conyers? And yet she stays silent, tucked away in a comfy little centrist cocoon that keeps her safe from Republican salvos (for now) but does absolutely nothing to fight the battles that need fighting in our country.

This is an act of pure ideological and political cowardice.

What makes it even worse – and I now don my cynical, political-operative hat – is that rising up and taking a stand against Team Bush is relatively risk-free from a political point of view. The Bush administration is under a dark cloud, the president's poll numbers remain lower than a snake's belly and he's bordering on impeachment proceedings. Republicans in Congress are swamped in controversy and support for the Iraq war drops almost weekly.

How much courage does it require to take these people on? It's a slam dunk when viewed through the prism of political strategy. Senator Clinton should be seizing the microphone and, if she showed such courage and emerged as the primary burr under the saddle of George W. Bush, she would lock up the Democratic presidential nomination by the end of 2006.

But instead, she remains silent and, despite the power and attention she could command, lets other Democrats carry the load in fighting the good fight.

I will vote for her in November but, until she starts acting more like a leader and less like political wallpaper, she will remain a disappointment and, even worse in our time of national distress, wholly irrelevant.