Hillary Clinton in Hampton, NH: April 14, 2007
Commentary by Timothy Horrigan; April 15, 2007

On the day before Tax Day, I spent the morning listening to Hillary Clinton. Here is my report on her speeches. (This appeared on DailyKos and Blog For America.)

See also:

Hillary Clinton; Hampton NH  April 14, 2007
Hillary Clinton meets activist Roger Goun (on right, in blue shirt)

Hampton, NH; April 14, 2007

Sen. Hillary Clinton came to Hanpton, NH on the Saturday before Tax Day and made two appearances in two very different venues. First, she visited Gary and Lenore Patton's home at brunchtime (although, showing how different she is from her husband, she showed no interest in the wonderful pastries in the Pattons' kitchen) and spoke to about 60 party activists (mostly local officials and/or town party committee members.) Then, she headed over to the local high school gym to address a boisterous gathering of at least 1500 citizens, in the now-traditional "Town Meeting" format with a boxing-ring-like stage in the center of the room.

The main point of both events was to establish that she is in fact electable. Aside from the fact that she is the favorite target of the "Right Wing Noise Machine," she also reminds voters of her husband's Presidency, which was (even though Bill Clinton was infinitely preferable to the current President) a frustrating time for the Democratic party (especially the progressive wing of the party.) Bill and Hillary Clinton are even blamed indirectly for George W. Bush's socalled 2000 victory. Al Gore ran as Bill Clinton's Vice President, which meant that (amongst other decisions which turned out to be mistaken) he ignored the issues of Global Warming and of the Environment in general (choosing instead to continuing pursuing the President's—and First Lady's— agenda.) It now appears that those two issues would have won him the election. (Gore was also weakened by Bill Clinton's scandals, which seemed bad at the time even though Bush and Cheney turned out to be vastly more corrupt.)

Hillary gave those two issues more emphasis than her husband used to (although her competitors have more to say about them than she does) — and she did remember to point out that Green technology could form the basis of new businesses and that reducing our consumption of oil would be beneficial for a host of reasons beside the obvious one of stopping global warming. Her agenda is much the same as Barack Obama's and John Edwards' and not that much different from Dennis Kucinich's. She is even in favor of ending the War in Iraq as soon as possible (although she does have to deal with the fact that she voted for the war initially, as well as the fact that Bush-Cheney have been to a large extent merely continuing on Bill Clinton's policies towards Iraq, albeit in grotesquely exaggerated form.)

Although the media is paying little attention to these issues, she is placing a lot of emphasis on restructuring government (e.g., by getting rid of "no-bid contracts," and by replacing unaccounatble contractors with more accoutable government employees) and on expanding the Family Medical Leave program (which she helped create in the 1990s.) She has a good answer to the obvious critcicism that this would cost businesses a huge sum of money: she says that unpaid family members currently do about $300 billions of dollars of work taking care of disabled and sick family members. (That is, if everyone stopped caring for their relatives, it would cost that much to hire home health workers to replace them.)

Both these events were billed as "Conversations." And she is a good listener: she is quite adept at picking up on what people are saying to her (and doing around her.) However on another level the term "Conversation" is something of a misnomer: she does the vast majority of the talking (and she happenes to be a very fluent speaker, by the way), and in any case these events are (as they should be) much more about her than the audience. (We are there, after all, mostly to decide if we want to vote for her as President of the United States, which is normally the most powerful job on earth— and even under the current regime in Washington, George W. Bush is still the third-most powerful person on earth, just behind Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.)

At the brunch, Gary Patton stated that she needed no introduction (although he and Herb Moyer did make a couple of announcements of upcoming events before she spoke.) But at the rally at the high school, she was given a lengthy introduction. While a rock anthem blared in the background, half a dozen strong American ladies from three generations strode up onto the stage— all of them familiar faces with the exception of the first and youngest woman. This first woman was our hostess, the high school's student body vice president, who also happened to be a member of the state champion basketball team. She was followed by State Senators Martha Fuller Clark and Maggie Wood Hassan, Executive Councilor Beverly Hollingsworth, and Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter. By the time Hillary got the microphone, a good half hour had gone by— but the point was made that strong women are already serving in other offices, so why not give a woman a chance to be President?

I asked what may have been a silly question where I brought up the current controversy over Dom Imus and the "Right Wing Noise Machine" in general. (In case you don't care or don't remember, Don Imus was a radio "shock jock" who was reviled as a liberal until he gratuitously hurled a racial insult at the young women on the Rutger's basketball team. Although he is a member of the GOP himself, he was known to hurl barbs at his fellow Republicans. After he got in trouble for dissing a group of harmless and extraordinarily talented young ladies, the right wing finally embraced him as one of their own— but his show still got cancelled.) Sen. Clinton graciously said that being insulted by those guys was a "perverse form of flattery" and that she didn't worry too much about them. And she talked about how she was getting her message out to the American people anyway.

The Noise Machine mischaracterized the last question of the event at the high school, by the way. The way it was played in some reports was that a hostile questioner (and, we were supposed to infer, a conservative questioner) was hauled out of the event by Clinton's thugs. (She actually had no thugs: she is followed around by the Secret Service, but the security was otherwise unobtrusive.) The questioner was indeed hostile, but Sen. Clinton made a point of answering her question respectfully. The gist of the question was "Did you read the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate in 2002 before voting on the Iraqi war resolution?" Sen. Clinton said that she had been briefed thoroughly (which was a tacit admission that she didn't actually read the document itself) and explained why looking back she now recognizes that she voted the wrong away. The questioner, who said she had been following the Senator all over the place demanding an answer, then began screaming that the blood of Iraqi children was on the Senator's hands. The microphone was indeed cut off at the point, but the questioner was not mistreated, as far as I could tell. I can say for sure that Mrs. Clinton did make a point of calling on that particular person, did treat her with respect, and (as I said already) did give a honest and thoughtful (albeit kinda Clintonesque) answer.

Everyone who saw Sen. Clinton (with that one possible exception) was very favorably impressed. And my mother, Clif Horrigan of Portsmouth, was not the only person who made sure to bring a bumper sticker home from the event. Hillary did a good job of showing that she is capable of winning a Presidential election.

One of the pundits' favorite cliches about Hillary is that she is aloof, arrogant and even bitchy. (Of course, the pundits who describe her in those terms also used to rave about George W. Bush's "likeable" and "winning" personality, proving that they are poor judges of personal character.) Ironically, in person, she gives the opposite impression: she comes across as a very gracious person with a good sense of humor.

illustration from October 2002 NIE: note how old the bombs were even back in 1991!

 [added April 18, 2007] My BlogforAmerica entry elicited a rather impassioned response from the last questioner. Actually "impassioned" may be too polite a word. The questioner said that I libeled her and that my blog was "unacceptable." I may decide at some point to take my original paragraph out.

In any case, I will just say that the last questioner at the Hampton Conversation was Karin Powers. Ms. Powers is one of Sen. Clinton's constituents, from New York City, and she traveled 200-plus miles to Hampton just to ask about the Senator's failure to read the CIA's October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate entitled "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction." The Senator basically admitted that she had been "fully briefed" on this report but had not bothered to read the full classified version of it. This was an annoyingly Clintonesque admission.

The gist of this NIE is that Saddam and his regime were pretty nasty characters who were definitely interested in developing WMDs— but who didn't really have the capacity to actually make them. The conclusions of the report ostensibly supported Bush II's alarmist claims, while the fine print totally undercut those same claims. The report also explained a lot of Saddam's actions by ascribing rational concerns (such as defending his country from possible foreign attack) to him, and the authors even claimed that he might stop short of all-out war on the United States. (This flew in the face of one of the most popular rationales for the war, which was that Saddam was a madman with an irrational desire to Do Evil whenever and wherever possible, especially to Do Evil to the United States.)

This report has been released in at least four editions that I know of. The three unclassified editions are available on this web site (and elsewhere):

  1. The real original Unredacted Top Secret Edition (September-October 2002): all 100 members of the Senate had very limited access to it, and Hillary was one of the 92 Senators who didn't go take a look at it for themselves.

  2. The public "Unclassified" Edition (October 2002): glossy watered-down popular "First Release" edition with some maps and stock photos added.

  3. The "Key Judgements" (July 2003): a brief executive summary. (The link to this item also leads you to a White House Briefing)

  4. The Redacted Top Secret Edition (April-June 2004): the original edition with most of the material blanked out.

EXTRA!  Note: If I had been paying closer attention I wouldn't have been surprised by Sen. Clinton's emphasis on Government Reform. I had missed a news story about a major speech she had made the day before at Saint Anselm College:

Hillary Clinton with State Sen. Iris Estabrook; Dover NH
Hillary Clinton with State Senator Iris Estabrook: Dover High School, Dover NH, Feb. 17, 2007

The April 14 visit to Hampton was by no means Mrs. Clinton's first visit to Southern New Hampshire. I saw her a couple of months earlier in mid-February in Dover, NH (at a high school once again, but this time in the cafeteria.) It was a somewhat less polished presentation, perhaps because it was a hastily-scheduled event. It was only announced a few days in advance and then the night before it had to be abruptly moved up from 1:30pm to 10:00am to accommodate a Senate vote on Iraq. The main thing I remember about this event is that I got to sit next to someone I had wanted to meet for a long time, the famous tap dance Drika Overton. She is a good example of the type of person who is disadvantaged by our nation's health care system (and by economic system in general.) In addition to be an amazing dancer and choreographer, she is a successful entrepreneur. But, amongst frustrations, she cannot get health insurance.

Portsmouth Jazz and Tap Festival: June 25-30, 2007

 I much later reviewed Senator Clinton's November 1, 2007 speech in Durham, NH.

 I much much later wrote a letter to my local paper about Senator Clinton after she was nominated to be Secretary of State:

The Forgotten Liars by Timothy Horrigan

  In 2010, I am cosponsoring a somewhat controversial bill, repealing New Hampshire's 200-year-old adultery laws: