Hillary’s Target Audience
Senator's PAC aims at Americans not worried about terrorism.


Byron York

Forget about her book. If you’re looking for truly revealing words from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D., N.Y.), check out her latest fundraising appeal. “Please join HILLPAC,” Clinton writes in a mass mailing for her political action committee. “We need to win the next election for working moms and dads, who are counting on us to help get our economy moving;” for “school children who are counting on us to make sure they won’t lose more schools and teachers to budget cuts;” for “seniors who are counting on us to protect their Social Security;” for “women who are counting on us to protect their reproductive freedom;” and for “Americans everywhere who are counting on us to defend the air they breathe, water they drink and wilderness they enjoy.”

It’s boilerplate stuff, but the revealing part is what’s not there: What about those Americans who are counting on elected officials to defend the country against terrorists?

You simply won’t find them on Hillary’s List.

In the mailing, Clinton includes a “2003 Critical National Issues Survey,” which, among other things, asks contributors to rate Republicans and Democrats on the issues of Social Security, the environment, the economy, reproductive rights and education.

Again, there’s no mention of those Americans for whom not being killed by terrorists is a Critical National Issue. They don’t have a box to check.

In fact, only two questions out of the 18 on the survey deal with national security at all.

One is, “How concerned are you that administration proposals for homeland security underfund critically important first responders, such as firefighters, police officers and local health agencies?” The other is, “How concerned are you that the Bush administration’s homeland security policies are curtailing the civil rights and constitutional freedoms of American citizens?”

Now it’s understandable that Democrats want lots of heavily unionized public workers, including police and firefighters. And of course public safety officers are a crucial part of the nation’s preparedness for a possible terrorist attack.

But what about other public safety officers, such as those, for example, in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines? The ones who can kill terrorists before they kill us? In the world of HILLPAC, they might as well not exist.

In one four-page letter, Clinton has unwittingly summarized why Democrats face an almost impossible task as they seek to win control of the White House and Congress in 2004. Yes, Americans think economic issues are important.

But they are also deeply worried about terrorism, a fact the people
who run HILLPAC just don’t seem to get.

A few months ago, the Gallup organization asked registered voters, “Thinking ahead to the elections for president in 2004, if you had to choose, which of the following issues will be more important to your vote — economic conditions or terrorism?”

Fifty-three percent answered economic conditions. Thirty-two percent said terrorism, and 13 percent said both of them equally. Which means that 45 percent of the voters say terrorism will be a top factor in their voting decisions in 2004.

And it’s not an abstract concept. A more recent Gallup poll asked, “In the next few years, do you think the United States’ efforts against terrorism will — or will not — require the U.S. to put military troops in combat situations in other countries as it did in Iraq and Afghanistan?” Seventy-seven percent answered yes, with just 17 percent saying no.

More specifically, 64 percent said that Iran poses a long-term threat to the United States — 13 percent said it poses an immediate threat — while just 20 percent said Iran does not pose a threat.

All of that suggests that when Americans worry about terrorism, they’re not fretting over police-department budgets, as important as that is. They’re thinking about war. And, unlike many Democrats, they believe that Osama bin Laden, and not John Ashcroft, is the enemy.

But not the letter-writers at HILLPAC. “We have to win the next one,” Clinton writes in her fundraising appeal — referring to the election, not war.

“If we can enlist the support of more Americans who tell me they’re feeling increasingly alienated by the actions of a reactionary administration and Republican-led Congress, I’m convinced we can.”

Perhaps. But why are the HILLPAC Democrats pretending the fear that is on everyone’s mind simply doesn’t exist?

Byron York writes a weekly column for The Hill, from which this is reprinted with permission.


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