Books about Hillary Clinton have become a virtual cottage industry in recent years. With titles like Hillary’s Choice, The Seduction of Hillary Clinton, and The Hillary Trap there are countless unauthorized biographies and numerous critiques of Hillary Clinton’s role as First Lady. However, there has been very little hard research about what Hillary Clinton has actually done since her election to the U.S. Senate in 2000. Sure, mainstream-media outlets have eagerly penned a plentitude of puff pieces touting her supposed moves toward the center and showcasing her apparent newfound popularity among New York Republicans. However, more important topics such as her fundraising and her voting record as senator have received scant attention. Fortunately, this void is neatly filled by Amanda Carpenter’s recently released book The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy’s Dossier on Hillary Clinton.
Perhaps the most disturbing chapter in the book is the first, which deals with Hillary Clinton’s overseas fundraising. Since leaving office, it is no secret President Clinton has received millions of dollars from overseas speaking engagements. Interestingly, current campaign-finance rules allow candidates to donate unlimited amounts of their personal funds to their own campaign. So even though foreign interests and foreign governments are not legally allowed to make direct contributions to a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, they can contribute to her indirectly by arranging compensation for her husband. Congressman Christopher Shays (R., Conn.), one of the architects of campaign-finance reform, has said he felt using such donations would be “inappropriate,” but conceded that it was probably legal under current law. Heretofore Hillary Clinton has refused to rule out using her and her husband’s personal funds in a future run for office.
Most of the book, however, deals with Hillary Clinton’s statements and voting record as a United States senator, with an emphasis on her actions after the events of September 11th. Shortly after the attacks, she, along with Senator Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), quickly demanded $20 billion in federal aid for New York, the largest federal aid package in history. However, Carpenter reports that much of this money did not go to needy New Yorkers but instead lined the pockets of corporations, most notably Goldman Sachs, who were unlikely to leave New York and who had suffered little in the way of real financial hardship. Carpenter reports that in the aftermath of 9/11 Hillary Clinton supported countless other federal aid programs of dubious merit, including one that subsidized pizzas for Arab immigrants and helped them with their immigration applications.
Furthermore, the War in Iraq gave Senator Clinton additional opportunities for position taking and grandstanding. Senator Clinton actually voted in favor of the War Resolution and delivered a hawkish speech on the Senate floor citing Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorists and his efforts to rebuild his stock of chemical and biological weapons. However, she quickly backed away from her pro-war orientation. While on television in Ireland she insisted that U.N. weapons inspectors be given more time. Furthermore, after the U.S. struggled to suppress the Iraqi insurgency, Hillary Clinton condemned the Bush administration’s foreign policy as “aggressive unilateralism.” Likewise, Clinton has both supported and opposed a specific deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq. Senator Clinton, unlike her many of her liberal colleagues, has refused to comment about whether or not intelligence reports were manipulated to mislead Americans into war. However, this is likely because George Tenet, who directed the CIA in the months preceding the Iraq war, was one of her husband’s political appointees.
Despite these ever shifting positions and her questionable fundraising techniques, Hillary Clinton receives precious little scrutiny from the mainstream media. In fact, it seems that most media outlets work overtime in their efforts to portray her as a moderate. For instance, when Clinton expressed an interest in reducing the incidence of abortion and finding common ground with abortion opponents, she received effusive praise from media cheerleaders. However, such statements are hardly original and are in fact quite common among abortion-rights supporters who are seeking to curry favor with pro-life voters. Of course, these same media outlets fail to report that Senator Clinton always votes against the partial-birth-abortion ban and other types of incremental pro-life legislation that enjoy broad support. Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton’s perfect or near-perfect scores from such liberal advocacy groups such as NARAL, Americas for Democratic Action, and the AFL-CIO also receive scant attention from the mainstream media.
As such, if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic party’s presidential nominee in 2008, this will doubtless pose some unique challenges for Republicans and Conservatives. Hillary Clinton would certainly be able motivate, galvanize, and unify conservatives like no other prospective Democrat candidate. However, there is the risk that conservatives, in their desire to defeat Hillary Clinton may resort to bizarre or outlandish attacks. This may lead to a backlash or cause the media and voters to ignore more substantive criticisms. However, during her brief tenure as the junior senator from New York, Hillary Clinton’s fundraising, rhetoric, and voting record have provided her opponents with ample evidence that she does not represent the values of mainstream America. By concisely and clearly documenting this, Carpenter has performed a useful service.
– Michael J. New is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama.