The Forgotten Hillary
20 May 2015
Amidst the media frenzy swirling around all things Hillary, an obsession with sound bites she gives, or doesn’t give the press, her “Scooby Van” and trips to Chipotle, more vital information about Secretary Clinton’s accomplishments are lost. Scott Conroy’s refreshing article, In Arkansas, Hillary Clinton’s Legacy Remains Potent, reports on the groundbreaking work Hillary Clinton did as a young attorney for the Children’s Defense Fund, her work on behalf of children’s rights as well as her determined and largely successful efforts to reform the Arkansas education system when husband Bill was Governor of the state:
Hillary spent months traveling the state to sell her proposals for reform — which included boosting course offerings, reducing class sizes and implementing testing requirements for both students and teachers — while soliciting ideas from parents and teachers.
Political operatives in the state still laugh about the thunderstruck reaction that Rep. Lloyd George, a colorful state representative with a syrupy drawl, had to her presentation: “I think we’ve elected the wrong Clinton!”
Though Bill Clinton received most of the credit nationally for the reform package that he signed into law, Skip Rutherford, who has served for the last decade as the dean of the Clinton School of Public Service, said it was Hillary who “took Arkansas to a completely different level educationally.”
“She was really saying, ‘Look, when our students graduate now, they’re going to be competing in a world economy,’” he said. “She was very visionary. She did it not for immediate gratification but for long-term success.”
Having attended various events over the years where Secretary Clinton was speaker, I can also attest to the visionary Mr. Rutherford described, and the practical determination of this woman.
As First Lady, she worked to successfully lower the rates of teen pregnancy. She initiated and shepherded the Adoption and Safe Families act, helping to create SCHIP with Senators Kennedy and Hatch, helping to create the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice. Hillary Clinton also played a key role in bringing the issue of human trafficking to the forefront of United States policy.
Full disclosure, I campaigned for Hillary Clinton in 2008 and worked the phone banks in advance of the Texas and Ohio primaries, which she later won. I was doing my level best to pull a man off the media propaganda he had been echoing about Hillary. I kept him talking…
“Sir, I’m an ex-New Yorker. When Hillary first got elected Senator of the state, firemen thought she was a carpetbagger and were booing her. But they changed their tune because when Hillary saw how many of them were getting sick after 9/11, she showed up after the cameras stopped rolling to make sure that they had the care they needed. And 25,000 New York firemen came out to endorse her.”
The man’s response was silence. For five seconds. Then he blurted, “I got some rice fryin’ on the stove.” He hung up.
I had hoped I made a dent past the media’s din.
I didn’t get a chance to tell him that as Senator, Hillary Clinton also fought for and won extended benefits for military families and health benefits for our troops in the National Guard and Reserves. She fought off large cuts to Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Her ability to reach across the aisle, collaborating on health insurance legislation with the man who had been her husband’s nemesis years before, was impressive. She co-sponsored legislation to raise the minimum wage on five different occasions, was prescient in 2005 in predicting and cautioning against the housing collapse and offered economic prescriptions praised by Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman.
Andrei Cherny also noted in The Daily Beast that in 2007, Wall Street “hated the idea of a Financial Product Safety Commission,” by little-known Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren. Senator Hillary Clinton put it at the heart of her “Fair Credit for Families Agenda.” Cherny shared that both Bill and Hillary Clinton had long pushed “a problem solving populism” that produced results.
In other words, Hillary has a long history of working on behalf of Main Street, fighting for women’s rights, for children, for education and to strengthen families.
As General Wesley Clark once said, “If you want to know what someone is going to do, take a look at what they’ve done.” While there is no politician with such a long record who can avoid mistakes (she currently has two dozen prospective Republican opponents and no shortage of pundits all too ready to point them out), overall Clinton’s contributions land well in the plus column.
I would hope that as the campaign heats up, voters will seek out the reportage of those who have actually worked with Hillary Clinton, rather than falling for the sensationalism of those angling for click-bait.
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