Adam Ash

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Open letter to Hillary Clinton

Dear Hillary -- by Joyce Marcel/

First of all, may I call you Hillary? Running for president -with a Secret Service escort, no less - grants you gravitas, but your posters say "Hillary for President," so I guess you're comfortable with the informality.

Then, of course, it's an indication of your star power - Madonna, Oprah, Hillary - we get the picture.

I went over to Keene, N.H., on Sunday to hear you speak. The place was packed. I have to admit that the feminist in me was a little bit thrilled. You're the Democratic Party front-runner in a presidential election, with money up the yin-yang, at a time when Republicans have disgraced themselves so badly that they are slinking off to their indictments like the war criminals they are. You're no token Geraldine Ferraro. This is history in the making. This is for all the marbles. This is for real.

During the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner," I admit to tears.

N.H. State Sen. Molly Kelly, D-Keene, led you to the podium. The audience waved signs, cheered and applauded.

You're surprisingly petite. You were wearing one of those suits you're famous for: sexless, dark blue, high-waisted, not very well tailored, certainly nothing Armani would cut. But you added a flattering turquoise sweater. (It's not sexist to talk about your clothes, is it? I remember we all had quite the giggle when the millionaire senator from Tennessee, Lamar Alexander, started wearing plaid flannel shirts around New Hampshire during the 1996 GOP primary.)

Your eyes were alight and aglow as the waves of love washed over you. You were, frankly, adorable. The image that came to my mind was of Dolly Parton without the goop on. I admit it, I fell in love.

Kelly gave a rip-roaring introduction, didn't she? "Our mothers and their mothers fought hard for this day," she said. "You won't find a better advocate for women's rights."

Then you talked about your trips to Keene when your husband was running for president. "I'm keen on Keene," is what you said. But admit it, you looked a little ashamed at how lame that was.

Then you began the stump speech. "It's the job of each generation to leave the world better than we find it." Yeah, yeah. "I want to be president because I think we can do better." I noticed you refused to use President Bush's name, not even once. You said "this president," or "the current president." Tactics, Hil? Do you think we don't know his name?

CEO profits are up, corporate profits are up, salaries are not up. We know that. The middle class is being destroyed. Right. Our jobs are being exported overseas. We don't manufacture anything any more. No kidding?

People started cheering. But hey, wait a minute. Didn't your husband negotiate GATT and NAFTA? Weren't you warned at the time that the result would be a huge loss of jobs? Remember Ross Perot's description - "a giant sucking sound?"

Well, my love, GATT and NAFTA were the death nails in the coffin of American manufacturing. It seems a bit disingenuous for you to come out against them now.

Come to think of it, Bill invented triangulation, and the stealing/co-opting of Republican programs and language. For power he sold out not only progressive but even liberal Democratic ideals. So even though you're standing up there giving us the straight mainstream liberal schtick, how can we trust that you mean a word of it?

Universal health care - well, finally you're for it. You caved in pretty easily when you started on that issue in the White House - one lousy ad from the insurance companies and you were gone. How do we know you'll stand up to them now?

No Child Left Behind, teaching to the test, yadda yadda yadda. We need to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, yeah, yeah, yeah. Tax the rich. Du'h. The world doesn't respect us any more. Really? When did you notice? Diplomacy good, war bad. It takes a village - by the way, that's not your quote. It's an old saying - did you ever attribute it?

Iraq. Yeah, you voted for it in the fall of 2002. We all know it. Now you say 'No' to escalation and 'Yes' to diplomacy. You complain, "In the beginning, Congress didn't provide oversight." But you were in Congress when the Bush administration started to peddle its lies, and you never spoke out against the war.

And don't try that old "We were lied to" nonsense. A whole lot of us knew that Iraq had nothing to do with Sept. 11. We were saying quagmire long before Bush laid down the first bomb and the first American soldier.

Shame no one asks you the right questions, Hil. Here's one: "Did you - and every other senator who was planning a presidential run - vote for the war because you didn't want to seem weak on defense, as the Republicans were sure to paint you? And did you, especially, vote for the war because you're a woman and even more vulnerable to the 'weakness' tag? Are all those people dead and maimed because you wanted too much to be president? And if, back then, you believed in your heart that the war was wrong (read: incredibly venal and stupid), and you didn't have the courage to speak out the way many of us did, why should we think you'll be a courageous president for these difficult and dangerous times?"

Another question: "What role do you see for your husband in a Hillary presidency?" Is this the old "two for the price of one." Or is it "three for the price of one," because Chelsea is coming on smart and strong.

And speaking of Bill, how are you going to handle the character issue? I know he's a hot guy, hon, but he's also a serial sexual harrasser and you've never said a public word against it. And all that money you have now? To whom, exactly, are you beholden?

How about coffee and a good talk sometime soon, girlfriend? What do you say?


(Joyce Marcel is a columnist and journalist who lives in southern Vermont. A collection of her columns, "A Thousand Words or Less," is available through . And write her at


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