Custom Search

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Democratic Debate:Hillary Clinton Stands on Principle

[Update Below]

I didn't watch the debate last night, so I have just gone through the transcripts of the debate and I stand by what I have said so many times about Hillary Clinton.

MSNBC Transcript here and NYT here.

She does have one clear principle she stands by to a fault.

Politics and political posturing and never giving a straight answer.

What I mean is that until now she has been able to go anywhere and say whatever that particular audience wants to hear to grab that next vote, then she follows up by going elsewhere and telling them what they want to hear, whether it matches her previous positions or not.

Very rarely do you see her cornered.

Because this is one of those rare times where she is cornered on a number of issues, I am focusing on her in this post, plus I have stated repeatedly her at Wake up America, that barring any completed investigations that connect her to the campaign fraud, corruption and finance laws, in a legal manner, she will be the candidate the Republicans end up having to run against. (Unless she performs in the remaining debates as badly as she did here)

Last night she got cornered and her flip flopping and beating around the bush answers, that never really answer the original question, is very clearly seen from the transcripts and by video. (Hot Air via Michelle Malkin uploaded a Youtube video)

Lets start with the video, then below it will be the portion of transcript that is shown in the video.

Russert: Senator Clinton, Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer has proposed giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. He told the Nashua, New Hampshire, Editorial Board it makes a lot of sense.

Why does it make a lot of sense to give an illegal immigrant a driver's license?

Clinton: Well, what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is fill the vacuum left by the failure of this administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform. We know in New York we have several million at any one time who are in New York illegally. They are undocumented workers. They are driving on our roads. The possibility of them having an accident that harms themselves or others is just a matter of the odds. It's probability.

So what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is to fill the vacuum. I believe we need to get back to comprehensive immigration reform because no state, no matter how well intentioned, can fill this gap. There needs to be federal action on immigration reform.

Russert: Does anyone here believe an illegal immigrant should not have a driver's license?

(Unknown): Believe what?

Russert: An illegal immigrant should not have a driver's license.

Dodd: This is a privilege. And, look, I'm as forthright and progressive on immigration policy as anyone here. But we're dealing with a serious problem here, we need to have people come forward. The idea that we're going to extend this privilege here of a driver's license I think is troublesome, and I think the American people are reacting to it.

We need to deal with security on our borders. We need to deal with the attraction that draws people here. We need to deal fairly with those who are here.

But this is a privilege. Talk about health care, I have a different opinion. That affects the public health of all of us.

But a license is a privilege, and that ought not to be extended, in my view.

Clinton: Well, I just want to add, I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do...

(Unknown): Wait a minute...

Clinton: And we have failed. We have failed.

Dodd: No, no, no. You said -- you said yes...

Clinton: No.

Dodd: ... you thought it made sense to do it.

Clinton: No, I didn't, Chris. But the point is, what are we going to do with all these illegal immigrants who are driving...

Dodd: That's a legitimate issue. But driver's license goes too far, in my view.

Clinton: Well, you may say that, but what is the identification?

If somebody runs into you today who is an undocumented worker...

Dodd: There's ways of dealing with that.

Clinton: Well...

Dodd: This is a privilege, not a right.

Clinton: Well, what Governor Spitzer has agreed to do is to have three different licenses, one that provides identification for actually going onto airplanes and other kinds of security issues, another which is another ordinary driver's license, and then a special card that identifies the people who would be on the road, so...

Dodd: That's a bureaucratic nightmare.

Clinton: ... it's not the full privilege.

Russert: Senator Clinton, I just want to make sure of what I heard. Do you, the New York senator, Hillary Clinton, support the New York governor's plan to give illegal immigrants a driver's license?

You told the New Hampshire paper that it made a lot of sense. Do you support his plan?

Clinton: You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays "gotcha." It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He is dealing with a serious problems. We have failed. And George Bush has failed. Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do? No. But do I understand the sense of real desperation, trying to get a handle on this? Remember, in New York, we want to know who's in New York. We want people to come out of the shadows.

He's making an honest effort to do it. We should have passed immigration reform.

Notice that Hillary Clinton still never gave a yes or no answer.

This is typical Hillary.

That particular exchange was found on page 20-21 of the MSNBC transcript.

Edwards and Obama did chime in here to point out how she never gave a direct answer and simply danced around the topic.

Edwards: For children? To try to protect children -- using technology to protect children, I would.

I want to add something that Chris Dodd just said a minute ago, because I don't want it to go unnoticed. Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes just a few minutes ago.

And I think this is a real issue for the country. I mean, America is looking for a president who will say the same thing, who will be consistent, who will be straight with them. Because what we've had for seven years is double-talk from Bush and from Cheney, and I think America deserves us to be straight.

Williams: Senator Obama, why are you nodding your head?

Obama: Well, I was confused on Senator Clinton's answer. I can't tell whether she was for it or against it. And I do think that is important. One of the things that we have to do in this country is to be honest about the challenges that we face.

Immigration is a difficult issue. But part of leadership is not just looking backwards and seeing what's popular or trying to gauge popular sentiment. It's about setting a direction for the country. And that's what I intend to do as president.

Before we start going through some of the questions asked of Clinton that required her to actually take a stand, which she managed to never actually do, let me say this is the first transcript of a Democratic Debate where the candidates actually went for her throat and called her out on her inconsistencies and about damn time they did.

The first example of Clinton avoiding (by invoking Bush and how horrible he is....always popular in a Democratic debate) having to answer a direct question and having to be asked it again and still not answering it directly starts on page three of the MSNBC transcript and carries on to page four. (Note, Obama also avoided answering directly)

They are asking Hillary where her "red line" would be regarding Iran.

(Question--"Red line" is the current expression of the moment where Iran is concerned in Washington. What would your red line be concerning when to, if to attack Iran? What would make it crystal-clear in your mind that the United States should attack Iran)

Williams: Same question to Senator Clinton. What would be your red line?

Clinton: Well, first of all, we have to try diplomacy, and I see economic sanctions as part of diplomacy. We have used it with other very difficult situations -- like Libya, like North Korea. I think that what we're trying to do here is put pressure on the Bush administration. Joe is absolutely right. George Bush can do all of this without anybody. You know, that is the great tragedy and that's why we've got to rein him in, and that's why we need Republican support in the Congress to help us do so.

I invite all of our colleagues to pass something immediately that makes it very clear: He has no authority and we will not permit him to go take offensive action against Iran. But what we're trying to do is push forward on vigorous diplomacy. That has been lacking. I believe we should be engaged in diplomacy right now with the Iranians.

Everything should be on the table, not just their nuclear program. I've been advocating this for several years. I believe it strongly.

But I also think when you go to the table to negotiate with an adversarial regime, you need both carrots and sticks. The Revolutionary Guard is deeply involved in the commercial activities of Iran. Having those economic sanctions hanging over their heads gives our negotiators one of the set of sticks that we need to try to make progress in dealing with a very complicated situation.

Everybody agrees up here that President Bush has made a total mess out of the situation with Iran. What we're trying to do is to sort our way through to try to put diplomacy, with some carrots and some sticks, into the mix and get the president to begin to do that.

Anyone spot the "red line", no? No worries, Williams' didn't see it either, so he, respectfully, asked the questions again.

Williams: Respectfully, Senator, same question though: Do you have a threshold, a red line beyond which...

Clinton: I want to start diplomacy. I -- you know, I am not going to speculate about when or if they get nuclear weapons.

We're trying to prevent them from getting so. We're not, in my view, rushing to war. We should not be doing that, but we shouldn't be doing nothing, and that means we should not let them acquire nuclear weapons. And the best way to prevent that is a full court press on the diplomatic front.

Again, no red line, so we, like the debate will move on.

(Sidenote: Richardson would negotiate with Iran with no conditions and we all know how that has turned out in the past. How do you negotiate when only one party is speaking in good faith and the other has already proven it will smile and lie to your face then go about doing what they want anyway?)

Next is a perfect example of Hillary not answering the question posed to her but answering the question she wanted to be posed to her.

Russert: I want to ask each of you the same question.

Senator Clinton, would you pledge to the American people that Iran will not develop a nuclear bomb while you are president?

Clinton: I intend to do everything I can to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

Russert: But you won't pledge?

Clinton: I am pledging I will do everything I can to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

Russert: But, they may.

Clinton: Well, you know, Tim, you asked me if I would pledge, and I have pledged that I will do everything I can to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

(Side note: Not one of them could pledge to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. As we pointed out yesterday, we have time to make diplomacy work, but the question of what to do when their is no diplomatic measures left and no time left, never gets answered by any of the Democratic candidates.

With yesterdays Zogby poll showing 52% of the likely voters support military action against Iran if it becomes necessary, this is one prime example of why Democrats have been known and will continue to carry the stigma of "weak on National Security".)

To give Russert his due, he did bring up the topic of Hillary Clinton claiming 35vast years of experience but then her "husband" not allowing the the release of her records during the White House time to be released until 2012.

Russert: Senator Clinton, I'd like to follow up, because in terms of your experience as first lady, in order to give the American people an opportunity to make a judgment about your experience, would you allow the National Archives to release the documents about your communications with the president, the advice you gave?

Because, as you well know, President Clinton has asked the National Archives not to do anything until 2012.

Clinton: Well, actually, Tim, the Archives is moving as rapidly as the Archives moves. There's about 20 million pieces of paper there. And they are move, and they are releasing as they do their process. And I am fully in favor of that.

Now, all of the records, as far as I know, about what we did with health care, those are already available. Others are becoming available. And I think that, you know, the Archives will continue to move as rapidly as its circumstances and processes demand.

Russert: But there was a letter written by President Clinton specifically asking that any communication between you and the president not be made available to the public until 2012. Would you lift that ban?

Clinton: Well, that's not my decision to make, and I don't believe that any president or first lady ever has. But, certainly, we're move as quickly as our circumstances and the processes of the National Archives permits.

Obama jumps right on that, which is good, because it is important that people understand that she is hiding the proof of her experience or lack of and god only knows what else is being hidden in those archives, at the same time as she is asking people to "look at her experience".

Russert: Senator Obama, your hand is up?

Obama: Well, look, I'm glad that Hillary took the phrase "turn the page." It's a good one, but this is an example of not turning the page. We have just gone through one of the most secretive administrations in our history.

And not releasing, I think, these records at the same time, Hillary, that you're making the claim that this is the basis for your experience, I think, is a problem.

Part of what we have to do is invite the American people back to participate in their government again. Part of what we need to do is rebuild trust in our government again.

And that means being open and transparent and accountable to the American people......

Good for is time for Hillary to stop hiding behind her husband and have the courage to make that information available and let the chips fall where they may. By not releasing those papers she is simply inviting the question "what is she hiding?"

Russert then points to a situation, the type I referred to at the beginning of this post where Hillary Clinton says one thing to one audience, then gets caught saying the opposite to other people.

Back to that one principle Hillary stands for and that is saying whatever an audience wants to hear whether she means it or not.

Russert: Senator Clinton, I want to clear something up which goes to the issue of credibility. You were asked at the AARP debate whether or not you would consider taxing, lifting the cap from $97,500, taxing that, raising more money for Social Security. You said, quote, "It's a no." I asked you the same question in New Hampshire, and you said "no."

Then you went to Iowa and you went up to Tod Bowman, a teacher, and had a conversation with him saying, "I would consider lifting the cap perhaps above $200,000." You were overheard by an Associated Press reporter saying that.

Why do you have one public position and one private position?

Clinton: Well, Tim, I don't. I have said consistently that my plan for Social Security is fiscal responsibility first, then to deal with any long-term challenges which I agree are ones that we are going to have to address.

We would have a bipartisan commission. In the context of that, I think all of these would be considered. But, personally, I do not want to balance Social Security on the backs of our seniors and middle-class families. That's why I put fiscal responsibility first, because we have to change the Bush tax cuts, which I am committed to doing.

We have to move back toward a more fair and progressive tax system, and begin once again to move toward a balanced budget with a surplus. You know, part of the idea in the '90s was not just so Bill would have a check mark next to his name in history, but so that we would have the resources to deal with a lot of these entitlement problems.

George Bush understood that. The Republicans understood that. They wanted to decimate that balanced budget and a surplus because they knew that that would give them a free hand to try to privatize Social Security.

I am not going to be repeating Republican talking points. So when somebody asks me, would something like this be considered, well, anything could be considered when we get to a bipartisan commission. But personally, I am not going to be advocating any specific fix until I am seriously approaching fiscal responsibility.

Russert: But you did raise it as a possibility with Tod Bowman?

: Well, but everybody knows what the possibilities are, Tim. Everybody knows that. But I do not advocate it. I do not support it. I have laid out what I do believe, and I am going to continue to emphasize that.

I think, for us to act like Social Security is in crisis is a Republican trap. We're playing on the Republican field. And I don't intend to do that.

Page 16-17 of the MSNBC transcript shows us how Hillary once again beats around the Bush instead of answering directly and forces Russert to re-ask the question in a direct manner.

Russert: I'd like to talk about taxes.

Senator Clinton, I'd like to start with you. Because the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Charlie Rangel, is a strong supporter of your campaign.

He wants to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax. But he also wants to have a 4 percent surtax on a single $150,000 income or $200,000 married couple.

You went to Harlem with your husband, with Charlie Rangel. And the former president said, quote, "Charlie Rangel wants me to pay more taxes so you can pay less and I think that's a good idea."

Is that also your view?

Clinton: Well, I am a great admirer of Chairman Rangel. And what he's trying to do is deal with a very serious problem. You know, the Alternative Minimum Tax was never intended to hit people are in middle income, upper middle income. It was meant for people who are rich and evading taxes.

Now I don't know all the details of what Charlie is recommending, but I certainly agree with the goal. We've got to do something with the Alternative Minimum Tax.

There are a lot of ways of getting there. I want it to be fair and progressive. It starts in the House, it starts in the Ways and Means Committee, which he chairs. But I think my husband was expressing an opinion that a lot of people who have been very fortunate and blessed over the last six and a half years feel.

You know, we've not been asked to sacrifice anything. You know, young men and women wearing the uniform of our country are dying and being maimed. We have the average American family losing a thousand dollars in income, and George Bush and his cronies can't figure out how they can give even more tax cuts to the wealthiest of Americans.

Now, I never thought Bill and I would be in that category, to be honest with you. So it's kind of a new experience. But it's not one that make us very comfortable, because we should be investing in new energy, we should be investing in college affordability, universal pre-K, the kind of health care plan that I've outlined.

That's what we intend to do. But we're going to have to deal with the AMT, something that the Republicans have refused to do because, very frankly, it hits people who are below their concern. They're concerned about the real top wage earners. This hits people that are, you know, the police chief. This hits people that are, you know, two income families that are doing well.

So we're going to have to do something about it. I think Charlie's being very courageous in moving forward. I don't agree with all the details, but he's on the right track to say we've got to do something about the AMT.

Russert: So in principle, you would be in favor of looking at a 4 percent surtax?

Clinton: No, I didn't say that, Tim. I said that I'm in favor of doing something about the AMT. How we do it and how we put the package together everybody knows is extremely complicated.

It's not going to happen while George Bush is president. Everybody knows that. I want to get to a fair and progressive tax system. The AMT has to be part of what we try to change when I'm president.

And there are a lot of moving pieces here. You know, there are kinds of issues we're going to deal with as the tax cuts expire.

I want to freeze the estate tax at the 2009 level of $7 million for a couple.

There's a lot of moving parts. So I'm not going to get committed to a specific approach, but I applaud Chairman Rangel for beginning the conversation.

It is simply amazing to watch her speak out of both sides of her mouth and imply so much without ever saying anything or taking a stand one way or another.

The Politico put it well in regards to Hillary Clinton:

We now know something that we did not know before: When Hillary Clinton has a bad night, she really has a bad night.

Some reactions from around the blogosphere about the debate last night, include but are not limited to:

Screw Politically Correct B.S.

Leading in the polls, the darling of the media, Hillary Clinton faced her toughest bitch slapping last night and failed to deliver.

"....she continued her strategy of avoiding direct answers to questions: She wouldn't say how she would address Social Security; she declined to pledge whether she would stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, or say whether she supports giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

Instead she tried to tried to turn every issue into an argument against President Bush. She said Bush's name 25 times, more than all six of her rivals combined."

The Hill's Pundit Blog:

It came about because Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) had the courage to defy the uni-speak of the Democratic debates, where everybody agrees with everybody else, and spoke out against the proposal to give licenses to illegal immigrants. Hillary, suddenly realizing how exposed she was by her seeming endorsement of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan on illegals, backtracked and pointed out that she had not explicitly endorsed the plan. It was her equivalent of Bill saying that it depended on what the definition of “is” is. It was a Hillary moment, and her parsing and mincing of the vocabulary to have it both ways was on full public display. Caught, she retreated to the claim that everybody was playing “gotcha” — but, indeed, she had been got!

Let Freedom Ring:

I doubt that this will keep her from winning the Democratic nomination. I’m equally certain that that night’s performance will show up in the GOP’s candidate’s ad campaign. Hillary’s panderfest on the stage at Drexel last night will offer a stark contrast to Rudy Giuliani’s forthrightness. You can disagree with Rudy on certain issues. It’s even fair to say that he’s had a few missteps.

This wasn’t a policy disgreement with Hillary and it wasn’t that she misstated what she meant to say. She said what she meant to say. Unfortunately for her, someone caught her doing what she’s done consistently. Hillary’s tried being all things to all people in the hopes of maximizing her vote totals.

That’s the wrong thing to do this year. People are looking for a leader who’s straight with them, who won’t talk out of both sides of their mouth. That won’t be good for Hillary because she’s nothing if not a panderer.

Flopping Aces:

We're talking about a woman who has had one single goal her entire life and endured marrying a hack like Bill Clinton to get there. She's a robot who will say anything, do anything, to get in that Oval Office. Consequences be damned.

She was not prepared for this question, incredibly, and showed her true self. An indecisive, cranky, unlikable person.


The consistent thread throughout the debate was clearly Clinton's "double talk." Both Obama and Edwards attacked her on it early on and she exhibited signs of it in a couple of answers, but she might have escaped unscathed if not for her response to the illegal immigrant driver's license question. There, she basically proved the criticisms true. I agree with dday that it was just a horrible answer and probably should hurt her, but will it? Is it her version of "I voted for it before I voted against it?" I don't know but I will say this is the first time I've left watching a debate feeling like Clinton is vulnerable. At the very least she was thrown off her game tonight, especially in the beginning.

Talk Left:

Advantage Obama here. Dodd took a position. Clinton doubletalked. Edwards did not even state his position, just attacked.

The Carpetbagger report

Oops. She said the plan makes a lot of sense, and defended Spitzer’s efforts, but then isn’t sure if the idea is any good? Clinton supports the policy, but won’t endorse the policy?

Andrew Sullivan:

The winner was clearly Edwards. He was concise, aggressive, completely right about Clinton and always on point. He seemed unafraid to take her on, while Obama was still playing a too-careful defense. If I were to give an instant sum-up of the debate - and I'm a blogger so it's my job - it would be that Clinton's profound weakness as a general election candidate was pretty badly exposed. And the main alternative just about survived as a credible presidential candidate.

In other words: a great night for the GOP.

The laugh of the day mindset, that the Democratic Candidates shouldn't go after Clinton on her flip flopping, on her beating around the Bush and on her countless other faults because it just isn't "progressive politics" and it is just so, so, so, so.... REPUBLICAN (ick)....LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL.

If one of the cardinal rules of progressive politics is that you never repeat the talking points by which your opponents beat up on your own party, then what are we to think of last night’s Democratic debate, in which a principal tactic used by some of the non-Clintons was to repeat Republican talking points about Hillary Clinton?

I am laughing so hard at that one.

[Update] Hillary does a backflip to her original position, she was for it before she was against it and now she is for it again.. all in 24 hours.

That has to be a record.