Hillary in Her Own Words

The question remains whether Hillary Clinton is the progressive, feminist candidate the left wants her to be—or simply a hawkish corporatist.



On Monday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, First Lady Michelle Obama and Senator Bernie Sanders both took the stage to voice their support of Hillary Clinton. Both the First Lady and Senator Sanders, perhaps to the disappointment of the latter’s fervent supporters, spoke strongly about why they believe Hillary deserves votes.

The First Lady was adamant that Hillary was the only candidate for the job, saying, “And I am here tonight because in this election, there is only one person who I trust with that responsibility—only one person who I believe is truly qualified to be President of the United States. And that is our friend, Hillary Clinton.”

Senator Sanders, on the other hand, struck a different note. “[T]he case he made for Clinton was less about a visceral appeal to liberal values than a dry, logical chain of argument that led (somewhat joylessly and amid boos) to the conclusion that Clinton deserved to be the nominee,” wrote Glenn Thrush of CNN. That was before Sanders tweeted on Monday:

Some suggested the tweet belies the fact that Sanders is more interested in keeping Trump out of the White House than putting Hillary in it.

The incongruous messages from the First Lady and Senator Sanders—one of full-fledged support and character endorsement, the other of resignation and necessity—reflect the anxieties of many voters on the left for whom Hillary Clinton is seen as the last remaining option, an alternative to Donald Trump who is not as progressive as they might like; that, as Doug Henwood points out in My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency, “The case for Hillary boils down to little more than her alleged inevitability.”

Which begs the question, is Hillary the progressive, feminist candidate the left wants her to be? Or another hawkish, corporatist politician?

In My Turn, a critique from the left that catalogs the rumors, policy complaints, and ideological alignments that have dogged the candidate throughout her career, Henwood allows Hillary’s words to speak for themselves:

“As a shareholder and director of our company, I’m always proud of Wal-Mart and what we do and the way we do it better than anybody else.”

—June 1990, at the annual stockholders’ meeting

“For goodness’ sake, you can’t be a lawyer if you don’t represent banks.”

—March 1992. In her youth, Hillary interned at a radical law firm in Oakland, which, in Carl Bernstein’s words, was “celebrated for its defense of constitutional rights, civil liberates, and leftist cases.”

“Now that we’ve said these people are no longer deadbeats—they’re actually out there being productive—how do we keep them there?”

—April 2002. The “deadbeats” she’s referring to are former welfare recipients who’d (briefly, in many cases) found low-wage work.

“It’s time for the United States to start thinking of Iraq as a business opportunity.”

—June 2011, to an audience of senior executives from U.S. companies and officials from the U.S. and Iraqi governments.

“I love this quote. It’s from Mahatma Gandhi. He ran a gas station in Saint Louis for a few years.”

—January 2004. She later apologized, explaining it as a “lame attempt at humor.”

“The office of the president is such that it calls for a higher level of conduct than expected from the average citizen of the United States.”

—Written in 1974, as a staff lawyer drawing up the rules for the impeachment of Richard Nixon.


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