Questions for Hillary

She Says She’s Not a Liberal

To my knowledge, no one among the hordes of reporters covering her campaign has asked Hillary to respond to this editorial in the June 12 National Law Journal by its editor, Patrick Oster: "Hillary Clinton is using her inclusion in the 1988 and 1991 National Law Journal [achievement] lists in campaign materials to promoter her U.S. senate campaign in New York. She brags she was once chosen as one of the 100 'top' lawyers in the country. One might question the wisdom of bringing up some of the reasons for her inclusion: her connection with the Rose Law Firm, whose billing records she famously misplaced, or her being a director on the board of notoriously anti-union Wal-Mart. But our quibble is with her use of the word 'top.'

"To us, that implies 'best' or 'smartest,' but Hillary Clinton was instead rated as one of the most 'influential' lawyers, which we equate more with the notion of power or impact. . . . "

As Oster noted in a conversation with me, Hillary would not have made a "best" or "smartest" National Law Journallist. And she even got the name of the magazine wrong. She's been saying it was The American Lawyer—a sister publication of The National Law Journal, the one that "honored" her.

As for Hillary's—that's her campaign name, without the Clinton appendage—impact on education in Arkansas, one of her ads quotes an "authority" proving that she raised the standards of education while she was that state's First Lady. Whether that's true or not—and doubts have been raised—the relevant point as to her candor was raised by the Lazio campaign on September 21:

"An Adwatch created by the Clinton campaign and distributed to media outlets statewide today quoted a publication entitled A Vision of Excellence: A Look at Education in Arkansas, 1988. [It quoted the publication] three separate times as an authoritative source defending her record. A quick search of the Arkansas State Library reveals that the author of this particular tome is Mrs. Clinton's husband."

The catalog record is GO 42. 8: V 47/988.

In the February 8 Daily News—and she has repeated this often—Hillary said "she would not support a nominee for the federal bench, including the Supreme Court, who has opposed abortions."

This naked litmus test means that any litigant before the Supreme Court, or lower federal courts, will know that one or more of the new judges and justices have already refused to listen to any arguments concerning that issue—including parental notification, or abortions that accidentally result in live baby births.

As Abraham Lincoln said about litmus tests for the Supreme Court: "We cannot ask a man what he will do, and if we should, and he should answer us, we should despise him for it."

Hillary's pledge of a litmus test would mean that someone else nominated to the Supreme Court could be asked by a law-and-order president if he or she would promise to vote in favor of allowing illegally obtained evidence to be used at a trial. (There are Supreme Court justices, now in the minority concerning that issue, like William Rehnquist, who do want to get rid of what is called the "exclusionary rule," which protects defendants from unscrupulous police.)

In the February 20 Newsday, Hillary said "she has never considered herself a liberal," but added that "even a liberal like Eleanor Roosevelt would be comfortable with her description of herself as a 'New Democrat.' " But Eleanor Roosevelt was vigorously against the death penalty.

Despite the growing evidence that innocent people have been close to execution, which has been proved through DNA—and by such investigators as the Northwestern University journalism students who were crucial in the release of a man on death row—Hillary is staunchly in favor of capital punishment. Yet such Democratic senators as Patrick Leahy and Russell Feingold have introduced laws to delay the killing machine; and the American Bar Association has urgently called for a moratorium on capital punishment.

Will Senator Hillary—if it comes to that—support a moratorium on executions?

In addition to opposing capital punishment, Eleanor Roosevelt fought vigorously to get a safety net for the poor into law. In 1935 FDR signed the "safety net" legislation that is known as the Aid to Families With Dependent Children act.

In 1996, President Clinton signed—with fanfare—a welfare "reform" act, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The safety net was abolished. Daniel Patrick Moynihan called it "the most brutal act of social policy since Reconstruction."

The September 27 issue of the authoritative Education Week tells of the millions thrown off the welfare rolls—including those who have found badly paid work—and reveals that most are not moving out of poverty.

Now, due in considerable part to the "reform" which Hillary has proudly supported, Education Week reports that "nearly 19 percent of U.S. children—about 13.3 million—live in poverty. . . . And by 2015, African-American and Latino youngsters are projected to make up 60 percent of the children in low-income families . . . according to a recent report by the New York City-based College Board."

The "Welfare Reform" Act is due for reauthorization in 2002. Would Senator Hillary Clinton vote for its reauthorization? Or, what changes in it would she demand?

Hillary pledges to be a senator committed to education reform. I have been writing on education in this city for some 40 years, and one persistent reason why children fail is that teachers—as well as principals and superintendents—are not accountable when they fail in their professional responsibility to children. The United Federation of Teachers—a principal backer of Hillary—often speaks of accountability, but as Chancellor Harold Levy has discovered, union contract provisions make it exceedingly difficult to discharge a failing teacher. It can take many months, even years.

Will Hillary use her avowed dedication to children to convince the UFT to protect kids even at the expense of some of its members? I have witnessed superb educational malpractice that makes parents utterly frustrated. Whether she wins or loses the Senate race, Hillary could make a lasting contribution to basic justice for children by working to make failing teachers accountable.

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