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O'Hanlon thinks Clinton has stood out, especially as a rookie member. He cites her thoughtful critique of President Bush's Iraq policyher concern about the extended use of Guard and Reserve members, about the lack of body armor, about the exit strategy. He also cites her support for New York's military families generallypushing for better pay and improved health benefits for the Guard and Reserve. She has also visited all 13 military installations across the state at least once, some two and three times.
"She's doing a fantastic job," O'Hanlon says, "and I'm not in any way a Hillary fan."
Neither are Republican members on Armed Services. Yet Clinton has managed to impress them with her thoughtfulness and knowledge. John Ullyot, the spokesperson for the Armed Services Republicans, calls the New York senator "a very valued member of the committee."
All this may bode well for Clinton '08. But today, what matters is how her Armed Services work plays at home. Her devotion to military issues has hardly gone over well among her core base of liberal supporters. Peace activists have already picketed Clinton's midtown office on two occasions. And they don't find much good in what the senator is doing on the committee.
"We don't like it," says Leslie Cagan, of United for Peace and Justice. They don't like her calls for additional troops in Iraq, or her lukewarm critiques of the Bush policy. They're not crazy about her advocacy for defense funds, either. If anything, Cagan adds, "We'd like the senator to be fighting for drastic cuts in military spending."
New York's liberals may just have to swallow their dislike for Clinton's hawkish ways. Her Armed Services work has translated into inroads among defense executives and military familiesin short, key Republican constituencies. They might help in 2008, but she certainly needs them in her Senate race next year.
"They remember the days of Scoop Jackson," says Congressman King, explaining why local defense folks react positively to Clinton. "They realize they've found a Democrat who is willing to work for them."
Indeed. Last January, on the day the Pentagon would announce that Lockheed Martin got the Marine One contract, Senator Clinton boarded a plane in White Plains for Owego. She was there when the good word came. As Clinton told the 2,000 Lockheed workers celebrating that day, "I said I would be here win or lose because we're a team."