Mama Warbucks

Hillary Clinton brings home the dollars for New York's defense contractors

O'Hanlon thinks Clinton has stood out, especially as a rookie member. He cites her thoughtful critique of President Bush's Iraq policy—her 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 generally—pushing 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."

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Senator Hillary Clinton may never see New York return to its glory days of defense contracting, when it was known as the "cradle of aviation." But she's trying. In fiscal 2003—before Clinton got her spot on the committee—New York ranked 13 out of 50 states in contracts, with $4.3 billion. Today, the latest statistics show that the Empire State has nudged up a point to 12 in the nation, with $5.2 billion in procurements.

Maybe it's a coincidence. Or maybe not. Many senators on Armed Services hail from the states ranking highest in Pentagon money. Here is a list of the top 10 states receiving defense contracts in fiscal 2004; also noted is whether the state has anyone on the committee:


1. California, received $27.9 billion
2. Virginia, $23.5 billion, represented by Senator John Warner, the majority chairman
3. Texas, $21 billion, Senator John Cornyn
4. Maryland, $9.2 billion
5. Connecticut, $9 billion, Senator Joe Lieberman
6. Arizona, $8.43 billion, Senator John McCain
7. Florida, $8.4 billion, Senator Bill Nelson
8. Massachusetts, $7 billion, Senator Edward Kennedy
9. Missouri, $6.5 billion, Senator James Talent
10. Pennsylvania, $6.2 billion

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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 families—in 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."

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