Published on TheHill.com on September 5, 2007.
The winner of the Hypocrite of the Year award goes to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). Even though the year is far from over and is likely to have its fair share of hypocrisy, Mrs. Clinton’s comment on the need to compromise to achieve political and social progress has to outclass any other current or future entrant.
This woman, who refused to change a comma or a word of her thousand-page-plus healthcare reform bill and, as a result of her intractable stubbornness, sent the bill down to defeat along with the Democratic Congress and almost her husband’s presidency, is daring to show herself now as the apostle of compromise.
Here’s what she recently said:
“Ultimately, to bring change, you have to know when to stand your ground, and when to find common ground. You need to know when to stick to principles and fight, and know when to make principled compromises. You can’t always demand everything your own way, or you’ll never get anything done.”
For Hillary to give a sermon on compromise in politics is a bit like the Ayatollah preaching religious tolerance. This is the same woman who:
- Refused to release the Whitewater documents, triggering the appointment of a special prosecutor;
- Wouldn’t settle the Paula Jones suit – with no apology, admission or damages required – out of simple stubbornness;
- Insisted on the secrecy of her healthcare reform task force’s deliberations until a federal court ruled her position invalid and who still won’t release her first lady healthcare reform documents until after the election;
- Insisted on the travel office firings even when they became a total political embarrassment;
- Will still not apologize for her vote for the Iraq war.
And, in the Senate, where she pretends to have developed her penchant for compromise, she still has not succeeded in passing a single major piece of legislation.
Compromise was not, to put it mildly, uppermost in her thinking in 1993 and 1994. After it was clear that her healthcare package was doomed to defeat, I suggested that she adopt a fallback position and support the bill first introduced by Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.). The Dole bill provided for portability of healthcare benefits as workers migrated from job to job. Dole had filed it in the heady days of 1993, when healthcare reform was still popular. Needing a Republican alternative to Hillary’s program, he proposed this important reform.
Knowing that Dole would have to let it pass because it was his bill, I urged Hillary to push the Dole bill, arguing that she could take the achievement to the nation in 1996 as evidence of progress on healthcare.
She rejected the idea out of hand, as she did all healthcare compromises, insisting that “unless we fix the whole system, we’ll just make things worse.” She said that “if we tinker with this change or that change, it will be like squeezing a balloon. One end will be smaller but the other will just get larger.” She worried that insurance companies would raise their rates if the bill passed.
Now she is the bearer of the torch of compromise. If we could believe her conversion was sincere, it would make her less dangerous as a possible president. But it clearly is not. Her newfound desire for compromise is driven by her need to appeal simultaneously to the Democratic base and general electorate. She has to explain to the partisans of the left why she must adopt positions tailored to win the November election on the Iraq war and other issues.
Her advocacy of compromise is just one part of her Labor Day repositioning. She has also changed her campaign slogan from “Experience” to “Change + Experience,” because she feels uncomfortable ceding the ground of change in a Democratic primary to Obama. Of course, the only change that her candidacy seems to offer is a different first name in the perennial Bush/Clinton dichotomy that has gripped the nation for the past 20 years.
In reality, Hillary’s focus on compromise and the need for change takes place against the backdrop of an increasingly successful war in Iraq. With Bush now admitting that some troop withdrawals will be necessary and the Democrats conceding that all the troops cannot be withdrawn, Hillary and the Democratic candidates face the prospect of losing their best issue – the failed war.
So, if your position is increasingly untenable, prepare your voters for compromise.