COMMENTARY: In the interest of full disclosure I am a supporter of Hillary Clinton. I supported her in the primary in 2008 and I am supporting her again in 2016. So, I was disappointed when Eric Griego, the author of a previous commentary, failed to disclose that he was a strong Bernie Sanders supporter and he has been traveling New Mexico in support of his candidate.
I was not surprised that, like many of the Sanders supporters, he spent the entire commentary disparaging Secretary Clinton rather than outlining why he supported his candidate. I would like to focus on why Hillary is by far the strongest, most accomplished, most experienced, and yes best suited candidate to be president.
First, however, I want to make a couple observations about Griego’s commentary.
Among the women whom he mentioned as being qualified to be president, Elizabeth Warren is the least qualified. She is a one-trick pony with a focus on important consumer and economic issues with little other experience. There was self-acknowledgement of this when she handed over her economic message to someone else to carry.
All of the other progressive women whom he references have joined together to strongly support Hillary Clinton as the most qualified presidential candidate in a field of men and women.
Another deception that Griego puts forward is the dynasty concept that Republicans love to play. The Clintons hardly qualify as part of a “powerful political family” comparable to the Kennedys. President Clinton and Secretary Clinton do not come from wealth handed down thru generations or from a long line of political powerhouses. They do, however, share the Kennedy commitment to public service – and have dedicated their lives to it.
Unfortunately, Griego uses “code” language such as “consigliere” to diminish Clinton – a page from the Republican playbook. He makes assumptions about her role as first lady and stirs the pot on a policy argument of 20 years ago, including one with Marian Wright Edelman who still calls Hillary an old friend. I am astonished that, as a self-described policy expert on early childhood, Griego doesn’t give Secretary Clinton the slightest credit or even a mention for her life’s work for children – an issue rarely if ever mentioned by Sanders.
That brings me to Secretary Clinton and her many accomplishments, not only while she was elected but before she was elected. There are, for the record, too many too mention, but here are some that differentiate her from Sanders.
Fighting for children
In addition to her time with the Children’s Defense Fund, she courageously went undercover to expose discrimination and efforts to segregate childcare centers in the South. Hillary Clinton was instrumental in the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, which put the safety and health of children first and with funding to support it.
She led the charge for the Foster Care Independence Act, which expanded health care and resources for the thousands of young people aging out of foster care with no place to go. It passed with bipartisan support.
Before she announced for president, she continued her work on early childhood, pushing “talking is teaching” around the country, supporting efforts for parent engagement and resources as a child’s first teacher.
All of this, of course, pales in comparison to her achievement of securing the CHIP program – health insurance for children.
Fighting for women
Hillary Clinton has fought for women for as long as many of us remember. No other presidential contender in our history has demonstrated such a strong commitment to women or such a clear record on behalf of women’s health.
She hasn’t just defended reproductive rights and freedom; she has made expanding rights and access a driving force of her political life. She was leaning in before leaning in was cool and she stuck her neck out to protect women’s health choices.
She has been selected as the world’s most admired woman for a reason. The reason is she not only did this in the United States, but she has stood up for women across the globe and against violence against women, acknowledging the role women play in business and as entrepreneurs. She has carried the message wide and far that reproductive rights and health care are fundamental to economic growth and opportunity here and elsewhere.
“Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights” was spoken at some risk at the conference in Beijing. In an election where reproductive rights could be a defining issue – Hillary is best equipped to continue to stand up and fight for us.
Hindsight is always a wonderful gift and clearly Griego has it. As a former public official, he certainly knows what it means to have your votes and decisions second-guessed or to regret a vote in hindsight.
The resolution for the Iraqi invasion was a tough vote. It passed 89-21 with a minority of Democrats voting no. Secretary Clinton’s 2002 vote on the Iraq war may have been a mistake, as she has said – but criticizing one vote is not a plan for current foreign policy and the defeat of ISIS.
Clinton’s foreign policy knowledge and relationships around the world are unmatched in this race. And her judgment was trusted by President Obama in some very difficult moments in our recent history – a strategy to bring Iran to the table with sanctions and risking going after Bin Laden.
For her opponent, criticism is much easier than laying out his own foreign policy agenda.
Sticking her neck out
Secretary Clinton is the only presidential candidate willing to take on the NRA and fight for gun-safety regulations. And while Griego is eager to point out that she has changed her mind on issues over 20 years, he forgets and forgives that his candidate, just two short weeks ago, changed from five votes against the Brady Bill and his votes to support gun manufacturers (which caused more deaths in this country than the War in Iraq) to a more reasonable view. Learning more or changing his values?
As mayor of Burlington, Vt. early in his career he signed off on a We Believe in Marriage Week resolution defining marriage as between a man and a woman. And, as late as 2000, he was “on the fence” on marriage while supporting civil unions. Hardly being at the forefront of the movement for same-sex marriage, but maybe he learned something — or was it changing his values?
He forged a deal while in Congress to dump Vermont’s nuclear waste on a poor, disadvantaged Latino community in Texas, but now he has taken environmental stand against Keystone. Changing his values or learning experience?
Secretary Clinton was the first candidate to stand up and call out the governor of Michigan for his reprehensible and possibly criminal actions, which poisoned children and families in Michigan with unsafe water supplies. Early on in the campaign, Secretary Clinton raised the issue of heroin addiction, freely admitting it wouldn’t garner many votes but was a subject that needed to be addressed. After she raised these two issues to a national conversation, Sanders jumped on that bandwagon, but he wasn’t proactive.
Clearly, this debate could go on. Secretary Clinton has a long history of sticking her neck out on the national and international stage. She has stood her ground while seeking common ground to make progress in a real and meaningful way.
Unfortunately, Griego’s commentary perfectly underscores what women have known for so long: An Anglo male candidate, even a democratic socialist, who for 25 years has been part of the establishment he now rails against, can be forgiven changing his mind, his lack of achievement and bad votes — but a woman who is “wicked smart” and competent, with an unbelievable work ethic and character, must not only do things in “high heels and backwards,” but must be flawless as well.
Diane Denish is New Mexico’s first woman lieutenant governor; a member of the Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountain Board (and others) and fighter for women’s economic progress and independent health care decisions; and a supporter of Early Childhood investment in New Mexico, the Affordable Care Act, and smart economic policies to help secure our families. She is a proud supporter of Hillary Clinton and believes for our democracy to work the best candidates and public servants learn and listen and change their minds along the way.