Saturday, September 26, 2015

A World Wide Safari: Hunting Hillary's Elusive Accomplishments

A friend posted this Hillary Clinton salute from I will respond to several of the points below.

Before getting to the post, perhaps these posts, the one saluting Clinton, this one showing why much of that content of the post is drivel, or worse, are pointless exercises. Folks who have taken a view of things are often unwilling to consider other possibilities. So, critiquing a post, as I am about to do, will help my friend who brought it to my attention, but I doubt I could ever convince the post’s original author. Just as you can “lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink,” you can lead a poster to fodder, but you can’t make them think.

To help you identify the Hillary salute post, because it is not always quoted with a link to its source, you may recognize these opening words from the post:
You don’t have to like Hillary Clinton or her ideas. I get it. She’s a Democrat, a progressive (in most eyes), and conservatives don’t like that. However, you cannot say she does not have any accomplishments.
As I said, I am going to respond to the post’s attribution of “accomplishments” to Hillary. In doing so, I will begin by examining the support offered by the post for each claim. The post’s author helpfully linked from each claim to a site on the Internet, apparently to prove the claim. Then, with each point, I will evaluate whether the “accomplishment” is something of which one should justifiably be proud.

Here we go:
Even though her major initiative, the Clinton healthcare plan, failed (due to Republican obstruction), you cannot deny that it laid ground for what we have today, the Affordable Healthcare Act, something Clinton supports and would continue.
During the early days of Bill Clinton’s administration, Hillary played several roles. She vetted potential nominees for Attorney General, including Zoe Baird, Kimba Wood, and Janet Reno (you may not recall Baird and Wood, their names were withdrawn by Bill after each was revealed to have violated US labor laws by hiring illegal aliens). Clinton, at Bill’s request, also led the hunt for a new head for the US Commission on Civil Rights, producing a nominee, Lani Guanier, whose so-radical views resulted in Bill withdrawing her name from consideration.

But then came Hillary’s moment. A White House confab on health care reform directed and moderated by the First Lady would begin the process of moving America toward socialist medical reforms. Remember, this took place while Bill held the White House, and while Democrats controlled BOTH the House and the Senate. But Hillary’s abrasive character, the refusal to consider an approach that targeted specific “defects” of the laws at the time (laws that resulted in lack of portability of coverage, that denied coverage for exclusionary periods after acquiring coverage, and that limited coverage for certain categories of the chronically ill), and the risk then, as in 2009, that what was sought was control over a substantial segment of the domestic economy all combined to result in the collapse of Clinton’s efforts, all in one year’s time, and all while the Democrats controlled both of the political branches.

So let’s lose the worn out trope that her reforms failed due to Republican obstruction. Yes, of course Republicans obstructed her bad ideas. Just as a “Bridge Out” sign obstructs the bad idea of continuing to drive at great speed toward a no longer standing bridge obstructs that effort.

Did Clinton’s efforts lay the groundwork for the socialist take over of health care insurance fifteen years later?

Of course that is a possibility.

But others, including Newt Gingrich, had advocated the major and broadly accepted aspects of health insurance reform, including portability, exclusionary periods, and lifetime limits. To credit Hillary with the ideas of others who advocated reforms in these areas is an unjustified feathering of her dismal cap.

Then, the paean extends its unsound praises to its assertion that Hillary is committed to carrying Obamacare forward.

Well enough. Seven million Americans who have gained insurance because, with State expansions of Medicaid, they have now become eligible for MEDICAID coverage, is the essential gain of Obamacare.

But at what cost? Millions have been pushed into part time work status as companies that provided health insurance coverage faced the prospect of having to upgrade coverage to government-dictated levels and reaches of coverage. Cheaper to move individuals to part-time status and thus, beyond the employer mandates for coverage, Walgreen's, Home Depot, Walmart, and many other major American employers did exactly as economic self-interests dictated. My son, a long-time employee at a popular, niche, grocery store, saw this exact reaction from his employer, and though he was able to rise above that development by moving upward into a management mode, many others simply found themselves without insurance.

So you go ahead and describe Clinton’s failure, at the hands of a Democratic Party controlled Congress, to accomplish meaningful and viable health insurance reform as an accomplishment. I will continue to categorize that accomplishment with similar ones, such as the Titanic making a voyage halfway across the Atlantic Ocean.
She played a leading role in the development of State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides the much-needed state support for children whose parents cannot afford nor provide them with adequate healthcare coverage.

Along the way in this evaluation, some general comments cannot be avoided.

If you are a purist, you may never have owned a CD player. You may have tenderly and carefully shepherded a flock of Album music on vinyl. You, if that is you, will smirk when you see how the untrained ear misses the missing fullness of your favorite artists and their music when reproduced digitally. I am not that person. I enjoy music, but my hearing is not so refined, and, frankly, I have never invested in the kinds of stereo equipment that reward such purism.

Now we can argue all day: digital vs. vinyl. At the end of the day, I can keep all my music on a hard drive the size of a hard bound summer novel. You can keep all your music in a room the size of my breakfast nook. Is one of us right, one of us wrong?

Actually, yes. You are right that the audio quality will always be better on vinyl with the correct equipment.

In the same way, I am right when I assert that that taxation is just theft, group organized and approved, but nothing more. The CHIP program was derived from the decision to impose an additional tax on tobacco products and to segregate those funds generated by the tax for use in funding health insurance for children in a peculiar margin. CHIP provides health insurance coverage to children whose parents earn TOO much money to be eligible for Medicaid insurance, but not enough money to afford private coverages.

You celebrate the decision to tax tobacco. You do that because you consider tobacco an intrinsically evil product, its manufacturers to be intrinsically evil people, and because you think that with sufficiently burdensome taxation, smokers with a marginal commitment to their habit will eventually give up the habit. You also celebrate the decision to tax tobacco for this particular purpose because you think there is a moral good in taking the earnings of one person and using them for the benefit of another, and in doing so without their consent.

I disagree with you.

Taxation is theft. Nothing else. Just theft. If I am robbed at gunpoint tomorrow, and the thief takes my money and buys canned goods for the poor, am I less robbed? Less injured? Less stripped of my economic liberty? No.

Now, as to the attribution to Hillary of the CHIP program as a success, I think you must see that this assertion is a gross overstep.

CHIP became law under a Republican Congress, not a Democratic one, like the one that rejected Hillary’s earlier plan. More to the point, CHIP was, by all available information, a nationwide roll out of a previous Massachusetts program like it. (Just as Obamacare essentially consisted of a nationwide roll out of Romneycare.) The link provided with the Hillary paean fails to acknowledge that role of the Republican Congress. Yet, if you search the legislative history, you find that Ted Kennedy, who sponsored the bill, sought and got the valuable (as he described it) co-sponsorship of the legislation by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch. True, Kennedy shared the credit with Bill and Hillary Clinton. But if one praises Hillary for fostering CHIP into existence, then one must praise Hatch for doing so, and the Republican Congress for doing so.

She was also instrumental in the creation of the Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Foster Care Independence Act.

These are interesting claims.

Suppose I told you that, while serving as the anchor of the NBC evening news, I was flying in a helicopter in a war zone and that our helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing after taking incoming enemy fire. You might wonder when I became Brian Williams. Then you might wonder why I exaggerated the danger that I experienced as Brian Williams, when just being on press duty in a war zone speaks sufficiently about a reporter’s intrepid pursuit of news.

Why bring up Brian Williams in the face of this congratulatory salute entry?

Frankly, because, having reviewed the links associated with these two claims, I see that Clinton is credited with the adoption of two pieces of legislation passed by a Republican House and Senate. In fact, Clinton is being credited in this claim for the enactment by a Republican House and Senate of legislation sponsored by Republicans in Congress. That hardly seems the basis for engraving Hillary’s name on the walls at Boys Town USA.

In fact, in reviewing how the media describes the circumstances, I found this interesting explanation of Hillary’s role: “Mrs. Clinton has said she was a driving engine for measures like increased funding for youth leaving foster care and health care coverage for uninsured children[.]” OHHHHHH, Hillary said she was the driving engine for these measures. Well, then, it certainly must be so. Just as dodging bullets with Chelsea in war torn southern European countries must be true ... even when they are not.

Perhaps Hillary played an important lobbying role. But again, if you find the legislation praise-worthy, how does this praiseworthy package not accrue to the benefit of the party that passed it?
Successfully fought to increase research funding for prostate cancer and asthma at the National Institute of Health (NIH).

I guess you have us men by the short hairs there. We have to love Hillary because she fought for increased funding for prostate cancer. You’ve got others by the weak lungs so I guess they’ll have to love Hillary for fighting for asthma research funding increases.

Yet, when I examine the link “supporting” this claim, I find that it is to Hillary’s “resume” on the web page, with no further supporting documents. A further bit of digging, however, reveals that the “war on cancer,” declared by Democratic President Richard Nixon (oh wait, he was a Republican) had been funded for nearly twenty years at aggressive levels before Bill Clinton was elected. In fact, Hamilton Jordan (Jimmy Carter’s Chief of Staff) warned the Clinton administration that the facts would make it difficult to portray Republicans as seeking to cut cancer research funding. Finally, as with other legislative initiatives for which the paean wants to shower Hillary with praise, the increase of funding to which the paean points, and over which Hillary’s resume, rooster-like, crows happened during a Republican Congress.

Again, praise Hillary, if you must,  for reasons not justified in the “supporting” links. But when you do, why doesn’t elemental fairness require you to remember that Republican Congressmen and Senators approved the funding increases to which you point, and thus, require you to sing their praises as well?
She spearheaded investigations into mental illness plaguing veterans of the Gulf War; we now have a term for it – Gulf War Syndrome.
The tedium of this exercise is taxing.

To support the assertion that Clinton “spearheaded investigations” into the mysterious “Gulf War Syndrome,” for which, presumably, somehow thanks to Hillary, we now have a name, a medical taxonomic designation, the paean points to a New York Times article reporting on a meeting of the President’s Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses. The news report stated, “Mrs. Clinton has taken an interest in the issue since she received complaints from veterans during her work on health care last year, and the commission invited her to speak.”


“Has taken an interest in . . . .”

“Spearheaded investigations . . . .”

Again, while the assertion that she “spearheaded investigations” might be true, this article does not support the assertion. Rather, the article points to the preexisting concerns, expressed by the Institute of Medicine, as the responsible engine for pushing forward the relevant research:
[T]he Institute of Medicine, a not-for-profit research group affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences, issued a report saying the Defense Department had not adequately explained its conclusion that the illnesses did not constitute a definable syndrome unique to Persian Gulf veterans.

The Institute of Medicine report said the Pentagon had "made conscientious efforts" to evaluate the health of 10,020 American veterans of the gulf who complained of unusual illnesses. But the report went on to say that the Pentagon had failed to support its preliminary conclusion that there was no single syndrome but rather a variety of illnesses.

Moreover, the report said, it appears likely that some patients "have developed illnesses that are directly related to their Persian Gulf service," including psychological stress and infectious diseases that are rare outside the Middle East.

The Institute of Medicine report said the Pentagon's study did not adequately discuss such possible links between the veterans' health problems and their service in the gulf.

This particular point does have that odd phrasing, “We now have a term for it–Gulf War Syndrome.” The juxtaposition of that observation with the unsupported praise to Hillary leaves one with the impression, almost, that perhaps in her ineffable wisdom, Hillary coined the name of the disorder. Perhaps she even wrote the diagnostic differentials for the disorder? This claim is worse than just fluff, because, at least, with fluff you get, well, fluff. But this claim brings NOTHING of substance with it.
At the Department of Justice, she helped create the office on Violence Against Women.

Well, perhaps.

Or, at least as far as the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women is concerned, perhaps not. This description appears on the Office on Violence Against Women's homepage on the web:
In 1994 Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in recognition of the severity of crimes associated with domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. This Act emerged from the efforts of a broad, grassroots coalition of advocates and survivors who informed the work of Congress. In the two decades prior to VAWA, a movement had grown within the United States to respond appropriately to violent crimes against women.  Rape crisis centers and women’s shelters were established in localities, and state and local laws had changed.  However, the progress had been uneven around the country.  VAWA was borne out of the need for a national solution. This Act enhances the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women.

Nary a mention of Hillary’s work “help[ing] create the office on Violence Against Women.” Now, of course, it might be that she actually did help to do so. But, if there is evidence supporting that claim, why not link that, rather than a page that credits “a broad, grassroots coalition of advocates and survivors”?
She was instrumental in securing over $21 billion in funding for the World Trade Center redeveloment.

Once again, whatever share of responsibility for securing redevelopment funds Hillary Clinton wants to claim, one supposes that she would document that responsibility. The paean, however, simply links that claim to a 2002 speech given by the Comptroller of the City of New York. That speech appropriately acknowledges the post-attack contributions and services of, literally, thousands of individuals, represented by the corporations that employed them, dozens of such companies, including financial institutions and others. At the end of that exhaustive appreciation, the Comptroller stated:
And I would be remiss if I did not thank the New York State Congressional delegation, led by Congressman Charles Rangel and the two United States Senators, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Hillary Clinton. They have done wonderful work in helping to move New York City, advocate for New York City and get money into the city.

Notice, in that appreciation, Clinton is, of course, mentioned. After all, she was New York's recently elected junior Senator, who, along with the senior Senator, Charles Schumer, and the sizable delegation of House members, worked to secure recovery and redevelopment funding. So, no, I’m not saying that Clinton gets no acknowledgment, just as every American soldier that served in WWII gets and deserves appreciation for their service. Still, the hubris is to suggest particular responsibility for the funds lies in the hands of a grievously attacked State’s junior Senator.

If there is grounds for suggesting that she had a more particular and praiseworthy role in the funding of New York’s redevelopment, the AddictingInfo authors simply failed to provide support that view.

Took a leading role in the investigation of health consequences of first responders and drafted the first bill to compensate and offer the health services our first responders deserve (Clinton’s successor in the Senate, Kirsten Gillibrand, passed the bill).

Again, the factual support offered for the claim is thin, and one wonders why what is offered counts for research. The paean points to a news article reporting that, at the front end of Clinton’s 2006 re-election bid, she received key endorsements from two firefighters unions in New York that had supported her 2000 Republican opponent. In that article, one of the union officials is described as crediting Clinton as mentioned above:

Standing with a group of union leaders in front of a firehouse in Brooklyn, she listened intently as two union presidents praised her success in obtaining federal funds for firefighters, for the city's security operations and for health research related to the Sept. 11 attacks, which killed 343 firefighters, drove others into retirement and left many complaining of debilitating long-term illnesses.
So, in the view of an endorsing union official, Clinton is described as “obtaining federal funds for firefighters, for the city’s security operations and for health research related to the Sept. 11 attacks.” Nothing in the article makes out Clinton as having taken a leading role in doing so. Federal funds are appropriated by the Congress, not by a single Senator or Representative. That a particular project or need receives federal funding can usually be credited to a State’s delegation in Congress, and sometimes will be described as a Congressman’s “pet project.” But this union officials remarks only evidence a role not the role as part of the delegation that secured these funds.

Reference was also made, then, to Senator Gillibrand’s having “passed” Clinton’s bill after she succeeded Clinton in office. Oddly, that article leaves one with the impression that Gillibrand did not merely tidy up a nearly done project worked on by Hillary. Rather, the author of the referenced piece leaves readers with the distinct impression that Gillibrand accomplished what Clinton, due to her abrasive relationships in Congress, had been unable to do:

She followed a similar playbook in pressing the 9/11 health care legislation, for which Mrs. Clinton had long struggled to attract Republican support.

In summer 2009, Ms. Gillibrand introduced the bill in the Senate. She helped lobby House members — at one point prompting Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, who briefly considered a challenge to Ms. Gillibrand, to lash out at her for being late to the issue. She persuaded Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa and chairman of the health committee, to call the only Senate hearing on the bill.

And she buttonholed fellow senators, especially Republicans. “On the 9/11 bill, one of my colleagues said to me, ‘Can you please talk to your friend from New York, Kirsten, and tell her to stop asking me?’ ” Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, said.
So, in some of these attributions of credit, Hillary is in the right place at the right time and the authors indiscriminately credit her for a success. Here, Senator Gillibrand succeeds where Senator Clinton could not succeed and the authors credit Clinton for the success while consigning Gillibrand to an afterthought role. Shame alone ought to compel Clinton to belittle her role and credit Gillibrand rather than to leave this impression standing.

Was instrumental in working out a bi-partisan compromise to address civil liberty abuses for the renewal of the U.S. Patriot Act.

The claim is unsupported by the cited reference. The cited reference is Senator Clinton’s objections to the conference report on the PATRIOT Act re-authorization. As happened in fact, the civil liberties concerned that Clinton may have shared with others were addressed in a separate bill, the USA PATRIOT Act Additional Reauthorizing Amendments Act of 2006 (S. 2271). Again, the paean to Clinton fails to mention this legislation by name. Perhaps that is understandable. While she may have “supported” the bill, she was not an original sponsor or co-sponsor of the bill. That Senate bill did have three Senate co-sponsors ... all Republicans.

Proposed a revival of the New Deal-era Home Owners’ Loan Corporation to help homeowners refinance their mortgages in the wake of the 2008 financial disaster.
Another way to phrase this “accomplishment” would be, “attempted a re-tread operation of a defunct, Great Depression era home loan rescue program but failed to garner sufficient support to actually put treads on that retread.”

This particular point of “accomplishment” bears a strong resemblance to Uncle Rico, in Napoleon Dynamite, thinking back on his high school glory days, although the director has Rico play the role in a way that leaves the definite impression that Rico’s memories are better than his play ever was. Even if Rico was a legendary high school star athlete, Clinton’s op-ed proposal – which went nowhere and became nothing – is that really an accomplishment?
Was a major proponent of sensible diplomacy which brought about a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, and brokered human rights with Burma.

As to the Hamas ceasefire brokered in November 2012, to which the paean refers, well, okay. Neville Chamberlain returned from meeting Adolph Hitler and proclaimed, “Peace in our times.” Thereafter, Hitler invaded Poland and France. This paean points to a ceasefire that Israel would have welcomed, but which was followed by an onslaught of missile attacks that continued through 2013, and through most of 2014, was briefly stopped again, and which continues today. For the 12 hours of respite, of course, please, give Hillary credit. But not for anything more than that, and not for find a permanent or workable solution to Hamas terrorism. Of course, one can hardly blame her failures there. Hamas is the puppet of the Iranian regime and the Obama administration has been chasing an accord with that State of Terror like a dog chases a car.

Regarding Burma, the paean cites an article as supporting its assertion that Clinton “brokered human rights with Burma.” The article only states, however, that Clinton sought to broker human rights agreements with Burma.

Human Rights Watch, moreover, has this to say about the current status of human rights in Myanmar:

Four years after the military installed a new government, the reform process has stalled. The number of political prisoners is on the rise with arrests of students, farmers, and community activists for peaceful protests. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for late 2015, but there are serious concerns about the fairness of the process. Approximately one million people have already been disenfranchised. Among those are stateless Rohingya Muslims, many of whom remain in squalid camps with limited government and international humanitarian support after being subjected to a government-assisted campaign of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in 2012. Long-running armed conflict between the government and ethnic minority groups has displaced over 150,000, amid army abuses including sexual violence, forced labor, and use of child soldiers.

Do not mistake my meaning. I am certain that Hillary Clinton wants Myanmar’s military regime to respect human rights. Moreover, I am sure she tried to effect that end. Wishes, however, are not fishes. And Hillary’s net is, frankly, an empty one.

Oversaw free trade agreements with our allies such as Panama, Colombia, and South Korea.

This particular claim is one that takes a curious mind right into the center of American politics. The Panama Free Trade Agreement, the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, and the Korean Free Trade Agreement were all negotiated and signed before Obama became President. These agreements were reached by the Bush administration with these three countries.

The same election, however, that swept Obama into the White House, swept Democrats into control of the Congress – both the House and Senate – until the November 2010 election cycle gave us a Republican-controlled House and the 2014 election cycle added a Republican Senate. Notice, if you look at the “support” for this particular claim, that Secretary of State Clinton’s statement is dated 2011.

Until Republicans gained control of the House, the President and his Secretary of State undertook no significant effort to obtain congressional approval of these agreements – to have done so would have been a bold and distinctive move precisely because union bosses dislike free trade agreements and Democrats controlling the House and Senate were beholden to those union bosses.

Still, even the “oversaw free trade agreements” language grates, because, based on facts, until the very end of her tenure at State, the more accurate description would be “overlooked free trade agreements.”

Was the most traveled Secretary of State to date.

Maintaining the appearance of being busy should never be confused with working toward, or obtaining, meaningful accomplishments. Yet touting that Clinton was the Nation’s most traveled Secretary of State suggests that merely having Clinton on the go constitutes a creditable accomplishment. Flail much?

The Clinton Foundation, founded by her and her husband, has improved the living conditions for nearly 400 million people in over 180 countries through its Initiative program.

With news reports showing that decisions at the State Department favored donors to the Clinton Global Initiative and the Clinton Foundation, I will say nothing more about this bizarre attempt to claim responsibility for the works of literally dozens of organizations and nations. Let’s allow the rest of the “deleted and wiped” emails of the Clinton server to come out, allow the balance of the ugly facts about influence peddling be resolved, and then let’s look at the question of whether proponents of ongoing programs around the world deservedly share responsibility for their work with CGI, which conducts annual conferences at which these advocates gather, rub elbows and obtain new network contacts.
These are not all of her accomplishments. Her activism on behalf of women a children across the world is renowned. Her activism for raising the minimum wage and combating climate change is stellar. You do not have to support what she does or stands for. But do not say she doesn’t have any accomplishments. The conservatives who say this are the ones who are pushing for Ted Cruz – who brought on a $24 billion shut down. That, to them, is an accomplishment?


Activism for women? Except those unborn. And those injured by abortion. And the several known victims of her husband’s sexual predation.

Activism for raising the minimum wage? Again, this takes us to fundamental philosophies. Government coercion of higher rates for wages does not create wealth. It transfers it from consumers to those who work at minimum wage, except to the extent that consumer avoid such transfers by surrendering habits of purchase involving minimum wage employment, such as amusement parks and fast food establishments.

I guess, on climate change, given the absence of an actual consensus on the involved science, and given the latest modeling, that shows that the climb in the average annual temperature of the Earth has been in a 20 year pause, there just is no good reason to credit Hillary. More importantly, Clinton, unless she repudiates the costly approaches loved by Obama and his EPA Administrator is just another threat to American prosperity, and to the already marginalized poor and working poor, on whom the burdensome costs of “green” energy fall most harshly.

So, there you have it.

Hillary Clinton is praised by AddictingInfo and ascribed with a plethora of accomplishments. There are even links in the paean that, one assumes (but does so only carelessly), support these assertions. As this blog shows, however, the citations seldom provide support for the overblown claims, and many of the claims are based solely on the coincidence of presence, not on Clinton’s distinctive or sole, creditable efforts.

Go ahead, praise her if you must, but just skip the lies and the obfuscations.