Recently on Facebook I questioned exactly what the accomplishments were on which Hillary Clinton is basing her claim, a linchpin of her appeal for support, that she is "a progressive that likes to get things done." A friend (who I certainly hope will continue to be one when this contentious primary season is past) offered a link to this page on Addicting Info: Here’s A List Of Hillary Clinton’s Accomplishments, So Quit Saying She Doesn’t Have Any. The list of accomplishments there is certainly impressive. However, when I began to look at that list more carefully, I began to see that things in it were not quite what they first seemed. Since my reply was beginning to be longer than one usually puts on Facebook, I decided to put it here instead. Let me take a look at each of this article's claims.
First it has a paragraph indented and in blue that lists some of the high points:
“First ever student commencement speaker at Wellesley College. Distinguished graduate of Yale Law School. Former Director of the Arkansas Legal Aid Clinic. Former civil litigation attorney. Former Law Professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law. Former First Lady of Arkansas. Former First Lady of the United States, and the first FLOTUS in US History to hold a postgraduate degree. First ex-FLOTUS in US History to be elected to the United States Senate. Elected by the… State of New York to serve two terms in the United States Senate. Former US Secretary of State. GRAMMY Award Winner. Author. Self proclaimed Pantsuit Aficionado. Married to a man named Bill, who plays the saxophone.”
Of course some of those are incontestably impressive.Her education is top rate, although Ted Cruz could make the same claim. Professor, senator, secretary of State: all certainly true. Some of the items in that paragraph, though, are reflections of Bill's accomplishments, not actually hers. While she might have an implicit promise that with her we'll get two for the price of one, she really should be running on her own and I don't think she would want to claim otherwise, at least not explicitly. Christopher Cross has five Grammys and an Oscar too, but he's not claiming that qualifies him to be president. (OK, that's sort of low hanging fruit, but I couldn't resist.)
The unnamed Addicting Info author then has a list of more specific accomplishments. Let's look at them more closely. My comments are in italics.
- 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. One can deny that, and simply saying one can't doesn't make it so. It could even be argued that the Clintons' abortive attempt delayed reform, rather than laying the ground for it. The Huffington Post article that link leads to is about Bill stumping for Obamacare and doesn't mention Hillary at all.
- 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. The CBS News article that link leads to is not primarily about the development of the CHIP program. It is about the 2015 reauthorization of CHIP funding. That was a good thing, but not a big accomplishment because it was not very controversial: it passed the senate by a 92-8 vote, including the support of most senate Republicans. (It is interesting that two of the eight who voted against it were Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.) The reauthorization bill was first introduced in the House by Texas Republican Michael Burgess. The CBS News article does have a couple of brief paragraphs at the end about Hillary's role in 1997 in"pushing [the original CHIP] bill over the finish line." It says, "'She was a one-woman army inside the White House to get this done,' an aide to then-Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, who co-sponsored the bill, told the New York Times several years after its passage." However, on reading that Times article it seems her only role was to talk to Bill and get his support for the bill.
- She was also instrumental in the creation of the Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Foster Care Independence Act. The October 29, 2000 New York Times article linked to here is mainly about the renewal of funding for TANF, Temporary Aid to Needy Families. In that context, about all it can say about Hillary as she was running for her first Senate term was, "Hillary Rodham Clinton has said little beyond praising her husband's success in 'ending welfare as we know it...' Deepak Bhargava, director of public policy at the Center for Community Change, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group based in Washington, [said of Hillary and her 2000 opponent for the Senate, Rick Lazio], 'Neither of them can be called a staunch defender of antipoverty programs.'" Page 2 of the article gives Clinton partial credit for helping to pass the Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Foster Care Independence Act.
- Successfully fought to increase research funding for prostate cancer and asthma at the National Institute of Health (NIH). This link bizarrely takes one to a broad and complimentary biography of Clinton on the Web site of the National First Ladies' Library in Canton, Ohio. Clinton played a significant role in forming the library. The biography says, "She also successfully sought to increase the research funding for illnesses such as prostate cancer and childhood asthma at the National Institute of Health," but it provides no documentation of that or any other claim it makes.
- She spearheaded investigations into mental illness plaguing veterans of the Gulf War; we now have a term for it – Gulf War Syndrome. "Spearheaded" is probably overstating it, but it does appear that, as this NY Times article says, "Mrs. Clinton has taken an interest in the issue."
- At the Department of Justice, she helped create the office on Violence Against Women. Here is another strange choice of links. This one takes one to the Web site of the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), but there is no mention of Hillary Clinton there at all.
- She was instrumental in securing over $21 billion in funding for the World Trade Center redevelopment. "Instrumental" is kind of a weak word, and that makes it fitting here. This link is to a speech given by a New York City politician, Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., on September 4, 2002, as part of the activities surrounding the one-year anniversary of September 11th. He did say, "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." I have heard lots of ceremonial speeches like this by politicians, though, and they generally are not big on cautious and critical assessment. They are more about spreading praise of the powerful around like manure, in the hope that it will make something grow.
- 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). It is difficult to evaluate this link because it points to a page that no longer exists. Here is another, later article in the Times about the same topic: Senator Clinton Calls for Federal Help for Sick 9/11 Workers. (The dead url says it was to a 04/20/2006 story; this one is from 01/22/2007.) It does seem to demonstrate her concern for 9/11 workers, but then, who wouldn't be concerned? It does not establish "leadership." The link about Kirsten Gillibrand's success in finally getting the bill passed in 2010 seems to make this more her accomplishment. Of course Clinton can't be blamed for Republicans' intransigence, but this was not her accomplishment. Maybe Gillibrand should run for President instead!
- Was instrumental in working out a bi-partisan compromise to address civil liberty abuses for the renewal of the U.S. Patriot Act. Here is that weasel word "instrumental" again,in its third use in this list. The link is to an archived page on Hillary's Web site, hardly a source of objective corroboration. In it, the candidate who now says she is a progressive boasts about having helped to pass the Patriot Act. She does have concerns with it here, but her concerns over civil liberties seem to be overshadowed by her concerns over misallocation of funds. Probably, although this isn't explicit, she was pushing for an allocation formula that would funnel more money to her state under the theory (which is not unreasonable) that it was more at risk from terrorism than, say, Idaho or Kansas.
- 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. "Proposed" is right. Since this never came to pass--so far I haven't even been able to find evidence that a bill was ever drafted, much less introduced and passed-- this does not fall under the category of "getting things done," either.
- Was a major proponent of sensible diplomacy which brought about a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, and brokered human rights with Burma. Here is one item in this list I find no reason to dispute.
- Oversaw free trade agreements with our allies such as Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. This is a link to a brief statement, only three short paragraphs, by Clinton in 2011, while she was secretary of State. In it, she merely praises Obama for these trade agreements; shoe does not claims, as this list says, that she "oversaw" them. The head of the Office of the United States Trade Representative is a cabinet level post that reports directly to the President, not to the secretary of State. The three agreements in question are the U.S.- Panama Trade Promotion Agreement, the United States- Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, and the KORUS, or U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement. While I have not reviewed these in detail, the controversy, to say the least, around free trade agreements in general suggests at least some uncertainty as to whether they are agreements that progressives would applaud. That, along with the absence of actual oversight, probably does not make this a progressive accomplishment.
- Was the most traveled Secretary of State to date. I will agree that she has worked hard. That's not really an accomplishment, either.
- 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. The Clinton Foundation has done many good things. Sorting out what Hillary got done from what Bill got done would not be possible.
The Addicting Info article had a final paragraph with a few more links not in bullet points. Right now, I am unable to access any page on the site at all, so I am unable to look at those last links. I will try again tomorrow, In the meantime,though, I am going to go ahead and complete and publish this.
In summary, this list is not what it is cracked up to be. Does Hillary Clinton have impressive accomplishments? Of course she does, and some of them might qualify for the label "progressive." Do the things she has gotten done support her candidacy? That's open for discussion still. Does this list make a good case for those accomplishments? Not at all.