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Wednesday, 23 January 2008 21:35

How Hillary Clinton Betrayed the Children's Defense Fund for Political Gain

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Mark Karlin, Editor and Publisher, BuzzFlash.com

January 24, 2008

Hillary Clinton has clearly, succinctly, and repeatedly challenged Barack Obama and John Edwards to let voters judge them or her by their records. Hillary Clinton has included her 8 years as First Lady in her 35 years of political experience, so it is appropriate to take her up on her challenge.

In this post, we will just examine one of the claims Clinton has made about her record, per her request to look closely at not just words, but her actions.

In the hot and testy debate in South Carolina, Clinton countered Obama's correct assertion that she served on the board of directors of Wal-Mart (followed by years as a corporate attorney for the Rose Law Firm) by saying, in essence, that when Obama was wet behind his ears, she was working and being inspired by the legendary Marian Wright Edelman at the Children's Defense Fund. That is true until you get to the issue of results in public office.

As we have noted in a previous editor's blog (along with the page numbers), Hillary brags in her memoirs that she was the one who lured the infamous Dick Morris back as an adviser to Bill (and Hillary) during the White House years in the mid-90s, as Bill Clinton was trying to find a way to counter the Newt Gingrich assault and the never-ending Republican attempts to investigate and impeach him.

As a result of Morris's "triangulating" advice, the Clintons embraced some cold-hearted measures, including what became called euphemistically "welfare reform." In fact, the progressive and children's advocate community considered it a Draconian measure that would punish poor children if their moms didn't find work. The Clintons, both of them, supported it, and Bill Clinton signed it into law.

Among those who ardently and eloquently opposed the Clinton "welfare reform" bill was Marian Wright Edelman. Her husband, Peter Edelman, quit his high-level job at the Department of Health and Human Services in protest when Bill Clinton signed the bill. He was deeply upset about what the legislation would do to helpless children.

In a July 2007 interview with Amy Goodman, Marian Wright Edelman had this to say about the "welfare reform bill" and Hillary Clinton:

AMY GOODMAN: Marian Wright Edelman, we just heard Hillary Rodham Clinton. She used to be the head of the board of the Children’s Defense Fund, of the organization that you founded. But you were extremely critical of the Clintons. I mean, when President Clinton signed off on the, well, so-called welfare reform bill, you said, “His signature on this pernicious bill makes a mockery of his pledge not to hurt children.” So what are your hopes right now for these Democrats? And what are your thoughts about Hillary Rodham Clinton?

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Well, you know, Hillary Clinton is an old friend, but they are not friends in politics. We have to build a constituency, and you don’t—and we profoundly disagreed with the forms of the welfare reform bill, and we said so. We were for welfare reform, I am for welfare reform, but we need good jobs, we need adequate work incentives, we need minimum wage to be decent wage and livable wage, we need health care, we need transportation, we need to invest preventively in all of our children to prevent them ever having to be on welfare.

And yet, you know, many years after that, when many people are pronouncing welfare reform a great success, you know, we’ve got growing child poverty, we have more children in poverty and in extreme poverty over the last six years than we had earlier in the year. When an economy is down, and the real test of welfare reform is what happens to the poor when the economy is not booming. Well, the poor are suffering, the gap between rich and poor widening. We have what I consider one of—a growing national catastrophe of what we call the cradle-to-prison pipeline. A black boy today has a one-in-three chance of going to prison in his lifetime, a black girl a one-in-seventeen chance. A Latino boy who’s born in 2001 has a one-in-six chance of going to prison. We are seeing more and more children go into our child welfare systems, go dropping out of school, going into juvenile justice detention facilities. Many children are sitting up—15,000, according to a recent congressional GAO study—are sitting up in juvenile institutions solely because their parents could not get mental health and health care in their community. This is an abomination.

That is a staggering indictment, from the woman Hillary Clinton regularly mentions as her mentor, of a gap between Hillary Clinton's words and her record. It reflects upon a political decision that she and Bill made to leave many children behind in order to ensure a second term. (The "Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act," as it was cynically called, was signed in August of 1996, just about three months before the '96 presidential election.)

I can personally understand the symbolic importance and progressive act it would be to elect our first woman president. That would be joyful indeed. But not if our first woman president is not progressive.

BuzzFlash has received and posted many angry e-mails from women readers who consider any critical look at Hillary Clinton's record as an "attack" on her. Given that Clinton has invited the entire nation to investigate her record to see if she delivers on her promises, it betrays Clinton's own request not to proceed with such a task.

Does one's gender make one immune from betraying helpless children and the poor?

Just ask Marian Wright Edelman and Peter Edelman. If you think Edelman's quotation was taken out of context, read the full interview here.

And to those who might think that BuzzFlash is being fed information by the Obama or Edwards camp, you are dreaming. We are disillusioned, to say the least, that the Obama camp appears so deficient in being able to bring Hillary's checkered record on progressive issues out as a campaign issue. We don't know who they have working in their opposition research department, but you can find this stuff on Google, for Christ's sake. The Clinton campaign can run circles around the Obama and Edwards campaigns when it comes to opposition research.

Throughout the primaries, BuzzFlash has been roundly ignored by the Democratic presidential campaigns. In fact, we have only received one non-robotic e-mail (and no phone calls, faxes, or snail mail) from any of the campaigns -- and that was one about the Nevada results that we shared with our readers. (It was from one high-level Clinton adviser whom we know, but who otherwise hasn't been communicating with us since joining the Clinton campaign.)

We are actually glad we aren't hounded with spin by the campaigns. It leaves us with a clear head.

The Hillary and Bill Clinton betrayal of poor women and children in 1996 (and as Edelman notes in her interview, now having a devastating long-term impact) came to mind by chance. In the early '90s, I was an attendee at a meeting with Peter Edelman on an unrelated topic, and I was impressed by what an earnest, sincere person he appeared to be. When he resigned in 1996, I was a bit shocked. I hadn't followed the welfare debate at the time, but if he left his powerful position because of the Clintons embracing the "Welfare Reform" bill, I decided to look into it. Resignations over principle are rare at high levels of government, and it causes one to take notice.

When I heard Hillary Clinton bring up her Children's Defense Fund experience as a rebuke to Barack Obama, I recalled the '96 "abomination" as Marian Wright Edelman calls it, and just started Googling.

Amazing what Google can do to help one fulfill Hillary Clinton's request of us that we examine her 35 years of experience and see the results of her record.

And you know what, the Clinton campaign won't even be upset with this column.


For the same reason that the Clintons supported the odious "welfare reform" bill in the first place.

Because criticism from the likes of BuzzFlash will make Hillary look more "centrist" in the general election.

But meanwhile the moms and children have indeed been left behind, very far behind.