Hillary Watch: Week of October 3

No to Roberts! Hillary voted against the nomination of John Roberts to be chief justice of the United States last Thursday. She claimed Roberts had failed to present his views “with enough clarity and specificity” during his Senate confirmation hearings, and that he also failed to disavow the views he had expressed in his earlier legal writings as a government lawyer under Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Finally, she said that because of “uncertainty” over Roberts’s views on women’s rights, civil rights and privacy rights, “as a matter of conscience, I cannot vote to confirm.”

Politicizing Roberts? Of course, many pundits view her “no” vote as a way of appealing to the liberal base that will probably decide the 2008 Democratic primary. David Sirota, a Democratic political strategist, said the risk of voting for Roberts for any 2008 Democratic candidate is much greater than the risk of voting against him: “A candidate who votes for Roberts, opens themselves (sic) up to attack on the grounds that they are not a qualified standard-bearer for the party. If Roberts hands down some extreme rulings, a vote for Roberts becomes a symbol of the negative consequences of Democratic capitulation.”

For instance, even the usually moderate Sen. Evan Bayh (D.-Ind.) has joined the ranks of Senators Joe Biden (D.-Del.) and John Kerry (D.-Mass.) in opposing Roberts. All three are potential contenders for the ’08 nomination.

No to Memorial. Hillary recently announced her opposition to the International Freedom Center, the planned museum to memorialize September 11 at Ground Zero. “While I want to ensure that development and rebuilding in Lower Manhattan move forward expeditiously, I am troubled by the serious concerns that family members and first responders have expressed to me,” she told the New York Post. In voicing her objection, Hillary joined a growing list of critics who fear the International Freedom Center will distract from the solemnity of the area, even though Clinton has no official role in the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which is overseeing the plans for a 6.5-acre memorial quadrant at Ground Zero. Richard J. Tofel, the museum’s president and chief operating officer, said he and others were disappointed by Clinton’s comments, but said they remain committed to the project.

Win for Hill. Longtime Hillary nemesis, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Lester M. Crawford, recently announced his resignation, just two months after he was confirmed for the job. Reasons for his resignation remain to be seen. Hillary and her Democratic colleague Sen. Patty Murray (D.-Wash.) had been after Crawford for months, trying to get the FDA to make Plan B, or the “morning-after pill,” available without a prescription.

The two senators welcomed Crawford’s departure. Hillary said, “With the resignation of Dr. Crawford, the FDA has a real opportunity to restore its battered reputation and nominate a leader with vision and drive to ensure that the FDA upholds its gold standard of drug regulation.”

Sheehan is Believin’. After blasting Hillary in New York for her support of the Iraq War, Cindy Sheehan visited Washington, D.C., for an anti-war protest September 24-25 (see cartoon, Page 22). While there, she met with several elected officials, including Clinton. She asked Hillary, “What noble cause are our loved ones fighting and dying for?” and “Are you going to be willing to lead us out of Iraq? Because if you do, the rest of the nation will follow you.”

Even though Hillary didn’t say she would support the withdrawal of U.S. troops, Sheehan said she felt “fabulous coming out of the meeting.” She also insisted, “I know their offices are going to be working with us; all we have to do is keep up the pressure on them. Now it’s up to the people of New York to put pressure on Clinton.” For her part, Hillary noted, “It’s just a painful experience because of their loss. My bottom line is that I don’t want their sons to die in vain.”

Hillary also told reporters after her meeting with Sheehan: “I don’t believe it’s smart to set a date for withdrawal. I don’t think you should ever telegraph your intentions to the enemy so they can await you. I’ve been very critical of the President’s policies and also supportive of the Iraqis who are trying to move forward and form a new government.”