CAMPAIGN 08: Clinton’s “experience”

Assessing Clinton’s “experience”

In her race to win the democratic nomination against a first-term Senator from Illinois, Hillary Clinton has put the criterion of experience front and center. She often references what she says is 35 years of work that qualifies her to run the country. And the most important achievements Clinton cites are the ones she claims from her years as First Lady — a job that carries no portfolio but can wield enormous influence.

The nature of Hillary Clinton’s involvement was always a matter of great sensitivity in her husband’s White House. After her disastrous 1994 foray into health-care reform, Bill Clinton’s aides went out of their way to downplay her role in Administration decision making. She rarely appeared at meetings in which officials hashed out important policy trade-offs, but when the discussion centered on issues that were among her priorities, she sent her aides — much the way Vice President Al Gore did. “There were certain issues they kind of owned,” recalls Gene Sperling, who headed economic policy in the Clinton White House. The First Lady’s top concerns, he says, were children’s issues, health care, and foster-care and adoption policies.

Now the former First Lady claims at least a share of the credit for a wide range of the Clinton Administration’s signature accomplishments, both domestic and overseas. Does she deserve it? [complete article]

Clinton role in health program disputed

Hillary Clinton, who has frequently described herself on the campaign trail as playing a pivotal role in forging a children’s health insurance plan, had little to do with crafting the landmark legislation or ushering it through Congress, according to several lawmakers, staffers, and healthcare advocates involved in the issue.
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In campaign speeches, Clinton describes the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, as an initiative “I helped to start.” Addressing Iowa voters in November, Clinton said, “in 1997, I joined forces with members of Congress and we passed the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.” Clinton regularly cites the number of children in each state who are covered by the program, and mothers of sick children have appeared at Clinton campaign rallies to thank her.

But the Clinton White House, while supportive of the idea of expanding children’s health, fought the first SCHIP effort, spearheaded by Senators Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, because of fears that it would derail a bigger budget bill. And several current and former lawmakers and staff said Hillary Clinton had no role in helping to write the congressional legislation, which grew out of a similar program approved in Massachusetts in 1996. [complete article]

Clinton’s foreign experience is more limited than she says

Sen. Hillary Clinton claims that her experience in dealing with foreign affairs qualifies her to handle a crisis call at 3 a.m. and be commander in chief.

Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign accuses Clinton of exaggerating her foreign affairs experience. It says that nothing in her background shows that she’s more prepared to handle an international crisis than he is.

No question is more central just now to their rivalry for the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton has said that Obama hasn’t passed the “commander-in-chief test,” but that both she and presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain have. [complete article]

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