Want to know why Washington Democrats have stopped focusing on and talking about the GOP's culture of corruption? Just read this story in today's New York Times about New York Sen. Hillary Clinton (D) and you won't be so shocked at the silence anymore.
The piece details how "Clinton is receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions" from the health care industry. "Nationwide, she is the No. 2 recipient of donations from the industry, trailing only Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a member of the Republican leadership," the Times notes. The piece goes on to detail how industry executives now publicly praise Clinton for her willingness to back off pushing for major health care reform as she did back in the early 1990s.
The health care industry, of course, has a lot of money to spread around to politicians who have their hand out. This is the industry that the Wall Street Journal this week reported "was the biggest spender [on lobbying] for the seventh year in a row, with more than $356 million in 2005." So the fact that health insurance and pharmaceutical executives are throwing cash at Clinton is no surprise.
But what is surprising is how out in the open the pay-to-play culture is, and the openness of that culture explains why Democrats have stopped talking about corruption - it's because many of their high-profile incumbents are increasingly complicit. To give you an idea of how out in the open this really is, check out this one nonchalant mention, buried in the story as if it's unimportant:
"Frederick H. Graefe, a health care lawyer and lobbyist in Washington for more than 20 years, said, 'People in many industries, including health care, are contributing to Senator Clinton today because they fully expect she will be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008.' 'If the usual rules apply,' Mr. Graefe said, early donors will 'get a seat at the table when health care and other issues are discussed.'" Of course, this money seems to already be buying something, even though the presidential contest hasn't started. As I note in my book Hostile Takeover, money in Washington doesn't just buy votes or policies, it buys language and the overall political debate. We can see that right in this article, as the Times notes Clinton recently gave a speech to a health industry group where she essentially apologized for pushing systemic health care reform. "We tried to do too much too fast 12 years ago," she said, bowing down to the industry that is funneling her so much cash.
What I find particulary incredible is Clinton's apparent tone deafness. Health care regularly ranks as a top concern in polls. Similarly, as my book details, polls show that a majority of Americans support a universal, government guaranteed, government sponsored health care system, even if that requires tax increases. In fact, as I pointed out in the Washington Post, a recent Pew poll showed that even half the hard-core Republican base supports such a position.
Thus, Hillary Clinton is in a terrific position to make the powerful point that she was right to have tried to seriously address the issue in the early 1990s, she makes no apologies for it, and she will redouble her efforts as a Senator and as president (if she runs).
Such a stand would transcend the health care issue and help her build up credibility on the intangible character issue. It would show that she has courage, because she would be making no apologies for an effort that she has been unfairly attacked for throughout the years.
Instead, she seems so caught up in Washington's pay-to-play culture and so unconcerned with the hostile takeover of our government by Big Money interests that she is actually going out and apologizing for her previous courage. Not only is that unfortunate policy-wise, but it is a huge political mistake, because all it does is reinforce the image of Democrats having their thumb in the wind, and their hand out for the next big campaign contribution.
UPDATE: In case any of you think I am just an obsessive Hillary basher, think again. I have repeatedly praised her when she has been true to the progressive movement (here and here are just two examples). The point is not to attack Sen. Clinton personally - it is to question her behavior as it relates to key public policies. If we as a progressive movement don't ask these questions of BOTH parties, then we will never get the kinds of policies we want when our politicians are in power.
Author I'm not sure, it was written in The Huffington Post. I don't know how to give links, only list saources.
My opinion? I assume they will buy off both sides. problem is this is an issue that will hurt Hillary more than Repubs. Repubs already staked out a position on this and it is known. Her waffling about this will be a new position, since she supported it in the past. Now her base will be pushing universal health care and she will be against it. Republicans base is at most slightly divided on the issue, so it won't hurt them.
You know this is what I enjoy most about politics. The only thing I really enjoy about it anymore is the chess match.
After researchnig her positions I just don't see how she can get the nomination. It's clear she is running for the general election already, her stance on Iraq, health care, proudly proclaiming the fact that she is a methodist, and gay marriage are all crafted to a southern strategy. But I don't see how she can get the nomination with those stances. Only way you can pull that off is if you have the "only candidate that can win" vote. I just don't see anyone pegging her as that candidate. To coin an old phrase "it's the personality stupid". She is just too polarizing.
In fact I will go so far as to say Hillary running will be the best thing that can happen to the repubs in '08. The only democrat I can see winning the general election would be Edwards. And he better macho up a little. I know Clinton's have buried him for years to clear the way for Hillary, but I think Hillary is headed for a train wreck.
Well I see it this way, As long as the war is out there there will always be a small amount of dems who support it. Thus keeping the party divided. Same as the gay marriage issue. Can't win with that issue in the south and dems need the south to win. I still think a stem cell bill is going to be signed into law, taking that issue off the table for the dems, removing a big anchor from the republicans, and because Bush vetoed the first bill, shoring up conservative support. Even if no bill passes that is a nitch issue, not an election breaker.
Immigration ? Possible but you need a democrat who will come out and say we are going to get tough on immigration. That will be the only winning stance in the South. Nobody can do that and keep the liberal base.
Climate of corruption? get real, everybody knows both sides swim in the same water. A candidate campaining on that is setting himself up for a serious hypocracy charge.
The only issue I can see getting traction is universal health care. And Hillary has already set herself up to flip flop on that.
I don't see how they can win without Edwards. it's the only way. Gore is too policy wonky, Kerry is to NE elite, Lieberman would never get the nomination.
I'm betting on Edwards for now. But you sure dont hear alot about him. That may be a good thing for him for now.