Clinton As Serial â€œMisspeakerâ€?
Just this week, former Democratic Congressman William Lacy Clay, one of the original sponsors of the Family Leave Act, challenged her claim that she played a major role in passing the landmark bill.
[Elections 2008: Comment]
Hillary Clinton’s made-from-whole-cloth fantasy about the perils of her trip to Bosnia was no unique foray into a world of make-believe accomplishments.
She’s been doing that for a long time.
Here’s another telling example: At a 1997 race-relations forum for teenagers in Boston, Hillary recalled the “pain” of a “childhood encounter” that helped her to grasp the injury suffered by the victims of bigotry. Her comments came as her husband was launching his second term in office by calling for a national dialogue on race and reconciliation. In an effort to empathize with her audience and inject herself into the discussion, she made up yet another incident that never happened.
“During a junior high school soccer game” on a cold day, Hillary claimed “a goalee told her ‘I wish people like you would freeze.’” Stunned, the future first lady asked how she could feel that way when she did not even know her. “I don’t have to know you,” the goalee shot back, “to know I hate you.”
Nice story, but it never happened.
While today’s generation of young girls routinely play on multiple soccer teams in their schools and towns, Hillary’s generation had no such opportunity. Hillary may have attended lots of Chelsea Clinton’s soccer games, but, that seems to be the sum total of her soccer career. As a school sport, girls’ soccer teams didn’t exist when Hillary went to middle or high school. In 2004, the Athletic Director for South Main High School in Park Ridge — and a 34-year veteran of the school system — confirmed that there were no girls’ soccer teams of any kind in Hillary’s school district in the 1960s.
Hillary seems to have simply conjured up the tale, like the one about the Balkans and the one about Chelsea jogging around the Trade Center on 9/11 and the one about being named after Sir Edmund Hillary, to appear more relevant to her listeners and to establish a bond of empathy with them.
(Girls’ soccer was catalyzed by the passage of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act in 1972 which mandated that girls and boys sports be treated equally in public education. It was only well after that law went into effect that girls' soccer teams sprung up. Unfortunately, Hillary was 25 at the time and well past her intramural days).
These “embellishments” of Hillary’s biography are similar to those of Al Gore during his race in 2000. But her claims to foreign policy experience and domestic policy influence in the White House are far more important. Nobody ever questioned the experience of competence of the Vice President as he ran for the top job based on his decades of serving in federal office. But Hillary has had just seven rather uneventful years in the Senate (and she hasn’t shown up for the last year while she was campaigning for president.) We have to take Hillary’s word about what role she played in the Administration’s policy formulation. And her word has been increasingly disputed.
Just this week, former Democratic Congressman William Lacy Clay, one of the original sponsors of the Family Leave Act, challenged her claim that she played a major role in passing the landmark bill. Hillary Clinton “never had anything to do with it,” he said. Clay pointed out that the bill had been passed several times by the Democratic Congress before Bill and Hillary ever arrived in Washington, but was subsequently vetoed twice by former President Bush. It was a no-brainer that Clinton would sign the bill — as he did just 15 days after taking office. And, during that time, Hillary’s official schedules never mention the words “Family Leave Act.” Her tight calendar in those two weeks included lots of health care meetings, attending the funeral of Thurgood Marshall, joining the president at the National Prayer Breakfast (her schedules notes: no formal role for the First Lady), attending a week-end session at Camp David with her latest new age guru, and hosting a dinner dance for the National Governor’s Association. But nothing about the Family Leave Act that she worked so hard to pass.
As we learn more and more about her propensity to make up stories and read herself into history — a modern Forrest Gump — we can be forgiven if we take her claims to have been central to everything from the economic recovery to the Irish peace process with a large grain of salt.
Why does she feel the need to enhance her relevance or dramatize her story with fantasies? When it comes to personal whoppers, like the soccer one, it’s likely that it’s because she’s seen how effortlessly Bill relates to his audiences, conveying empathy by biting his lip or with a tear in his eye. Hillary knows that she can’t do that. So she invents circumstances that compensate and put her in the midst of the action, at the center of events. She tries to create empathy, become close to the audience, through contrivance since she can’t project it adequately without resorting to fiction. It’s crazy, but relatively harmless.
But the stories about her fake co-president experiences are another issue entirely. Her tales of stopping the recession or speaking up for Rwanda (when no one — even the president — knew about the genocide or had any meetings about the issue) or being "instrumental" in the Irish peace process are not reminisces of her days in the White House. They’re the calculated fantasies of a person who changes her stories when the truth is too prosaic or not sufficiently politically relevant.
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