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My Conversation With Hillary Clinton's Mother

I just rode up the elevator at my hotel with Dorothy Rodham, Hillary Clinton's mother. I didn't recognize her. It was around 10:30 pm. I was waiting for the elevator to go up to my room with my laptop in one hand and a glass of brandy in the other. She walked up with a young woman holding her arm -- they were bundled up and had just come in from outside.

I wondered if she might be Helen Thomas, but aside from the age similarity, they looked nothing alike. Since I didn't recognize her, I stopped paying attention. Then she and her companion made a comment to each other about how cold it was outside. Being polite, I chimed in. Here's the conversation that followed:

Me: It is cold. A glass of brandy really helps (I lift my glass to them.)

Dorothy Rodham: (Laughs, then says): You look so familiar. Are you on MTV?

Me: (Very perplexed, partly because I wish I looked young enough to be on MTV but more because I can't imagine this elderly woman watches MTV): I'm Jeralyn Merritt. I'm a legal analyst but not on MTV.

Mrs. Rodham: That must be why I know you. You look so Irish.
Me: Oh...only I'm not Irish.
Mrs. Rodham: Well, those eyes, they're so green. You look so Irish.

The elevator arrives, we get in. [More...]

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Concord Monitor Endorses Hillary Clinton

New Hampshire's Concord Monitor has endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. After outlining what she will do in the beginning of her presidential term, it says:

Hillary Clinton's unique combination of smarts, experience and toughness makes her the best choice to win the November election and truly get things done. Before embarking on an agenda of her or his own, the next American president will be forced to undo the damage of the Bush years: ending the war in Iraq, restoring habeas corpus rights, ending the use of torture, healing New Orleans, restoring America's moral authority around the world..... The next president must also take the lead on a serious effort to slow global warming, a rational policy on illegal immigration and a plan to provide health care to all Americans.

Clinton knows what she wants to accomplish. She knows how Washington works. She has forged alliances with unlikely political partners, and she has waged partisan fights on matters of principle. Her years as first lady and as a U.S. senator have put her at the center of key policy and political battles for a decade and a half. She is prepared for the job.

The paper says Obama does inspire, but he's not the best choice. [More...]

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On Hillary's White House Experience

Update: The Quad City Times in Iowa endorses Hillary Clinton.

We tested her, too, in our editorial board interview, looking for evidence of the partisan rancor that is destroying our country. We found none. Instead, we found a proven, passionate, intelligent leader with a breadth of legislative and executive experience that is the best of a good bunch. For Iowa’s Democratic caucuses, we support Hillary Clinton.


Sally Bedell Smith, author of a book on Hillary Clinton, has an article in Newsweek today, Hillary's Hidden Hand. It examines her years in the White House in an effort to determine her experience and preparedness to take the reins as President.

Conclusion: She is experienced. First, on an advisory level:

Hillary Clinton was no spectator at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In campaign speeches, she often talks about what "we" thought and achieved—an acknowledgment that she and her husband have operated jointly for decades. And indeed she was uniquely immersed in the policies and politics of Bill Clinton's administration. Hillary was the first presidential spouse to have an office in the West Wing rather than the traditional First Lady's domain of the East Wing. She had no official position or specified duties, yet she was so involved in decision making that the president's staff called her "the Supreme Court" because they knew she was the last person he consulted before making up his mind.

Her advocacy for women appointees: [More...]

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Geraldine Ferraro's Campaign Chief Says Hillary Will Prevail

John Sasso has a pretty impressive resume -- he was John Kerry's general election manager at the Democratic National Committee in 2004, manager of Michael Dukakis's presidential campaign in 1988 and the manager of Geraldine Ferraro's campaign.

True, they all lost, but that doesn't make his thoughts irrelevant. Writing in the Boston Globe Saturday, he says Hillary Clinton will prevail and win not just the Democratic nomination, but the Presidency.

Sasso says she's already cleared the bar, particularly that of attacks by Republicans:

If Obama is the Democratic nominee, a man less intimately understood and less defined, Republicans will rush to manufacture their own brutal definition. Can Obama withstand that kind of barrage? Does he have the personal makeup to be as relentless as his opponents? Do past political positions leave him vulnerable? Because the risks are sky-high, these questions need to be reasonably raised and answered beforehand.

Clinton is well past negative redefinition. Unlike John Kerry's 2004 campaign in which veterans opposed to Kerry's candidacy challenged his war record, it will be difficult to ram a Swift Boat into her candidacy. If there is a convict in her political past, as with Willie Horton during the Dukakis 1988 campaign, he will already have been exhumed. Besides, the Clintons are veteran enough to mount a withering counterfire of their own.

Sasso calls her a "thoroughbred" of candidates and the most electable. [More...]

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Des Moines Register Endorses Hillary Clinton

Calling her the "most prepared to lead," the Des Moines Register tonight endorsed Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for President. A video from the Editorial board explaining their endorsement is here. "Every stage of her life has prepared her for the Presidency." The editors say while Obama inspired their imagination, Hillary inspired their confidence.

From working for children’s rights as a young lawyer, to meeting with leaders around the world as first lady, to emerging as an effective legislator in her service as a senator, every stage of her life has prepared her for the presidency.

That readiness to lead sets her apart from a constellation of possible stars in her party, particularly Barack Obama, who also demonstrates the potential to be a fine president.

....Determination to succeed and learning from her mistakes have been hallmarks of Clinton’s life....In the Senate, she has earned a reputation as a workhorse who does not seek the limelight.

Tested by rough politics and personal trials, she’s demonstrated strength, resolve and resilience.....Indeed, Obama, her chief rival, inspired our imaginations. But it was Clinton who inspired our confidence. Each time we met, she impressed us with her knowledge and her competence.

Congratulations, Hillary.

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Hillary 's Expectations In Iowa

Hillary Clinton, speaking in Iowa today, took a question for the first time from M.E. Sprengelmeyer, who for the past nine months has been covering the presidential race from Des Moines for the Rocky Mountain News.

His question:

We wanted Clinton to think back to those days during the campaign when her staff reportedly was suggesting that she skip Iowa altogether, saving her money and precious time for states that will be part of the national mega-contest on Super-Duper Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2007.

Since she has invested substantially in Iowa and still trails Sen. Barack Obama in the most recent polls, did she have any second thoughts about rejecting their advice?

Her answer is below:

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Hillary and The Roosevelts

Bobby Kennedy, Jr. compares Hillary Haters and the Roosevelts over at Huffington Post. He starts with how many had an irrational hatred of the Roosevelts and continues:

Hillary's supporters should be heartened by the fact that intense hatred is often accompanied by equally strong support. Roosevelt won four landslide victories against his opponents and crafted the architecture for the most humane, successful, generous features of modern American government.

They can also take comfort in Hillary's proven ability to transform intense hatred into loyal support. I recently toured upstate New York's traditionally Republican counties which she has transformed through leadership and political acumen, into rock solid Hillary Clinton strongholds.

Update: Also on HuffPo, Hillary's former Chief of Staff and another writer outline Hillary's foreign policy experience.

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Clinton Advisor Shaheen Resigns Over Obama Comments

Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire campaign advisor Bill Shaheen resigned today after yesterday's ill-advised and unauthorized comments about Barack Obama's drug use.

Bill Shaheen, a national co-chairman for Clinton and a prominent New Hampshire political figure, had raised the issue of Obama's youthful drug use during a Wednesday interview, published on washingtonpost.com.

"I made a mistake and in light of what happened, I have made the personal decision that I will step down as the co-chair of the Hillary for President campaign," Shaheen said in a statement released by the campaign Thursday. "This election is too important, and we must all get back to electing the best qualified candidate who has the record of making change happen in this country. That candidate is Hillary Clinton."

Hillary apologized to Barack Obama today on the tarmac as they waited for a plane from D.C. to Iowa for the debate.

It was an unfortunate, regrettable incident. There's no room for these kind of errors this late in the game. Shaheen did the right thing by resigning.

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Hillary's New Campaign Ad With Mom Praised

Adwatch has reviewed Hillary Clinton's newest campaign ad, featuring her mom, Dorothy Rodham.

Rodham looks younger than her 88 years and appears to be plainspoken, genuine and apolitical. Her description of her daughter comes off as heartfelt and unscripted.

Here's the 30 second ad, judge for yourselves.

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Clinton Advisor Apologizes for Obama Comments

A big mistep by New Hampshire Clinton advisor Michael Sheehan today.

He said voters should study Mr. Obama’s background as they chose a candidate, warning that Republicans would scour for new details about a period of Mr. Obama’s life more than 20 years ago when he admitted using marijuana and cocaine. According to The Post’s Web site, Mr. Shaheen said, “It’ll be: ‘When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?’ There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It’s hard to overcome.”

The most important part of the story:

Clinton spokesman, Phil Singer, said, “These comments were not authorized or condoned by the campaign in any way.”

....In a statement later, Mr. Shaheen said, “I deeply regret the comments I made today, and they were not authorized by the campaign in any way.”

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Chelsea Helps Hillary in Iowa

Hillary Clinton brought her mom and Chelsea to Iowa.

Three generations of Clinton women hit the trail vowing "change across the generations" as Hillary Rodham Clinton stepped up her pitch to the women voters who could hold the key to Iowa's caucuses, which will launch the presidential nominating season in less than four weeks.

Hillary told the crowd her mother lives with her and Bill.

Clinton used the occasion to trot out a plan to bolster long-term care, including a $3,000 tax credit for caregivers, a doubling of the standard deduction for the elderly and a tax credit for purchasing long-term care insurance. She repeatedly pointed to her ability to care for her own mother as she ages.

"I don't think having my mother with me is a burden, I think it's a joy," said Clinton. "It isn't easy to do and a lot of families don't have a lot of options." ...Issues of long-term care and building families will be a focus of her presidency, Clinton said.


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Hillary Brings Mom and Chelsea, Rolls Out Buddy System in Iowa

Update: Chelsea is in Iowa today as well.


While Oprah stumps at two events in Iowa for Obama today, Hillary has her own plan. She'll be bringing her mother to three events and promoting the "buddy system."

More than a mother-daughter act, the appearance was designed to illustrate an urgent point of her campaign: The Buddy. “I wanted to bring a buddy with me!” Mrs. Clinton said. “So I brought my mother, Dorothy Rodham.”

The idea is that women will be more likely to attend a caucus if they have someone to go with.

In her quest to win the caucuses, Mrs. Clinton is working to demystify the curious Iowa process. With women voters her key target, she believes two are more likely to attend together than one would alone.

“We have thousands of women in their 80s and 90s who live alone who want to caucus on the night of Jan. 3,” Mrs. Clinton said. “It’s very inspiring for me for people who want to be there.”

The Washington Post has more on the gender race between Hillary and Obama in Iowa. [More]

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ABC Poll: Clinton Holds N.H. Lead With More Reliable Support

A new ABC News poll shows Hillary Clinton leading in New Hampshire.

Hillary Clinton is holding off Barack Obama in New Hampshire with a single-digit but seemingly solid lead, scoring more committed and enthusiastic support, higher trust to handle pressing issues and broad margins on leadership, experience and electability.

The chart and numbers are here. (pdf).

Among likely voters in the Democratic primary, Clinton has 35 percent support, Obama 29 percent, John Edwards 17 percent and Bill Richardson 10 percent, with others in the low single digits.

As to why Hillary's support is considered "solid" and "more reliable":

Among those who've definitely decided on their candidate, she leads Obama by a wide 43-28 percent; and among the most enthusiastic likely voters she leads him by 45-24 percent.

Hillary also leads on six of the seven issues polled and has the largest advantage on health care.

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Hillary Comes Out Against Crack-Powder Retroactivity

Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton in Iowa yesterday said she has problems with making the reduction in crack-powder cocaine penalties, minimal as they are, retroactive.

“In principle I have problems with retroactivity," she said. "It’s something a lot of communities will be concerned about as well."

Five other Dems at the forum favor retroactivity:

Her five rivals present on stage — Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich — all said they favor making the shorter sentences retroactive.

Hillary needs to rethink this. As Law Prof Doug Berman says at Sentencing Law and Policy, her position is a huge disappointment. But I'm not convinced Obama's position will result in any future change of the excessive mandatory minimum sentences (as opposed to the minimal guideline reduction) for crack offenses. [More...]

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Hillary Won't Cross Writers' Picket Lines for CBS Debate

Breaking from Huffington Post....

Senator Hillary Clinton, D-NY, announced today that she will forgo CBS News' upcoming presidential debate unless the network can reach a resolution with its striking employees.

"The workers at CBS News have been without a contract for close to two and a half years," the Senator said. "It is my hope that both sides will reach an agreement that results in a secure contract for the workers at CBS News but let me be clear: I will honor the picket line if the workers at CBS News decide to strike."

I hope the other candidates follow her lead on this.

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