Friday, June 26, 2009

“All Americans” Includes the 51% Who are Women and the Members of the LGBT Community

A well-written article by Bill Clinton published in the June 26th issue of Time Magazine triggered flashbacks to the 2008 campaign. From the day Barack Obama announced his run for the presidency, he and his supporters joined the fringe on the right and their media allies in maligning Bill Clinton personally and the record set by his administration. Taking down both Clintons was the aim in order to clear Obama’s path to the Democratic Party’s nomination.

One had to be stunned by the hypocrisy of the Obama camp in its fawning adulation of the womanizing Kennedy brothers, Jack and Ted, while even Michelle Obama was heard to make self-righteous snide remarks about Hillary’s relationship to Bill. So-called feminists have long attacked Hillary for keeping her marriage and family together over the years while I’ve not once heard anyone criticize the Kennedy wives or for that matter, the long-suffering Coretta Scott King, wife of the philandering MLK, Jr., for choosing to do the same.

No, in 2008, it was time to tear the Clintons apart with every sleazy tactic in the book including desperately trying to smear both Bill and Hillary as racists.

Today the Clintons continue to serve their country well. Hillary’s job approval as secretary of state holds steady above 70% and the former president remains as popular as ever. Their trials and tribulations over the years have no doubt given each of the Clintons a solid core of inner security that can withstand the assaults from vicious detractors from either the left or the right. (Left wing detractors, including the Obama camp, have since tripped over John Edwards and righties are now stumbling over Mark Sanford.)

His hard won inner security is evident in Bill’s Time Magazine piece; his generosity toward Obama is a credit to the former president’s statesmanship. He begins:

My grandfather was a dirt farmer with only a sixth-grade education. During the Depression, he eked out a living selling blocks of ice. But in those days, even though he was poor, he knew someone special: from listening to the fireside chats on the radio, he knew Franklin Roosevelt. And he believed that Roosevelt knew what his life was like — and cared about it too.

I grew up listening to my grandfather’s tales of what it was like to live through the Depression and the war and what Roosevelt meant to him. When I was President, in another time of change and uncertainty, I often looked at the portrait of F.D.R. in the Roosevelt Room and remembered my grandfather’s stories.

Besides having a deep personal connection to ordinary citizens, Roosevelt got the big things right. When he came into office during the Depression, he saw that the ills of the country could not be addressed without more aggressive involvement by the government. He ran for President as a fiscal conservative, promising to balance the budget. But unlike his predecessor, he quickly realized that, with prices collapsing and unemployment exploding, only the Federal Government could step into the breach and restart the economy.
In conclusion, Clinton writes:

The Depression gave F.D.R. the chance to use the power of government to complete the work his cousin had begun: to build a great middle class, help the poor work their way into it and give Americans a modicum of security in old age. His leadership during World War II and the plans he made for the U.N. and a permanent leadership role for the U.S. on the world stage cemented his legacy as one of our greatest Presidents. I thought of both Roosevelts when I told Americans that we needed a new social contract for the 21st century, one that would keep us moving toward a “more perfect union” in a highly interdependent, complex, ever changing world.

That is the challenge President Obama has inherited. I believe he will succeed in his efforts at economic recovery, health-care reform and taking big steps on climate change. Along the way, I hope he will be inspired by F.D.R.’s concern for all Americans, his relentless optimism, his penchant for experimentation, his relish for spirited debate among brilliant advisers and his unshakable faith in the promise of America.
Let’s continue to remind our current president that “all Americans” includes the 51% who are women and the members of the LGBT community; equal rights for the majority of the country’s population cannot wait until Obama’s priorities are met and his re-election is assured.

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