Student protesters and several Ithacan advocates interrupted Chelsea Clinton while she was voicing her belief that her mother, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would make the “best president” she can imagine.
At a rally in Ithaca on Monday, Clinton praised her mother’s tenacity, bipartisan efforts and advocacy for minority groups.
She began by explaining that this election is uniquely important to her, as the New York State primary will be the first presidential election she will participate in since she became a mother to her 18-month-old daughter Charlotte and to the child she is due to deliver this summer.
“I found I could care more about politics, in this election than I have before, because I understand, whoever we elect to be our next president will play a profound role in the country, and future, that my children, and all of our children, will grow up in,” Clinton said.
At this moment in Clinton’s speech, a woman from the audience stood up at the front of the room with a sign that said, “End Support of Oppressive Regimes,” and began admonishing Hillary Clinton for her support of the Israeli and Saudi governments. Several members of the audience began chanting, “Hillary, Hillary,” drowning out the activist’s remarks, before the woman was escorted out.
After the interruption, Clinton continued, saying she believes that, putting her new role as a parent aside, the 2016 presidential election “would still be the most important election of my lifetime.”
“[This is] why I have such deep concern in my heart and my head, and why I so strongly believe that my mom is the only one who can help us navigate through this moment in time,” she said.
Clinton shared her belief that her mother is qualified to be president, citing the resilience and determination she exhibited during her 1993 and 1994 attempts to create a universal healthcare system, the Health Security Act — in spite of the plan’s failure due to conservative opposition.
“Of all the things people have accused my mom of, even recently, no one has ever accused her of being a quitter,” she said. “And she doesn’t let the pure be the enemy of the good. So she spent three years building a bipartisan coalition to pass the Children’s Health insurance program. That program now insures over eight million American children.”
According to Chelsea Clinton, her mother’s bipartisan accomplishments also include her work with Senate Republicans during her two terms as Senator.
Since Democrats will likely not have control of the House of Representatives until 2022, her mother’s experience is a key reason that she should be the next president of the United States, according to Chelsea Clinton.
“It matters to me that my mom has been able to work with even the most conservative Republicans, the godfather of the Tea Party, Tom Delay (R-Tex.) to overhaul adoption process out of the foster care system in the year 2000,” she said.
As Clinton was speaking about her mother’s bipartisan successes, several student members of Cornellians Organized for Labor Action stood up and demanded that Clinton recognize the dire conditions of laborers in Qatar.
“We are here, because the Clinton foundation has accepted millions from FIFA and the Qatari government,” the students read. “You, and your foundation have supported debt bondage, forced labor, and wage slavery. By working with Qatar you are responsible for the deaths of over one thousand construction workers. You have blood on your hands. We are here as Cornell students, because you are a trustee of Weill Cornell Medicine whose campus in Qatar promotes these same conditions and holds no regard for human rights.”
As the students ended their speech, a majority of the audience began chanting, “Hillary.” The students simultaneously chanted, “Hey Clinton, step off it, put people over profit,” as they walked out of the rally.
Clinton responded to this demonstration, saying she regretted that the protesters had left before the question and answer session, when she “could have had a chance to respond and maybe we could’ve had a conversation.”
“I don’t mind being interrupted, and I think one of the great things about being an American is that we have free speech,” she said. “I also think that free speech comes with a responsibility to listen, so I have a responsibility to listen.”
Clinton said her mother has championed equality for women and the LGBT community during her many positions of public influence in the past several decades. She added that she finds her mother’s advocacy efforts a stark contrast to the behavior of Republican presidential nominees.
“I never thought I’d see in my lifetime, certainly not in 2016, the normalization of hate speech within the Republican party, of the almost daily diet of racist, and sexist, Islamophobia, and anti-workers rights, and the list just goes on and on,” she said.
Rather than fostering discrimination against LGBT communities, Hillary Clinton advocated ending it globally by expecting American embassies around the world to report on the treatment of the LGBT community within that country, according to her daughter.
She also said her mother created the “fast track asylum treatment” to allow LGBT activists who are being prosecuted in their country to quickly apply for asylum in the United States.
“She made it clear how countries treated girls and women, LGBT people would affect how it was treated by the American government and in American foreign policy priority,” Clinton said.
Not a Single Issue Country
Before opening the discussion up to questions, Clinton emphasized that the United States is not a “single issue country,” which is something that she thinks her mother and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) differ on.
She said that in Thursday’s debate, Sanders only spoke about the courts in the context of Citizens United and campaign finance reform, while her mother has both “ethical and personal” reasons to oppose Citizens United.
“Being my mother’s daughter, it’s hard to think anyone cares more about overturning Citizens United than my mom does,” Clinton said. “Citizens United was set up in 2007 with literally one mission: to destroy her 2008 presidential candidacy.”
Clinton also said her mother not only believes that the new appointee to the Supreme Court must advocate for campaign finance reform, but that she also believes “that we also need someone who considers Roe v. Wade as established by law.”
Question and Answer
An audience member asked Clinton to clarify her mother’s position on fracking — calling it an important issue for Tompkins County voters and pointing to “a lot of back and forth” in her mother’s stance.
“My mom very much supports what President Obama has tried to do with his executive orders, which establish strong minimum standards on things that we know are harmful, like methane, to add depth limits,” Clinton said.
However, she said her mother is not opposed to fracking in places where it is deemed safe.
“She supports working with communities where it seems to be safe, where it’s never harmed anything like Nebraska, which is much different land than New York,” Clinton said. “The EPA should always have the first and last word.”
When an audience member asked how he should advocate that fellow college students vote for Hillary Clinton, Clinton emphasized that her mother’s plan to allow students to graduate from college debt-free represents a more pragmatic alternative to Sanders’ free public college proposal.
“If you listen to even very liberal, progressive governors, who support public education, [they say] we don’t have the budget to do this,” she said. “Of the 31 states with Republican governors, 29 have cut budget to education. It is comforting to me that my mom wants people to graduate debt-free and get programs that matter to all students, like Pell grants.”
In her concluding remarks, Clinton praised her mother as the best president she could imagine, even while acknowledging that she is somewhat biased in her recommendation.
“I am deeply biased, and I don’t pretend otherwise, but I hope my children feel towards me the way I feel toward my mom,” Clinton said. “I couldn’t imagine a better grandmother to my children than my mom. And I couldn’t imagine a better president for all children than my mom.”