January 24, 2008

Eyes on the Primaries: Senator Hillary Clinton

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Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) is no new contender in the political arena. Having been in the national spotlight since her husband was elected president 16 years ago, Hillary Clinton’s announcement that she is running for our nation’s highest office was all but a surprise. And with Super Tuesday — the day many believe will decide who wins the primaries — less than two weeks away, Clinton is looking good in the polls.
Supporters of Clinton say that it is her extensive experience — as first lady and as Senator of New York — that makes her the best candidate. She spent much of her tenure as first lady working on healthcare reform, leading to what many deem a more sober and realistic healthcare platform than either of the front-running democratic candidates. This involves making healthcare affordable for all and disallowing insurance companies to deny anyone coverage.
“One noticeable difference is that she’s the only candidate who has admitted that her healthcare plan will take two terms to pass every part of it,” said John-David Brown ’09, head of Cornell Students for Hillary. “She explains what parts of it will be able to pass Congress and be enacted with the current budget during her first term — like ensuring all children — but is honest when she says that it will not be until her second term that all parts are fiscally feasible.”
Much like fellow Democratic front-runner Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Clinton has a multi-tiered plan to “restore America’s middle class,” according to her campaign website. In addition to extending healthcare coverage, she vows to lower taxes for middle class families, confront the growing problems in the housing market, as well as make college more affordable.
On the subject of higher education, Clinton promises to give a $3,500 college tax credit for University students and to raise the maximum for Pell Grants. She also hopes to create a $100 million joint public and private internship program, according to Brown. Clinton introduced a bill to create a Public Service Academy, much like the Army and Navy Academies that provide free tuition to students who commit themselves to the defense system. Students would receive free tuition, and would then be committed to working in a public service sector for two years.
Clinton’s plan for Iraq involves beginning to bring troops home with the start of her first days in office. She hopes to gradually put the country back into the hands of the Iraqi people by establishing a Diplomatic Initiative in the region to mediate and oversee rebuilding of the country.
“I think it is unacceptable for our troops to be caught in the crossfire of a sectarian civil war while the Iraqi government is on vacation,” she said in a speech to veterans of foreign wars in August. “I think that it is time that the Iraqi government took responsibility for themselves and their country, because the American people and our American military cannot want freedom and stability for the Iraqis more than they want it for themselves.”
Recently, Clinton has focused more on economic issues, according to a New York Times article published Monday. She hopes to roll back Bush’s tax cuts for those making over $250,000.
“Inequality is growing,” Clinton said to the New York Times. “The middle class is stalled. The American dream is premised on a growing economy where people are in a meritocracy and, if they’re willing to work hard, they will realize the fruits of their labor.”
While Clinton’s primary wins in New Hampshire and Nevada make her the favorite going into the next round of elections, there have been a number of criticisms of her campaign. Clinton is often thought by some to appear emotionless and polarized on the issues.
“Barack appeals to many college students because he is charming and well-spoken, whereas Hillary might seem more boring and unexciting because her speeches are more policy-based and detailed,” Brown said, adding that her main group of supporters falls in the middle-aged demographic.
However, some college students see Clinton’s public image as a positive aspect of her vie for the presidency, not a negative one.
I believe that her polarizing image is what will make her successful,” said Tarun Chitra ’11, an avid Clinton supporter. “I feel that Hillary’s ability to make her own decisions with regard to the data that is available to her, without being a ‘flip-flopper,’ will help her make changes rather than simply speak of how one is going to create changes.”
Chitra also believes that Clinton deals well with another aspect of her image – her gender.
“While Obama seems to escape any tough racial question – most likely due to excessive political correctness – Hillary has shown her resiliency in dealing with the issue of being a woman. She is constantly attacked from all sides of chauvinism and somehow finds a way to escape with little or no damage to her impeccable reputation,” Chitra said.
As Senator of New York, Hillary visited Cornell a number of times, the last of which was in March 2006, when she toured the Vet School.
Brown, along with Cornell Students for Hillary, claims that Clinton has a fairly strong support base on campus. However, they will soon begin fighting to win students over. Planning has already begun on a media campaign, phone banking, and volunteer trips to Washington and New York City.
“If she gets the nomination it’s going to be hard for her to obtain those voters who supported Barack – particularly college students,” Brown said. “One of the key reasons the Democrats lost in 2004 was because Kerry couldn’t inspire the Deaniacs. Our group hopes to hold panels where people can ask about anything, which we hope will clarify many of the misconceptions people have of her.”
Want to read about the other candidates? Click on the candidates name: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), former Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Gov. Mitt Romney, former Sen. John Edwards , Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).