- - Sunday, June 14, 2015


The symbolism behind Hillary Rodham Clinton’s venue for her second presidential announcement speech was well planned: She chose FDR’s Four Freedoms Park in Roosevelt Island, named after the New Deal author’s famous 1941 speech that prepared an isolationist America for World War II.

From the grassy fields of the park, across the East River, stands the United Nations. Behind stage left, the new World Trade Center soars skyward above Manhattan.

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But there was a hidden symbolism that so fittingly defines Hillary — the history of the island. The tiny spit of land was known as Welfare Island in the 1930s — undesirables from the city were sent there. Her stage was just in front of the ruins of the Smallpox Hospital, built to quarantine incoming infected immigrants in the 1850s. And the island was once home to the New York City Lunatic Asylum (that’s neither here nor there, just saying).

The day was odd from start to finish: The crowd was almost entirely white, an equal mix of middle-aged and young, but few blacks. Getting to the speech site was an exercise in post-9/11 security woes, with bag checks and magnetometers. An expansive sound system blared “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson into the sun-baked park. A band of four siblings played their big hit, “Be Like the Cool Kids.”

The candidate strolled on stage — from above, a giant “H” with an arrow through it, pointing, with no intended irony apparently, to the right — in her bright blue pantsuit. She gave individual people she spotted that “Oh, hey, look, it’s you!” face she does, and flashed repeated thumbs-up out to all.

Then she got down to reading her speech off a teleprompter, following in the footsteps of President Obama (never mind that nearly all of the announced Republicans have eschewed the device).

To boil the lengthy speech down, Hillary said she would “wage and win Four Fights for you” — first and foremost, expanding the “Middle Class” — the capitals were hers — “to make the economy work for everyday Americans, not just those at the top.”

The goal: “To make the Middle Class mean something again, with rising incomes and broader horizons. And to give the poor a chance to work their way into it.” That, she said, would include “tax relief” for many small businesses.

But throughout her speech, she returned to a long list of costly promises, like demanding that “roads, railways, bridges, airports, ports, and broadband [be] brought up to global standards for the 21st century.” She cited no cost, but conservative estimates would be hundreds of billions, perhaps more than $1 trillion, nationwide.

She vowed to get some of that money by selling bonds — more debt — and from “using additional fees and royalties from fossil-fuel extraction,” but again, that cost will simply be passed on to the “Middle Class” she vowed to protect.

On education, it’s all free again, or at least heavily subsidized by the federal government. She’d start with preschool and child care available “for every child in America” (even though a new report just came out that found children learn just as much watching “Sesame Street” as they do in preschool). And she’d extend that through college. She never said how she’d pay for it, but even a fool would assume the government must either reorient its spending priorities or raise taxes.

Her second of the Four Fights is for “The Family.” Once again, a litany of free stuff. She said Americans “have the right to earn paid sick days.” The minimum wage must go up — way up. Who would pay? Who knows? You, probably. Of course, paid parental leave would be a given, too. And she said women should make as much as men (although her Senate office paid women less).

“A path to citizenship” somehow falls under “Family” in Hillary World. But a study found that the true cost of granting amnesty to some 11 million illegal aliens would be $6.3 trillion. Again, where does the money come from?

The “Third Fight” is national security. She ticked off a long list of threats, vowing, “I’ll do whatever it takes to keep Americans safe.” That means the money for domestic programs likely can’t come from the defense budget.

The Fourth Fight, according to Hillary, is “reforming our government and revitalizing our democracy so that it works for everyday Americans.” By that she means stopping the “endless flow of secret, unaccountable money that is distorting our elections” — she pledged to “support a constitutional amendment to undo the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.” (Funnily, a kiosk with the words shop.hillaryclinton.com sold all kinds of overpriced knickknacks — collecting money for the campaign of a candidate worth more than $100 million).

She accused Republicans of trying to “disempower and disenfranchise young people, poor people, people with disabilities, and people of color,” but offered no details. Still, the claim was met with boisterous applause.

In the end, she failed to articulate just why she is running for president. A list of vague promises — most of which are too costly to get done without massive cuts elsewhere — fell well short.

But before Hillary’s speech, one of her top aides, Jennifer Palmieri, was asked about Mrs. Clinton’s purpose this election versus the last time around.

“I don’t, I can’t, I, I, I honestly can’t compare it to ‘08,” she said. “I didn’t, I didn’t do ‘08, and it wasn’t, you know, it was a really different campaign and it’s, I, I don’t have a great recollection about that. But she, that is, you know, she is a woman, she is running for president. She, um, uh, you know, she’s, uh, there’s, there’s a lot to her campaign. But she’s, she’s proud of the idea that she could be the first woman president. That would be an enormous privilege.”

Well articulated.

Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @josephcurl.

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