Hillary Clinton Rejects Basic Liberal Values

Conservatives often sound hysterical and are easy to ignore when they scream that Hillary Clinton is a socialist. Attacks from an authoritarian warmonger like Rudy Giuliani simply do not stick. While the conservative movement has lost its credibility, David Boez criticizes Clinton at Cato-at-Liberty in a manner which simply cannot be ignored as the bulk of attacks from the right can.

Boez outright shows that he is more rational than Clinton’s right wing attackers in admitting. “Hillary Clinton is no socialist.” His criticism is far more credible when he criticizes Clinton for rejecting liberal values. Boez quotes from Clinton’s speech in unveiling her health care program:

In her latest salvo, she dismisses the great promises of the Declaration of Independence, the founding principles of the United States, as rhetorical flourishes, mere garnishes on the real stuff of life. “We can talk all we want about freedom and opportunity, about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but what does all that mean to a mother or father who can’t take a sick child to the doctor?” she asked.

The ease with which Clinton disregards such fundamental liberal values is even more disappointing than her rejection of liberalism at the CNN/YouTube debate in July. Such an outright dismissal of liberal values was not necessary in order to promote her plan, and I fear this provides an indication of where Clinton stands philosophically.

Boez criticizes the mandatory nature of Clinton’s health care proposal, but does not limit his criticism to the usual conservative complaints:

Her hostility to freedom is not just a left-wing attitude. In the Senate, she’s been adding the paternalistic agenda of the religious right to her old-fashioned liberal paternalism. Clinton has called for federal legislation to prohibit the sale of “inappropriate” video games to children and teens. She’s introduced a bill to study the impact of media on children, a likely prelude to restrictions on television content, and she touts the V-Chip regulation that President Bill Clinton signed. She supports federal legislation to outlaw flag desecration (though not a constitutional amendment).

In her book It Takes a Village, she insisted that 300 million free people could somehow come to “a consensus of values and a common vision of what we can do today, individually and collectively, to build strong families and communities.” She told Newsweek, “There is no such thing as other people’s children,” a claim that ought to frighten any parent. She promised to inflict on free citizens government videos running constantly in every gathering place, telling people “how to burp an infant, what to do when soap gets in his eyes, how to make a baby with an earache comfortable”—all the things that no one knew how to do until the federal government came along.

Hillary Clinton is no socialist. But when she makes her rejection of liberal values as explicit as she did on Monday – dismissing “freedom and opportunity [and] life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as irrelevant to people’s real lives–she is far too reminiscent of some of the most authoritarian figures of the 20th century. Lenin, for instance, wrote, “Bourgeois democracy is democracy of pompous phrases, solemn words, exuberant promises and the high-sounding slogans of freedom and equality.”

And maybe it’s no surprise that Clinton cosponsored her videogame ban with Sen. Rick Santorum, who is also an articulate and determined opponent of individualism. In his book It Takes a Family and in various media appearances, he denounced “this whole idea of personal autonomy.” At least once he rejected “the pursuit of happiness” explicitly, saying, “This is the mantra of the left: I have a right to do what I want to do” and “We have a whole culture that is focused on immediate gratification and the pursuit of happiness . . . and it is harming America.” Not the mantra of the Hillary Clinton left, obviously.

There is some hyperbole in comparing Clinton to Lenin, but Boez does raise concerns about Clinton’s philosophy of government which I also share. Liberals may not agree with all of Boez’s criticisms of Clinton, but should consider his arguments and examine Clinton’s value system carefully before voting for her.

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  1. 1
    Stephen Fox says:

    Right on, Dr. Chusid! After all of the media hype and campaign B.S. subsides, there is a much larger scale confrontation with Bush from the candidates regarding the Iraq War and the problems it is continuing to cause, after six years of Halliburton and Brown and Root and Blackwater corporate kleptocracy.

    Only one candidate, it is abundantly clear to me, is really slamming the truth and providing the logistics and rationale for ending this disastrous war: Bill Richardson. This
    article was printed in the Washington Post about 11 days ago, and please take the time to read it:


    Why We Should Exit Iraq Now

    By Bill Richardson
    Saturday, September 8, 2007; A15

    Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards have suggested that there is little difference among us on Iraq. This is not true: I am the only leading Democratic candidate committed to getting all our troops out and doing so

    In the most recent debate, I asked the other candidates how many troops they would leave in Iraq and for what purposes. I got no answers. The American people need answers. If we elect a president who thinks that troops should stay in Iraq for years, they will stay for years — a tragic mistake.

    Clinton, Obama and Edwards reflect the inside-the-Beltway thinking that a complete withdrawal of all American forces somehow would be “irresponsible.” On the contrary, facts suggest that a rapid, complete withdrawal — not a drawn-out, Vietnam-like process —would be the most responsible and effective course of action.

    Those who think we need to keep troops in Iraq misunderstand the Middle East. I have met and negotiated successfully with many regional leaders, including Saddam Hussein. I am convinced that only a complete withdrawal can sufficiently shift the politics of Iraq and its neighbors to break the deadlock that has been killing so many people for so long.

    Our troops have done everything they were asked to do with courage and professionalism, but they cannot win someone else’s civil war. So long as American troops are in Iraq, reconciliation among Iraqi factions is postponed. Leaving forces there enables the Iraqis to delay taking the steps
    to end the violence. And it prevents us from using diplomacy to bring in other nations to help stabilize and rebuild the country.

    The presence of American forces in Iraq weakens us in the war against al-Qaeda. It endows the anti-American propaganda of those who portray us as occupiers plundering Iraq’s oil and repressing Muslims. The day we leave, this myth collapses, and the Iraqis will drive foreign jihadists out of their country. Our departure would also enable us to focus on defeating the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11, those headquartered along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border — not in Iraq.

    Logistically, it would be possible to withdraw in six to eight months. We moved as many as 240,000 troops into and out of Iraq through Kuwait in as little as a three-month period during major troop rotations. After the Persian Gulf War, we redeployed nearly a half-million troops in a few
    months. We could redeploy even faster if we negotiated with the Turks to open a route out through Turkey.

    As our withdrawal begins, we will gain diplomatic leverage. Iraqis will start seeing us as brokers, not occupiers.Iraq’s neighbors will face the reality: if they don’t help with stabilization, they will face the consequences of Iraq’s
    collapse — including even greater refugee flows over their borders and possible war.

    The United States can facilitate Iraqi reconciliation and regional cooperation by holding a conference similar to that which brought peace to Bosnia. We will need regional security negotiations among all of Iraq’s neighbors and discussions of donations from wealthy nations — including oil- rich Muslim countries — to help rebuild Iraq. None of this can happen until we remove the biggest obstacle to diplomacy: the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq.

    My plan is realistic because:

    It is less risky. Leaving forces behind leaves them vulnerable. Would we need another surge to protect them?

    It gets our troops out of the quagmire and strengthens us for our real challenges. It is foolish to think that 20,000 to 75,000 troops could bring peace to Iraq when 160,000 have not. We need to get our troops out of the crossfire in Iraq so that we can defeat the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11.

    By hastening the peace process, the likelihood of prolonged bloodshed is reduced. President Richard Nixon withdrew U.S. forces slowly from Vietnam — with disastrous consequences. Over the seven years it took to get our troops out, 21,000 more Americans and perhaps a million Vietnamese, most of them civilians, died. All this death and destruction accomplished nothing — the communists took over as soon as we left.

    My position has been clear since I entered this race: Remove all the troops and launch energetic diplomatic efforts in Iraq and internationally to bring stability. If Congress fails to end this war, I will remove all troops without delay, and without hesitation, beginning on my first day in office.

    Let’s stop pretending that all Democratic plans are similar. The American people deserve precise answers from anyone who would be commander in chief. How many troops would you leave in Iraq? For how long? To do what, exactly? And the media should be asking these questions of the candidates, rather than allowing them to continue saying, “We are against the war . . . but please don’t read the small print.”

    The writer is governor of New Mexico and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

  2. 2
    Brett says:

    As you say, Boez definitely seems to be advancing more hyperbole than substance. He also seems to say that there is no need for people to think of others, to consider the common good, to consider what is morally right. Hillary Clinton is right; in a fundamental sense, there is no such thing as “other people’s children.” We are all human beings, and we are all interconnected, much like a family is. We share the world with six billion other humans, and it is long past time that we all recognize that our species is interdependent and that our actions ultimately affect everyone else in the world. That is the essence of Hillary’s mantra that our nation should find “a consensus of values and a common vision of what we can do today, individually and collectively, to build strong families and communities.” It is a recognition of the need for everyone to come together and work together to solve our common problems, and I think such a belief is widely shared by many liberals.

    However, I agree with many of Boez’s claims. Hillary is definitely wrong and ill-liberal in her attempts to regulate violent video games and ban the burning of the American flag. In my opinion, liberal values are those that respect the individual and their natural rights, but also those that respect the community and the ideals and concept of commonwealth. Libertarianism and liberalism are not diametrically opposed philosophies as they both advocate personal liberty, but I consider myself a liberal rather than a libertarian precisely because modern liberalism (not “classical” liberalism which is more libertarianistic in nature) recognizes the importance of the community and the common good and does not solely worship the rights of the individual, in lieu of the obligations that we all owe to the rest of humanity.

    I do have a libertarian streak, and I believe fervently in the power and rights of the individual and that it is the people that are supposed to own and control a democratic government, but Boez inflates some of Hillary’s proposals and statements (which I believe she has done for the purpose of trying to pander to the authoritarian right wing) to an unrealistic anti-democratic interpretation. She was wrong to put a negative spin on the founding principle of our country and deservedly opened herself up to such libertarian criticism, and her rejection/acceptance of the term “liberal” in the YouTube debate certainly proves she does not understand political ideology, but it’s just as wrong to say that Hillary has no liberal values when it is precisely her desire for thoughtful consideration of the needs of the community that is line with such values.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:


    “but it’s just as wrong to say that Hillary has no liberal values”

    Of course that’s correct. I’m not complaining that Clinton has “no liberal values” but that she is too quick to ignore some fundamental values.

    “not “classical” liberalism which is more libertarianistic in nature”

    Yes, classical liberalism is closer to libertarianism than the predominant strain of modern American liberalism. However many also consider classical liberals to be even more libertarian (in terms of opposing all government) than they actually were. Besides, there are limitations in taking the views of someone from over 100 years ago and applying them to contemporary issues in all regards. Classical liberals would have seen no or little role for government in health care. However they did not live in an era where health care offered many ways to improve health–but at a higher cost than most individuals could afford on their own. They might come to different conclusions than libertarians if they saw the nature of modern health care. Some on the right not only attack any government program as ‘socialized medicine” but are also becoming increasingly critical of insurance, seeing an advantage in having individuals pay more for their medical care. On a superficial level this might be more consistent with the views of classical liberals, but it is also a mistake to assume that intelligent and well intentioned classical liberals would not apply their views differently in a different era.

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