Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton has expanded on her earlier claims of support for the controversial (and, so far, successful) 1996 welfare-reform bill. Last weekend she told Joel Siegel of the New York Daily News:
I worked very hard to make sure the bill that came to the President after he vetoed it was one that could be signed and would actually move people from welfare to work. ... I was a strong voice inside the White House and was a strong voice with many of the interest groups on the outside, who were not in favor of welfare reform, of going ahead and [supporting] the bill. [Emphasis added.]
As readers of this column know, I think Mrs. Clinton is probably telling the truth when she says she was a voice "inside the White House" for signing the welfare bill--although nobody on the outside knows for sure what she told her husband when they were alone. Hillary's also telling the truth when she says her opponent, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, opposed President Clinton's signing of the bill. (Click here and here and here for earlier items on these issues.) And it may even be true that before the bill was passed, Hillary worked to ensure it was one that could be signed--although if so, she worked quietly, and her logical ally in the West Wing, Harold Ickes, actively opposed the bill.
But Mrs. Clinton is almost certainly not telling the truth when she says was a "strong voice with many" of the outside interest groups opposing the bill. I've talked with key opponents of the bill, and none of them remembers anything like this. "No way," said one. "She never did that." What did she do, then? After all, many of these outside groups arrayed against the bill, such as the Children's Defense Fund, were close to Mrs. Clinton (who had served on CDF's board.) This put the first lady in a bind. "What she did," my source remembered, "was she avoided these people." This impression--that Hillary simply went AWOL, ducking meetings with her old friends on the left who were desperate to get her to intervene against the bill--jibes with what I was told at the time, and with what I've been told in the intervening years.
There's a larger point here. As Tish Durkin of the New York Observer has noted repeatedly, the problem with Mrs. Clinton is not that she publicly promotes any sort of sharp left agenda, or flip-flops from left to right. It's rather that "she simply fails to fill in." She's congenitally, banally vague, routinely getting standing ovations for speeches so contentless they'd make Orrin Hatch blush. The secret, hidden nature of her influence inside the White House--which first she denied, and now she brags about--didn't make it any easier to figure out what she really thought.
I always figured her speeches were vague, and her influence hidden, largely because people might react harshly against an outspoken, publicly influential political wife. But of course being enigmatic has another obvious advantage, which is that it lets you decide later what and how much to reveal about your role. If the 1996 bill had been a disaster, do you think Hillary would be boasting to the Daily News about her "strong voice" in its support? Or would she even now be telling us how she'd tried to stop it? All the vagueness and secrecy lets her keep her options open. And if her current welfare tale is any guide, one of those options is dissembling.
A note to our readers:
The architects of the intricate kausfiles business model are intent on dispelling a myth that appears to be delaying its acceptance by Wall Street analysts. This is the idea that kausfiles.comis merely a rudimentary, one-man Web site, with no foreseeable revenues, posting articles that have already appeared in Slate a day earlier. This may have been true at an earlier stage in the implementation of our growth plan. But last week, kausfiles.com unveiled its unique Web "porthole" strategy, which each weekday features on the site exclusive, just-written, linked commentary on that day's news and magazine articles (along with the traditional day-old Slate items).
Yet even this daily "content," as we call it, is not the sum of our business. Kausfiles is so much more than mere content! There is the kausfiles E-commerce component, which has already earned tens of dollars from a prominent online bookseller that gives us a cut of sales from purchasers who "go to" its site from kausfiles. And there is kausfiles Tech Services, which supplies the address and phone number of kausfiles' Web designer to other Internet ventures. Needless to say, plans are under way for kausfiles TV, a brand-building venture that will follow kausfiles' reporters as they make their rounds from the bedroom to the living room, and occasionally even when they go outside. Think of it as 60 Minutes meets MTV's Real World, but without any news stories or attractive young people. Tying together all these components is our overarching Web strategy, which remains firmly Toobin-based.
Future plans include Mickey's Secret, a unique online store featuring coffee mugs, lingerie, and sex toys with a mainstream-Democrat theme, and insidekausfilesdope.com, which (for a fee) will notify busy executives instantly by beeper whenever they, or somebody with their same first name, is mentioned on kausfiles.
Despite the takeover rumors,
kausfiles is committed to remaining an independent voice. We believe it would truly be a shame if kausfiles were gobbled up by some better-funded, established media giant like Disney or America Online-Time Warner. We hope you heard that, Mr. Case! No matter how many millions you offer, we are determined to maintain our independence. You know where to reach us.