Saturday, March 10, 2007

Hillary & FDR: Inviting An Unfavorable Comparison

Senator Hillary Clinton is in an unenviable position. She is having to stake out positions ever further left in order to placate the highly vocal, take no prisoners far left who seem be in control her party (see here). Nonetheless, she is simultaneously making a desperate effort to maintain a patina of credibility with the moderates and conservatives who form the bulk of the electorate - and without a portion of whom she has no chance of winning the Presidency.

The irreconcilable tension between those two goals was on evidence the other day in Senator Clinton's remarks to an audience from the Center for American Progress. As part of her remarks, she chose to quote from a speech made by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt just days following the onset of hostilities in World War II:

"We are now in this war. We are all in it, all the way. Every man, woman and child is a partner in the most tremendous undertaking of our American history," Sen. Clinton quoted, adding "That was presidential leadership that understood that when American soldiers are in harm's way, we are all at war."
But what Hillary omitted from her remarks was the salient point FDR made in that speech:

"The United States can accept no result save victory, final and complete . . . The sources of international brutality, wherever they exist, must be absolutely and finally broken . . . We're going to fight it with everything we got."

But the dissonance did not end there. Following her remarks, "when asked point blank whether she believed America should win the war in Iraq, she hemmed and hawed, refusing to answer directly."

You can read the whole story here and the full text of Roosevelt's famous speech addressed to the nation here.

If Hillary Clinton is going to be successful in her Presidential bid, it would behoove her to choose carefully whom she quotes and whom she puts forth as a model of presidential leadership. The comparison it invites in this instance is not flattering. We are able to compare the resolute and forward looking leadership of FDR in order to achieve victory with Senator Clinton's determination to withdrawal from Iraq whatever the cost in order to achieve the Presidency. I think it fair, on that comparison, to paraphrase Senator Bentsen -- "Senator Clinton, you're no Franklin Roosevelt."

As a postscript, I would add a warning to Senator Kerry should he ever decide to quote the same lines from FDR's speech as did Senator Clinton. FDR also included the following in his speech:

It is not a sacrifice for any man, old or young, to be in the Army or the Navy of the United States. Rather is it a privilege.

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