Friday, August 10, 2007

The Visible Vote '08 -- Hillary Clinton

The final candidate to take the stage at the LOGO-HRC Forum is Sen. Hillary Clinton. There is notable applause as she enters the studio. Clearly, before being asked a single question, it's obvious she is the audience favorite.

Margaret Carlson began by saying: "I don't know if Sen. Edwards is still here, but for the record I like the coral jacket."

The first question is from Joe Solomonese and it's about Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Clinton has said she would repeal DADT, but sits on the Armed Services Committee and has not introduced legislation to do so. Why?

Clinton response is: "The very simple answer is that we didn't have a chance with a Republican Congress, and George Bush as president, and I want to get it done when I'm president. I want to do it, and have it be successful. I don't want to try in a Republican Congress and a very negative president, and have it defeated.

"We are talking now that we have a Democratic Congress what steps we can take to sort of lay the ground work, so that when we do have a change in the White House -- which can't happen too soon to suit me -- we will be able to move on that. But I want to put it in a broader context, because it's one of my highest priorities. I came out against DADT in 1999. It was a transitional action that was taken back at the beginning of my husband's administration, because at the time there was such a witch hunt going on. And we've got some veterans over here, Staff Sergeant Eric Alva [applause] ... if you don't know Staff Sergeant Alva's history, he was the first Marine wounded in Iraq, the recipient of a Purple Heart, and 15 years ago he could have both been refused the opportunity to serve -- but if he had gotten into the military under the rules that existed at the time, and the attitudes that were prevalent he could have been court marshaled. Or accused and threatened with criminal action if he didn't reveal names of those with whom he might have had relationships who were serving in the military.

"We have moved a long way on this, and other issues, but I think it's important to recall how much of an advance DADT was at the time. However, it was not implemented appropriately. It was still used to discharge a lot of patriotic men and women who were serving our country. Often at great cost, in the middle of a war -- where people were being told we don't need your services anymore. Including linguists and translators and other speciality services. But in 1999 it just struck me that it wasn't working, and that what we needed to do is try to move us toward using the code of military justice. And judge people on conduct, not status. It should be even handed across the services."

Solomonese had the next question, which was "what is at the heart of your opposition to same-sex marriage?"

Clinton's response is: "I prefer to think of it as being very positive about civil unions. It's a personal position for me ... we have made it very clear in our country that we believe in equality. How we get to full equality is the debate we are having, and I am absolutely in favor of civil unions will full equality of benefits, rights and privileges. And I've also been a very strong supporter of letting the states maintain their jurisdiction over marriage, and I believe that was the right decision for a lot of reasons ... it's easy again to forget that just two and a half years ago we were facing all of these referendum that were enshrining discrimination in state constitutions. And a lot of people tried very hard to fight against them, prevent them from being passed, but unfortunately they were. Now, two and a half years later we are beginning to see other states take different approaches ... Stopping the Federal Marriage Amendment gave the states the breathing room to make different decisions.

"I want to proceed with equalizing federal benefits, I want to repeal section three of DOMA, which stands in the way of the extension of benefits to people in committed same-sex relationships. And I will be very strongly in favor of doing that as president."

Carlson asked if the Senator thought the federal marriage amendment would come up again in 2008, and Clinton responded that she hasn't heard anyone talking about it. That not even the Republicans, in their various forums, are talking about it.

Melissa Etheridge spoke from the heart about feeling like lesbians and gays had been "thrown under the bus" by Bill Clinton's administration. That promises were made, and then broken. She acknowledged that it's a new day, and asked Sen. Clinton "what are you going to do to be different than that? A year from now are we going to be left behind like we were before?"

Clinton responded: "Obviously, Melissa, I don't see it quite the way you describe, but I respect your feeling about it. You know, from the moment Bob Hattoy spoke at the Democratic Convention, through the appointments that were made, both to positions in Cabinet Agencies, as well as in the White House, to the on-going struggle against [Newt] Gingrich and the Republican majority. I think we certainly didn't get as much done as I would have liked, but I believe there was a lot of honest effort going on by the president and the vice president, and the rest of us who were trying to keep the momentum going.

"I remember when I was running for the Senate, marching in the gay pride parade in NYC, and to a lot of people that was an unbelievable act.

"We are doing a lot to talk about laws, as important as they are, but to really try to change attitudes and persuade people that they should be more open, more respectful, more accepting.

"If I were sitting where you are sitting, with all you have gone through in the last 14 years, I'm sure I would feel exactly the same way. Because not only did you bravely come out, but you've had health challenges and so much else, and so time can't go by slowly. You want things to move as quickly as possible, which I understand and wish could happen as well.

"But as president, I think I have an opportunity both to reverse the concerted assault on people -- it wasn't just on people's rights, it was on people -- it was pointing fingers. It was demeaning. It was degrading, it was mean-spirited. And that will end. That is going to be over."

Jonathan Capehart asked about comments made by former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace, who said homosexuality is immoral. When you were first asked about it you said "I'm going to leave that to others to conclude." The next day, after much criticism, you finally said that you did not think homosexuality was immoral. Why didn't you say that the first time?

Clinton responded: "It was a mistake, Jonathan, because what I went on to say after what you quoted was to launch an attack on DADT. Because my view was as a chairman of the Joint Chiefs he had absolutely no right to say what he said. I disagree with him profoundly, but what was really offensive is that he was in a position of responsibility that had a direct impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of these young people in the military. So I went right at him on DADT."

Capehart quickly asked: "Would you put someone on the bench that is known to be anti-gay?"

Clinton's response was "no."

Carlson said, "on Tuesday night you told the AFL-CIO 'I'm your girl' ... do you want to express those same sentiments here?"

Clinton: "I am your girl! Absolutely!"

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