Hillary Clinton Returns to Wellesley and Rips Trump with Nixon Comparison

Hillary Clinton Returns to Wellesley and Rips Trump with Nixon Comparison

Hillary Clinton

To wild cheers at her alma mater, where she made a fiery speech nearly 50 years ago, Clinton condemns ‘assault on truth and reason’ and issues rallying cry: ‘Don’t let anyone tell you your voice doesn’t matter’

Sabrina Siddiqui in Wellesley, Massachusetts | The Guardian UK

Taking the stage nearly 50 years ago at Wellesley, the liberal arts college famed for its activism, student body president Hillary Rodham turned to address roughly 400 of her female peers.

As the first ever student to speak at the school’s commencement, or graduation ceremony, she faced a daunting task in addressing the prevailing climate of 1969. In a tumultuous period marked by the Vietnam war and social justice movements, Rodham was poised to discuss how her generation could effect change.    

But in a spur-of-the-moment decision, she first took on the influential Republican senator who spoke before her. Her speech introduced the future Hillary Clinton to the national stage.

On Friday, Clinton returned to the place where it all began, six months after her defeat in the 2016 presidential election in what has similarly emerged as a watershed moment in American politics. The presidency of Donald Trump has been marked by scandals, confidence in institutions remains at a low and a steady stream of protests have drawn thousands to the streets of major cities across the country.

And Clinton was keen to draw the two eras together when she made a veiled comparison between Trump and Richard Nixon, who resigned in disgrace after Watergate.

The Wellesley students erupted into cheers at the sight of Clinton walking with the procession in cap and gown. And upon taking her place behind the lectern, Clinton was quick to identify the parallels between the moment of her speech 48 years ago and the environment today. There remained “urgent questions,” she noted, about discrimination against women, people of color, religious minorities, and immigrants.

She twisted the knife in to Trump, without once mentioning the president by name, by comparing him to Nixon, who had recently won the 1968 election when Clinton made her original Wellesley speech. “We were furious about the past presidential election,” Clinton said, “of a man whose presidency would eventually end in disgrace with impeachment for his obstruction of justice.”

The students relished this bold and freewheeling Clinton, who likened Trump’s leadership to authoritarian rule, and warned them they were graduating amid a “full-fledged assault on truth and reason”.

“Leaders willing to exploit fears and skepticism have tools at their disposal that were unimaginable when I was graduating,” Clinton warned. “When people in power invent their own facts and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society.”

The students hung on her every word, nodding along, some through tears, and meeting Clinton’s indictment of the Trump era with cheers that rung of defiance.

Nearly five decades have passed since Clinton cemented, on that very same stage, her place as the face of a class dubbed as the “rebels in white gloves”. Clinton, although a political science major and active in student government, was not seen as a rabble-rouser.

But in 1969 she addressed her peers amid mounting tensions at the height of Vietnam, a war that was roundly unpopular among the younger Americans who filled campuses like Wellesley, then, as now, a women’s college, and streets across the country with demonstrations.

Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated against the backdrop of civil rights marches, and the rise of feminism had prompted women to demand equal roles in society.

And so when Senator Edward Brooke, a moderate Republican, devoted much of his speech to discouraging protest in favor of incremental change, Clinton insisted his message be met with a rebuttal.

“Part of the problem with just empathy with professed goals is that empathy doesn’t do us anything,” she said then. “We’ve had lots of empathy; we’ve had lots of sympathy. But we feel that for too long our leaders have viewed politics as the art of the possible. And the challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible possible.”

What followed was a prolonged standing ovation from Clinton’s classmates, even as their parents scowled at the brazen young woman who had the audacity to take on a USA senator.

To Clinton’s classmates, there was a poignant symbolism to her speech, which they said spoke for a generation of women unafraid to challenge their leaders. “We, many of us who had wiped teargas from our eyes, were appalled by Senator Brooke’s remarks,” Connie Hoenk Shapiro, a graduate of 1969, said. “Fortunately, so was Hillary.”

Clinton was no radical, said Shapiro, and her speech was not intended to be so. Clinton’s approach to crafting her prepared remarks was characteristic of the studious and methodical approach to policy she adopted over her political career.

Shapiro, who lived next to Clinton for two years, said Clinton spent the weeks prior to the speech soliciting ideas from her classmates about the issues they wanted her to address. Clinton sat in her room on the eve of commencement crafting a speech while surrounded by the countless pieces of paper she had been handed by her peers.

“She was always very much of a consensus-builder,” said Suzanne Salomon, another friend of Clinton’s of the 1969 graduating class. “She just captured people’s imagination. We were mildly rebellious at the time. And Hillary’s speech symbolized or brought to the fore the longings and desire among many of us to make changes in the world for the better.”

Clinton’s 1969 speech was not simply a clarion call for the youth, but also an exhortation to the women before her to break down the barriers imposed by a male-dominated society.

The Wellesley attended by Clinton and her class was, after all, bound by rules imposed upon women that to the class of 2017 might sound like ancient history. It was only 50 years ago that the women of Wellesley were subject to curfews and required to keep open the doors of their dormitories when men were granted permission to visit.

“Our attitudes are easily understood having grown up, having come to consciousness, in the first five years of this decade – years dominated by men with dreams, men in the civil rights movement, the peace corps, the space program,” Clinton told her graduating class. “So we arrived at Wellesley and we found, as all of us have found, that there was a gap between expectation and realities.

“But it wasn’t a discouraging gap and it didn’t turn us into cynical, bitter old women at the age of 18,” she advised. “It just inspired us to do something about that gap.”

Clinton’s doomed presidential campaign was, in many respects, a casualty of that very same gap nearly five decades later.

A female president had eluded the United States of America over its 240-year history, and at the onset of the 2016 election it looked as though Clinton was primed for the moment.

Unlike eight years earlier, when her dream of reaching the White House was quashed by a relatively unknown senator named Barack Obama, this time the roadmap looked far clearer. Clinton’s popularity soared when she concluded her tenure as secretary of state, and there was no match for the depth of her experience in public office on either side of the aisle in a crowded field of prospective contenders.

But then she officially became a candidate, and the familiar labels were attached to her public persona.

Interactions with voters were dogged by questions of her “likeability”, and whether or not she was out of touch with the lives of everyday Americans. The rollout of policy proposals, on a steady weekly basis, was often overshadowed by an emphasis on how each move fit into her perception as a calculating politician.

And then there were the emails. Clinton’s use of a private email server while heading the state department came to light a month before she launched her campaign, but it would go on to loom over her in the form of an oppressively constant fixation with whether she was trustworthy or honest enough to sit in the Oval Office.

“Trust, to my recollection, hasn’t really come up very much in major political campaigns,” said Suzanne Salomon, another friend of Clinton’s of the 1969 graduating class. “And yet I heard so many people say, ‘I just don’t trust Hillary.’ And I’m wondering if part of that was that maybe women are not to be trusted as much as men.”

Clinton routinely polled low on the question of trustworthiness, even as her opponent Donald Trump made brazenly false statements on a near daily basis.

A report released this week on the role of gender in the 2016 election by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University found a double standard in relation to the notion of honesty and ethics, among other areas.

“Research on gender stereotypes reveals that voters may be less likely to expect honesty and ethical behavior from men than from women,” the report stated. “As a result, it is entirely possible that women candidates might be held to higher standards than men when it comes to honesty and ethics in their pasts and on the campaign trail.”

The report attributed this double standard to seeking to understand how Clinton’s indiscretions were viewed differently from Trump’s, and why Trump honed in on the nickname “Crooked Hillary” while relishing in “lock her up” chants at his rallies.

“These tactics not only undermined Clinton’s credibility,” the author concluded, “but knocked her off the pedestal upon which stereotypes of feminine virtue place women.”

Kelly Dittmar, the report’s author, said the perceptions of both qualifications and likability uniquely intertwined for women in a way they were not for men. “We vote for men we don’t like because we view them as qualified, but we are far less likely to view women as qualified if we don’t find them likable,” Dittmar said. “It’s hard to say this hasn’t been a factor in perceptions of Hillary Clinton – in 2016 and before.”

Few moments captured the dissonance as strongly, and as fatefully, as when then-FBI director James Comey wrote in a 28 October letter to Congress that his agency was examining new emails related to the previous investigation into Clinton’s private server. A media frenzy ensued, even as little was known about the substance of the new emails, which turned out to be either duplicates or personal.

By contrast, three weeks earlier a leaked 2005 Access Hollywood tape revealed Trump bragging about kissing and groping women without their consent. More than a dozen women went on to accuse him of sexual assault. He denied the claims.

In a scathing op-ed, titled ‘If Hillary Clinton Groped Men’, Nicholas Kristoff asked readers to imagine if Clinton had been guilty of each one of Trump’s offenses.

Sitting with Kristoff for her first public interview since the election in April, Clinton acknowledged to the New York Times columnist that “misogyny played a role” in her defeat. The quote kicked off a familiar cycle, with critics swiftly concluding she was playing the woman card and absconding blame yet again.

“I think there were a lot of people, and surprisingly a number of women, who either were uncomfortable with, or in fact threatened, by the notion of a strong woman becoming president of the United States of America,” said Salomon.

On Friday in Massachusetts, Clinton, was more unencumbered than ever before in assessing her treatment in the election.

She needled Trump, subtly but repeatedly, for perpetuating an environment dominated by “alternative facts” where even the size of crowds was in dispute. She dwelled for a moment on the fake news phenomenon that disproportionately targeted her candidacy, mocking the conspiracy theory that a pizza parlor was the center of a child sex ring organized by her and her associates.

With a hint of sarcasm, she told the women before her they may too be mocked for their “elite” education by those seeking to silence them. “In the years to come, there will be trolls galore – online and in person,” she said, before recalling one of Trump’s more infamous attacks against her on the presidential debate stage:“They may even call you a nasty woman.”

For many of the 2017 graduates, Clinton’s presence was almost therapeutic.

“As a community, we were stunned by the election results,” said Caroline Bechtel, who majored in political science and Middle Eastern studies.

“I think this moment, Hillary being on campus, was a chance to collectively reflect upon that and to get motivated and energized to move forward and not give up.”

Clinton, she added, was a role model “for her successes and also for her failures”.

“It’s the way with which she’s moved forward after this election that is really inspiring to me,” Bechtel said. “We need to push for change and reach out to parts of the country that feel left behind.”

For all her references to the attacks she encountered as a candidate, at the heart of Clinton’s message was another rallying cry to the young women embarking on their next chapter. Recalling her address to women and young girls on the morning after the election, Clinton implored them not to be discouraged by her loss but to in fact view it as a source of motivation.

“If you feel powerless, don’t. Don’t let anyone tell you your voice doesn’t matter,” she said. “You didn’t create these circumstances, but you have the power to change them.”

See videos here: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/26/hillary-clinton-wellesley-trump-nixon

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  • Clyde Duncan  On 05/29/2017 at 9:51 am

    No doubt, there is a double-standard – one female Israeli journalist was in a restaurant with a male American-Jew discussing the competition between Barack and Hillary during the Democratic Primaries.

    The man said: Hillary Clinton will win the nomination – America would never elect a black man for President of the USA.

    The female, reached across the table, squeezed the man’s wrist and said: America will never elect a woman for President of the USA.

    The woman got on the plane and headed back to Israel. The rest is history.

    I say, they are both RIGHT …

    Hillary Clinton, or any woman, cannot confront a white man – or any man – in public. There is a double-standard …. women are NOT allowed to be warriors.

    Barack Obama, on the other hand, spent his formative years with his white mother and his white, successful, grandparents.

    Barack Obama thinks like a white man – he knows how to respond to them in public – he understands the difference.

    White and Black has nothing to do with DNA

    White and Black is about political expediency

  • Clyde Duncan  On 05/30/2017 at 12:02 am

    Germany Steps Up Attack on Trump for ‘weakening’ the West

    Foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said ‘short-sighted’ USA policies stood against the interests of the EU, after Merkel warns Europeans can’t depend on USA

    Agence France-Presse

    Germany has unleashed a volley of criticism against Donald Trump, slamming his “short-sighted” policies that have “weakened the west” and hurt European interests.

    The sharp words from Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel came after the USA president concluded his first official tour abroad taking in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Brussels and then Italy for a G7 summit.

    The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, warned on Sunday that the USA and Britain may no longer be completely reliable partners.

    Germany’s exasperation was laid bare after the G7 summit, which wrapped up on Saturday with Trump refusing to affirm USA support for the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.

    Days earlier, in Saudi Arabia, Trump presided over the single largest USA arms deal in American history, worth $110bn over the next decade and including ships, tanks and anti-missile systems.

    Gabriel said on Monday that “anyone who accelerates climate change by weakening environmental protection, who sells more weapons in conflict zones and who does not want to politically resolve religious conflicts is putting peace in Europe at risk”.

    “The short-sighted policies of the American government stand against the interests of the European Union,” he said, judging that “the west has become smaller, at least it has become weaker”.

    “We Europeans must fight for more climate protection, fewer weapons and against religious [fanaticism], otherwise the Middle East and Africa will be further destabilised,” Gabriel said.

    Germany’s harsh words for Washington, traditionally a close ally, were highly unusual and came as relations grow increasingly frosty.

    When Trump was inaugurated in January, Merkel had told the billionaire and former reality TV show star that cooperation would be on the basis of shared democratic values.

    The relationship between Merkel and Trump contrasts with the warm ties between herself and Barack Obama.

    The previous USA president last week travelled to Berlin to attend a key Protestant conference.

    Obama’s participation in a forum with Merkel last Thursday came hours before her meeting with Trump in Brussels at the NATO summit.

    At the alliance’s meeting on Thursday, Trump lambasted 23 of the its 28 members – including Germany – for “still not paying what they should be paying” towards the funding of the bloc.

    After the NATO and G7 summits, Merkel said at an election rally in southern Germany that “the times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days.”

    “We, the Europeans, will have to take our fate into our own hands. Our friendship with the USA, the UK, our neighbourly relationship with Russia and also with other countries count, of course. But we must know, we have to fight for our own future,” she said.

    In response to Merkel’s comments, Britain said it would be a “strong partner” to Germany.

    “As we begin the negotiations about leaving the EU, we will be able to reassure Germany and other European countries that we are going to be a strong partner to them in defence and security and, we hope, in trade,” Britain’s home secretary, Amber Rudd, told BBC radio.

    “We can reassure Mrs Merkel that we want to have a deep and special partnership so that we can continue to maintain European-wide security to keep us all safe from the terrorists abroad and those that are trying to be nurtured in our country,” Amber Rudd added.

    Separately, France’s defence minister Sylvie Goulard said that Trump’s broadside at NATO allies could boost efforts toward a common European defence policy.

    “At a time when we want to take steps forward for Europe and its defence, it is a spur,” said Goulard.

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