MEMO from Obama for America

TO:     Interested Parties

FR:      Obama Campaign

RE:     Clinton’s Exaggerations: The Domestic Record

DA:     March 26, 2008

Senator Clinton’s claims about her visit to Tuzla, Bosnia—and the footage disproving her account—have created quite a stir. And with good reason. As the Associated Press wrote yesterday:  “What makes Clinton's situation unique—and the Bosnia embellishments so damaging—is the fact that the New York senator has built her candidacy on the illusion of experience. Any attack on her credentials is a potential Achilles heel.”

Unfortunately, Clinton’s fantastic invention of a sniper-raked landing is only one in a growing list of instances in which she has exaggerated her role as First Lady, particularly with respect to domestic policy.

Clinton has credited herself with “creating” the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and “helping to pass” the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Like the Tuzla story, both of these claims turn out to false—raising serious questions not just about the rationale for Senator Clinton’s campaign, but about her willingness to adhere to the truth.

“Creating” the State Children’s Health Insurance Program?

Ø      Question: Did Hillary Clinton “create” SCHIP as First Lady? That’s what her web site says. But it’s not what the program’s congressional sponsors say.
On her website, Senator Clinton goes so far as to laud what she calls “her successful effort to create the SCHIP Children’s Health Insurance program.”

“Create” SCHIP? Once again, Senator Clinton’s claim simply doesn’t hold up.

The Boston Globe recently conducted an investigation into Clinton’s purported role in the legislation, concluding that:  “Hillary Clinton, who has frequently described herself on the campaign trail as playing a pivotal role in forging a children’s health insurance plan, had little to do with crafting the landmark legislation or ushering it through Congress, according to several lawmakers, staffers, and healthcare advocates involved in the issue.”

Not only is Senator Clinton’s claim of authorship false, but the White House actually opposed SCHIP during it’s creation:  “But the Clinton White House, while supportive of the idea of expanding children’s health, fought the first SCHIP effort, spearheaded by Senators Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah…”

Representative Henry Waxman, a leader on the bill who remains unaffiliated in the race, said he has no memory of any involvement by Clinton:  “It was a bipartisan bill. I don’t remember the role of the White House,” said Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat who has not endorsed a candidate in the presidential race and who was the chief Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which deals with health matters. “It did not originate at the White House.”

And Senator Kennedy, the Senate’s undisputed leader on universal health care and one of the actual creators of SCHIP, does not agree with Clinton’s assessment: “Asked whether Clinton was exaggerating her role in creating SCHIP, Kennedy, stopped in the hallway as he was entering the chamber to vote, half-shrugged.  ‘Facts are stubborn things,’ he said, declining to criticize Clinton directly. ‘I think we ought to stay with the facts.’”

Leadership on the Family and Medical Leave Act?

Ø      Question: Did Senator Clinton “help to pass” FMLA? Her White House schedules and the timeline of the bill’s passage call that claim into question.
Clinton claims on the trail and on her website that she played a significant role in “helping to pass the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to enable new parents to take time off without losing their jobs…” But there is no evidence that this is the case.

For starters, the bill was signed into law only 16 days after Bill Clinton took office—not much time for the new First Lady to play much of a role. On top of that, the Associated Press reported that an existing version of the bill that had already been passed “by majorities in the last Congress” was altered only slightly and “recycled for enactment” [AP, 2/9/93].

In addition, Senator Clinton’s recently released White House schedules show that she didn’t have a single meeting on the bill she now touts. And in her own autobiography she discusses FMLA without making any mention of having a role in its passage.

Now that she’s running for President, however, the facts seem to have changed.  Or at least her allegiance to them has.

Experience: Foundation of the Clinton Candidacy

The refrain that Senator Clinton “has the experience to lead on Day One” has been repeated endlessly since she entered the race. On closer inspection, the claims Senator Clinton makes turn out to be little more than stories.

With the next primary less than a month away, it’s time for Senator Clinton to finally face the “vetting” she’s so fond of discussing. Badly trailing in delegates, votes, and states won, she’s going to need more than a new script to win the nomination. But if she wants to regain the trust of the American people, it would be a good place to start.