Hillary Clinton didn’t take the bait to announce her 2016 run in a suburban Long Island catering hall on Friday even before about as close to a hometown crowd as she’ll find. But few of the 1,000 who attended the event hosted by the Long Island Association, a business trade group, could have left with any doubt that the former FLOTUS wants to return to the White House as POTUS.
Clinton acknowledged the intellectual and physical challenge of another presidential run — she seemed ready for that part. But it became clear during her presentation — to a group she has addressed six times before — that the challenge now is determining what she would accomplish if she won.
“What is your purpose for governing” and what can she really get done in such a bitterly partisan time?
In an hour-long question and answer format, the former secretary of state delivered a mesmerizing account of watching the raid at Osama bin Laden’s compound unfold in real time in the White House situation room. But she meandered about the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi that led to the death of Ambassasdor Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Clearly the theme of the day was the extreme partisianship that Clinton said led to the “regrettable” government shutdown.
She recalled the 1995 government lockdown masterminded by then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich. After the day’s verbal volleys were over, Gingrich would come to the White House late at night and “go upstairs with Bill” to talk about things on which they could agree.
She also gave a shout-out to Republican Rep. Pete King of Seaford, who recently criticized those in his own party with extremist positions. “King is sending a signal that this is not the way to win elections,” she said.
In response to a question about 9/11, she recounted her manuevering, as the state’s junior senator, in the 48 hours following the attack on the World Trade Center. She and Sen. Charles Schumer tried to get a commitment of $20 billion in federal aid for the city. They went to see President George W. Bush. What do you want, she remembered him asking. She gave him the number and he replied, “You got it.”
And when asked the BIG question by LIA president Kevin Law, the final query of the luncheon, Clinton took over six minutes to answer — here’s my low quality I-Pad video if you want to hear it all.
After giving her stock answer that she will decide next year, she returned again to the toxic atmosphere in Washington. (Although it’s hard to believe it can be worse than her time as first lady, when she was accused of fraud, attacked for somehow being responsible for the death of the White House counsel, and watched her husband be impeached by the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.)
Clinton said she understands “how difficult the job is,” because the president has to first break down the ideological barriers that have grown so fiercely high in Washington. During her lifetime, discrimination against race, ethnicity and even sexual orientation has been overcome in many quarters. Now the disrespect is toward those with differing viewpoints.
“Now the big bias is, you don’t want to be around people who don’t agree with you politically. Well if you don’t want to be around such people, how on earth can you ever get to know them well enough to figure out how to find common ground? We're sorting ourselves by attitudes more than any other characteristic. How do you break that down?” she asked.
Her biggest applause line was the punch line she delivered to those in office, “Govern now.”
Then to the concern of the Secret Service, she left the stage to work the crowd of familiar faces, shaking hands and hugging and smiling at those who told her to run.
The Benghazi protesters holding signs calling her a murderer were waiting outside.