Community Palette

Why People are So 'Ready for Hillary'

August 12, 2013

There isn’t much Hillary Clinton does these days that doesn’t come under severe scrutiny for how it potentially impacts her possible 2016 presidential race. Last week she stoked the fires by having lunch with President Obama and breakfast the next morning with Vice President Biden. Many would have liked to be a fly on the wall at those meals.

Having made no bones about my desire to see Hillary run I was pleased to read the Huffington Post story by Steve Peoples that reported the super PAC ‘Ready for Hillary’ raised over $1.25 million just this spring. But even more exciting was hiring whiz kids, including Jeremy Bird who developed the Obama field operation and then founded 270 Strategies to get ready a volunteer and field operation should Hillary decide to run.

Why all the continued excitement about a woman who has been in the public eye since Bill Clinton was elected Arkansas Attorney General in 1977? A woman who received her baptism by fire on the national level when she appeared on 60 Minutes doing her so-called ‘stand by your man’ appearance.  Clearly there is something about Hillary that intrigues people and makes them want more.

No other woman in America has had more press, both good and bad. Two projects recently announced, include a TV mini-series about her and a documentary film on her life. The appetite to see and hear more about her seems insatiable. Organizations who have hired her to make a speech have reported huge increases in attendance at their meetings. The American Society of Travel Agents said their keynote in 2012 drew 800 people and over 5,000 are expected to come hear Hillary speak at their 2013 meeting in Miami. Another group in Chicago reported long lines at the convention center with over 17,000 coming to hear her. She can demand more than most former President’s for a speech and is only matched by her husband in what people will pay to have her speak.

A recent invitation for a Clinton Foundation reception and dinner at the Italian Embassy on September 9th listed $1,000 for the reception and $25,000 a couple for dinner. Actually cheap when you consider that for that amount you get Bill, Hillary and Chelsea. Beginning in 2015 if Hillary announces it will be at least $37,500 a couple to attend a dinner and that will be with just Hillary.

What makes her potential presidency so exciting is the depth and passion she brings to the causes she cares about and the scope of her knowledge and understanding of what can be done to make a real difference in our world. Her intellect goes without question these days but she also has a work ethic that surpasses anyone else’s. She is now a recognized expert on foreign affairs but maintains her razor focus on issues that impact children, women and girls, and families. She has it all and if elected would be the most prepared person ever to enter the White House for a first term. She won’t need that first term to find the levers of power as she knows where they are and how to use them. She has seen the operation of the White House in person and also spent time in the Congress. She knows what makes people tick and even what ticks them off.

By her actions and positions Hillary Clinton is a moderate. A moderate who supports national healthcare; marriage-equality; a woman’s right to choose; promotes a pathway to citizenship for those immigrates who came here illegally to work and find a better life for their families; but takes second place to none in her belief that we need to maintain a strong national defense. Her positions over the years have gotten those on the left and the right mad at her. Somehow that makes her the candidate I can support. She understands and believes in the separation of church and state and fights for children because she knows that the future success of our nation depends on them.

Speaking as a Democrat it is important to keep together the coalition that elected President Obama. That includes the middle class, young people, minority voters, and LGBT Americans. Hillary speaks to those voters but she also speaks to women across the political spectrum who can rightfully say, “It is our time”. Hillary has the ability that no other potential candidate has to change the political landscape and win not only the Northeast and West but to add states like Texas, West Virginia and Arkansas among others to the Democratic column. Those are some of the reasons so many are ‘Ready for Hillary’.

This column first appeared in the Washington Blade.

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Beyoncé at Verizon Center

July 31, 2013

Growing up in New York, I had the opportunity to attend concerts and shows of all kinds. As a young man I was introduced to Broadway by getting into theaters to watch many second acts. In those days you could go to a Broadway theater during intermission and walk in with the crowd and either use a standing room location or find an empty seat and watch the rest of the show.  That way if the show was great you could go buy a ticket for it some other time or otherwise not feel bad that you spent the money on a not so good production.

Luke James (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Luke James

I was a regular at the Hunter College Theater having my eardrums blasted at rock shows like the Doors and Jefferson Airplane, but at the same time one didn’t mind because at those shows one got high just sitting in the theater. With friends attended shows at the Fillmore East and at Broadway venues hearing everyone from Judy Garland to Janice Joplin. These days my concert going is more limited. I recently went to a Madonna concert for the first time in 20 years and came away disappointed.

Tuesday evening, I went with a friend to the Beyoncé concert or, more appropriately, the Beyoncé show at the Verizon Center. It was a show or spectacle in all respects. It was choreographed in detail to the last second with absolutely no spontaneity at all. Beyoncé has an amazing voice but you rarely heard it through the production numbers until near the end of the show when she sang a Whitney Houston number.  She is clearly a fantastic dancer with a great body and amazing legs which she shows off to advantage in every costume change and there were many of those. Her backup dancers are fantastic with a couple that could do a show on their own.

Beyoncé (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Beyoncé

It was a fun evening and the lighting and the filmed segments shown behind her were exciting. But the show was totally over produced. When you have a star as talented as Beyoncé, why not showcase her and let her shine instead of making every number a production. The one person showcased well was her opening act, Luke James. He is a great-looking guy with a tremendous voice that you could hear and appreciate during his time on stage. It was all him with a small band and it was great.

I still love Beyoncé but listening to her sing without all the production is more to my liking.

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The District's First Elected Attorney General

July 7, 2013

In 2010 the voters of the District approved having the Attorney General be independently elected. Today the AG is appointed by the Mayor. There are many issues which remain regarding how that office will function and they are being debated in Councilmember Tommy Wells’ committee. I would urge Councilmember Wells to take the advice contained in a letter sent to him by former Mayor Anthony Williams and Georgetown law professor Peter Edelman among others and support Bill 20-134, the Elected Attorney General Implementation and Legal Service Establishment Amendment Act of 2013.

This amendment was written by the current AG, Irv Nathan, who at this time has said he will not be a candidate for the office next year. Actually no one has announced for the position yet. In deference to open disclosure I have urged former Councilmember Bill Lightfoot to consider running for the position. Bill 20-134 was sent to the Council by the Mayor to clarify how the new independent AG’s office could function in a way that would give future Mayors the ability to continue to control the agencies they are responsible for.

The issues addressed in the letter support the Mayor’s plan for a smooth transition to an independent AG. The proposed legislation (PDF) calls for a separate Mayor's Office of Legal Counsel to oversee in-house agency attorneys and changes the chain of command for agency attorneys.

Back in February the Legal Times Blog reported that “Under Gray's plan, agency legal divisions would no longer report to the attorney general's office. Instead, agency general counsel would report to their agency heads. The Mayor's Office of Legal Counsel, which would include a director appointed by the mayor and a small group of lawyers, would coordinate agency legal departments and provide legal advice to the mayor and executive branch. Members of the attorney general's office who primarily work for an agency would move to that agency. According to the attorney general's office, that change would affect about 140 employees, including an estimated 100 lawyers. The bill would also add a new provision to the D.C. Code stating that none of the changes would affect the attorney-client privilege between the attorney general's office and agency personnel. The attorney general's office is expected to keep most of its current functions after it becomes independent, including defending the city against litigation and prosecuting certain misdemeanors and juvenile crime”.

What the Mayor’s bill suggests is that the Attorney General’s office should in essence use the model that the federal government uses and it is a model that States like New York also use. The alternative is having attorney’s working in Mayoral agencies responsible to the Mayor being responsible to another independently elected official. One can only imagine the chaos that could ensue if the AG has a different political agenda than the Mayor and wants to influence the attorneys against the policy of the agency in which they work.

Nothing in the bill changes the fact that the Attorney General continues to have the final say for the executive branch on questions of constitutional and statutory interpretation in the District. The bill also makes clear that even when the agency lawyers are removed from the AG’s office there will be more than enough resources still available for him/her to carry out the work of the Office.

Wells’ committee’s draft report says  “Removing agency counsels’ ability to provide sound legal advice without fear of retribution will do nothing to stem the embarrassments of incompetence, corruption and graft the District government continues to suffer.”  It goes on to say “having all agency lawyers report to the attorney general ensures there is an independent voice focused on what the law requires, not what the Mayor wishes.”  What Wells disregards is that the independently elected AG is just another political office and in itself will do nothing to stem incompetence, corruption or graft.

There are already three individuals including Wells who have announced they will run for Mayor next year. The next Mayor’s term will begin concurrently with the term of the new independently elected AG in January 2015. It would be wrong to have the next Mayor start his/her term with one hand tied behind their back which is what Wells’ view of the AG’s office would accomplish.

I urge the Council to back the bill submitted by the Mayor so that we can intelligently move forward with a transition to a strong independently elected AG. This column first appeared in the Washington Blade.

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