December 3rd, 2007
03:12 PM ET
15 years ago

Reich: Clinton lacks 'conviction about anything'

Robert Reich had some sharp words for Clinton Monday

(CNN) - Bill Clinton's former Secretary of Labor issued a blistering criticism of the former president's wife on Monday, accusing her of "not telling the truth" on Social Security and taking marching orders from her top pollster.

Reich, who has not endorsed a candidate but has written glowingly of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in recent months, ripped Hillary Clinton for saying Sunday that Iowa voters will have a choice "between someone who talks the talk, and somebody who's walked the walk."

"I don’t get it," Reich wrote on his blog. "If there’s anyone in the race whose history shows unique courage and character, it's Barack Obama. HRC’s campaign, by contrast, is singularly lacking in conviction about anything. Her pollster, Mark Penn, has advised her to take no bold positions and continuously seek the political center, which is exactly what she’s been doing."

Reich, who calls Clinton "my old friend" in the blog post, has a long-standing relationship with the Clintons, going back to when Reich and the former President were classmates and Rhodes Scholars at Oxford in the late 1960s. He left the Clinton administration in 1997 and now teaches public policy at the University of California-Berkeley.

Reich called Obama's Social Security plan to lift the cap on payroll taxes above $98,000 "a progressive solution" and said Clinton's preference to form a commission to examine how to fix Social Security is "avoiding the issue, and it's irresponsible."

He also picked apart Clinton's health care plan: "HRC doesn’t indicate how she‚d enforce her mandate, and I can’t find enough money in HRC’s plan to help all those who won’t be able to afford to buy it."

Reich called the New York senator's recent attacks on Obama a "series of slurs."

"If she's worried her polls are dropping, this is not the way to build them back up."

The Clinton campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

- CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby

soundoff (154 Responses)
  1. Ryan, New Jersey

    How many members of Bill Clinton's administration have to come out publicly against her before the rest of America figures it out. She is everything we can't afford to have in the office of President. She'll keep the status quo, the poor will get poorer, the rich will get richer, and the middle class will continue to struggle in stagnation. At the very least, Obama gives us a chance to make it better.

    December 3, 2007 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  2. Michael Sheridan, Grand Rapids, MI

    Reich didn't say that Hillary lacks conviction – he said, "HRC’s campaign ... is singularly lacking in conviction."

    It's quite possible that Sen. Clinton is a person of principle who holds deep convictions – and those principles and convictions might even more closely match my own than either of my current preferred candidates, Edwards and Obama. But it's difficult to tell when her campaign rhetoric seems to perpetually avoid upsetting some mythical "political center" that is supposed to win her the general election next November.

    Defining "the center" as halfway between Democratic positions and Republican rhetoric is no longer operative – and was always a mug's game, anyway, because the GOP just kept tacking farther and farther to the right every time "centrism" was re-defined.

    Somebody needs to tell Clinton (and the Democratic Congress, while we're at it) that traditional core Democratic positions are more popular with Americans than they have been in 30 years. It's safe to lead from "the left" – because "the left" is actually where most Americans are these days.

    December 3, 2007 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  3. Biggdawg, Chicago, Illinois

    Yet another negative attack on Hillary manufactured by the Obama camp and delivered by a proxy. This is good old fashioned mudslinging if ever there was.

    December 3, 2007 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  4. Dan, NJ

    I have seen a few posts saying Obama could not win states like Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Iowa, etc in a general election.

    Whereas Obama polls better with Independents and Republicans than any other Democrat, why does he not have a good chance in those toss-up states?

    December 3, 2007 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  5. a.thomas, new york, ny

    Why would we care what an obama supporter say? We could find lots of Hillary supporters saying negative things about Obama too!

    Look at the AP polls today. People who count (the dem voters) have spoken. Hillary beats Obama in issues, in leadership, in electability, etc.

    Hillary 08!

    December 3, 2007 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  6. Matt, Austin, TX

    Joe Biden is the only candidate with the ideas, plans, and government support to turn this country around. He would be a much stronger candidate against the Repubs than Hillary or Obama. I wish people would give him a chance. He knows what he's doing. He doesn't try to toe the line and he's respected by both Dems and Repubs in congress. He can actually stop the gridlock!

    December 3, 2007 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  7. pam Eugene, OR

    A vote for Clinton assures we all loose.
    Kudos to you CNN for fair reporting. I like this change.

    December 3, 2007 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  8. Michael, NY

    Reply to Milton Dropkin, (Boynton Beach) comment: "He is just not ready."

    Remember Milton, our pessimist elders who came before us dropped the same line when the positive big changes were taking place here (USA). Lincoln, JFK, MLK, etc. were told that America was not ready for their visions.

    Today, it is unfortunate that you have chosen to take the place of those elders and to be on the wrong side of history.

    1000s years from now, this line is still going to be dropped whenever people are faced with something new. People who are on the wrong side of history today are saying: Obama is not ready, America is not ready for a mormom (Mitt Romey), etc.

    I am glad that I am on the right side
    of history.

    December 3, 2007 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  9. Michael Sheridan, Grand Rapids, MI

    Quit wasting your time pumping Obama- he can't win the electoral college. Do you think Ohio or Florida will vote for him? Think again. A vote for Obama just helps the Republicans keep the White House- its' not worth it.
    Posted By BlueGoose : December 3, 2007 4:32 pm

    Do we really need to try appeasing the ignorant racist vote in order to win next year? Can you give me a time-frame for when Ohio and Florida will definitely be ready to vote for a black man for President, or at least an approximate year when it might be worth risking?

    This country will never be ready to elect a black man if we never nominate one – just like it will never be ready to elect a woman if we don't nominate one. Both Hillary and Barack are easily defeating the current crop of GOP candidates in reputable polls (Zogby doesn't qualify), so let's give Ohio and Florida the benefit of the doubt.

    It's possible they'll prove you right and me wrong – but we can't know until the experiment is tried. And with the current low ratings of the GOP across the board, I like our chances even if we nominate Gravel....

    December 3, 2007 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  10. Geri, Sacramento, CA

    Sounds as though another Obama supporter, Mr. Reich, has a grudge to settle against the Clintons. Or maybe it's just sour grapes. What does he mean when he speaks of Obama's history? Obama has no political history of note, and it seems that his character and conviction have been pretty much based on his great speech at the last Demo. convention. Hey, when he's scripted, he sounds great; when he's not, he's sadly lacking and talks out of both sides of his mouth. Just ask about his position on giving drivers' licenses to illegal aliens for a great example. Nearly swallowed his tongue as he stammered around and groped for an answer during the last debate. He should have been better prepared. Can't coherently explain his campaign's unethical use of political funds, either. Instead, he shifts the focus to Hillary and how "desperate she must be" to bring up the topic. Yeah; how about just answering questions? By the way, this coming weekend with Oprah will ultimately prove a disaster for Obama. He'll lose massive amounts of votes and gain precious few. Mr. Reich's biased endorsement of Obama is meaningless.

    December 3, 2007 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  11. Monte Brown

    Robert Reich is just a mealy-mouthed, egghead, know-it-all who likes to shoot his chops on everything under the sun as if his word was absolute. He is just another Hillary hater. The American people are just not tuning in to the hate, lies and demagoguery. Reich wants the Republicans to win the game. Reich has joined the ranks of the Republicans who think they can defeat Hillary by sensationalizing words. What is Reich’s solution to Social Security? What is Obama’s? Neither have a plan. At least Hillary has the courage to make a plan. I really wish people would stop the hating. I can never respect someone who bases their criticism on their own loathing of an individual. If Reich doesn’t have anything positive to say then he should shut up.

    December 3, 2007 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  12. Lorenz, Queens, NY

    People are getting smarter Clinton

    December 3, 2007 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  13. Ryan Indianapolis

    He is right, Hillary is about a fake of a person as you will ever meet. She is so unauthenic and so phony. Say whatever about Bush but he does not change who he is depending on what crowd he is speaking too. Hillary is just plain Pathetic.

    December 3, 2007 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  14. Keith, Chicago

    Why would we care what an obama supporter say? We could find lots of Hillary supporters saying negative things about Obama too!

    Look at the AP polls today. People who count (the dem voters) have spoken. Hillary beats Obama in issues, in leadership, in electability, etc.

    Hillary 08!

    Posted By a.thomas, new york, ny : December 3, 2007 4:40 pm

    Actually, Robert Reich is not a supporter of Obama – he has not endorsed Obama or anyone, yet. He actually happens to be Bill Clinton's former Secretary of Labor (not to mention is very intelligent – a Rhodes Scholar, and a former cabinet member who is very highly regarded/respected by most Democrats). If someone who worked really closely with Obama had a lot of negative things to say about him, it might be newsworthy too.

    December 3, 2007 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |

    This is indeed a blistering indictment of Hillary Clinton from an old friend. I'm sure Reich feel that he is assessing the Clinton campaign accurately but I think he is completely wrong. Hillary is right to take a centerist stand on her positions. Campaigning for the Presidency is about taking a tactical, compelling stance on the issues but in a manner to not offend more voters than one would gain. WHY DO YOU THINK DEMOCRATS LOSE SO OFTEN FOR PRESIDENT. AVOID THE EXTREMES. AS BILL DID, YOU MUST APPROACH THE CENTER.

    December 3, 2007 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  16. Daniel, Dallas, TX

    a.thomas, new york, ny posted 12/3 4:40:

    "Look at the polls people!"

    I did look at the polls... and frankly, I don't feel like I can trust a poll that took more than 2 weeks to collect data and waited for a full 8 days to announce the results. All that those two polls tell me is that during the month of November, more people preferred Hillary.

    That's it. They don't say a thing about what people think now – otherwise they would collect data in a 2 to 3 day period like almost every other poll.

    December 3, 2007 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  17. Surrealist, Fort Myers, FL

    Before I said: " thought I was informed. But after reading Reich's blogs. I'm beginning to think differently about how non-progressive her policies are compared to Obama's. Hmmmmmmmmmm."

    OK...I've had a chance to thank on it a bit. And then re-read Reich's blog. First–I know why he never held public office–and is (and should remain) a specialist and liberal educator. I'm back to where I was about Obama. Second, Obama can't just waltz into the WH and expect to install unilateral caps on SS deductions (this will take consensus from both parties). I believe he is overzealous in the practical expectations he is setting for his office, particularly with the war in Iraq, war on terror occupying a large amount of his time, and without full congressional control. On the world stage–some of his comments on Pakistan have seriously concerned me. Hillary I'm Back!!! Both Obama and Reich's assertions presume unlilateral consensus–and that is a stupid presumption.

    December 3, 2007 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  18. Jesse, Burnsville, MN

    What A. Thomas fails to note about the polls released today is that they were taken over a 3 week period starting November 7 (ALMOST A MONTH AGO ALREADY). It's pretty fair to say that a lot has changed over the last month.

    As a Democrat, I have to ask my fellow Democrats that, if Hillary divides US DEMOCRATS this much, do you think that she is someone that will have a positive effect on our society as a whole. Do you Clinton supporters really believe that she will bring anything other than partisan bitterness and gridlock? Are you really looking forward to that? Me, I am looking forward to a change and I believe that only Obama can provide that.

    December 3, 2007 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  19. las vegas joe

    Quit wasting your time pumping Obama- he can't win the electoral college. Do you think Ohio or Florida will vote for him? Think again. A vote for Obama just helps the Republicans keep the White House- its' not worth it.

    Posted By BlueGoose : December 3, 2007 4:32 pm

    r u kidding if obama can beat clinton (with all the so called powerful campaign machine) at her own game ,then whats there to be scared off?? its like saying you cant beat mike tyson but you are cappable of beating the guy that defeated him ,ironic. it goes to show that a little thinking is in order my dear clintoneans?

    December 3, 2007 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  20. RJ, SV, AZ

    FYI, Milton Dropkin, Obama has been involved in politics for longer than Hillary. I can't understand you people that keep spouting off about "experience." Take Larry Craig for example...his "experience" has lead him to try to take advantage of the judicial system, lie to the American public, etc. If that's what "experience" means, I think I'd rather have someone that hasn't been involved long enough to become so corrupted.

    Of course Bush had about 0 experience in national and world politics, but I think Obama has made it abundantly clear that he is no Bush and won't be lead around by a VP holding a shiney to distract him...

    December 3, 2007 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  21. Winston

    All you Hillary haters get ready for the Clintons again cause Madam President is ready to lead from day One!

    December 3, 2007 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  22. Vickie, Columbia, MD

    Let's face it folks....NO ONE from the Clinton Cabinet has come forth to endorse this woman. Don't you find that peculiar? I find it telling!!!!

    December 3, 2007 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  23. leefrand

    I agree with Reich on Hillary. She has not stood for anything so far on the campaign trail, and is the wife of an ex president who was impeached for indecent behavior. And that's not a good thing.

    December 3, 2007 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  24. Glenn,Birmingham,Al

    Well there you have the truth, told by a Clinton insider, Do we want change (Obama) or not?

    December 3, 2007 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  25. Joseph M. Saint Paul, MN

    I am a Democrat and proud of it. What I am currently seeing on the Democratic side is a contrast between people who just want to put a Democrat in the White House versus putting an old fashioned progressive ( who has convictions) in the Oval Office. While I respect Mr. Reich's synopsis of Senator Clinton's political battle for the Democratic nomination, he fails to understand that America is not going to elect a "True Progressive" to be head of our great nation. America is still very much a center/right electorate. Senator Clinton is playing the electoral strategy just right by "being a CENTRIST." She is not going to play on populist, liberal, left leaning groups which only account for an estimated 20-25 percent of the the U.S. electorate. She is trying to appeal to moderates and independents who don't feel an allegiance to either political party. People forget that whoever his elected President of the United States is the President of all the people; Not just the political right or political left. President George W Bush forgot it or ignored that fact and that is why he is not respected and has damaged the United States image around the world.

    December 3, 2007 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
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