January 11th, 2008
12:00 PM ET
10 years ago

Martin: Clinton redefines what experience is

(CNN) - A good assessment of how a candidate successfully takes a message and makes a mark on voters is when you begin to hear them repeat it over and over in calls, e-mails and on radio talk shows.

After getting dusted by Sen. Barack Obama in Iowa, Sen. Hillary Clinton knew that she needed to change her position to combat the agent of change language presented by Obama. It was clear that just talking about her experience as First Lady wasn’t enough, because taking credit for all the good done by the administration of President Bill Clinton also meant assuming the bad.

But what Clinton has done is reframe her experience by expanding it beyond the eight years she’s served in the U.S. Senate. Now, you hear her talk about having 35 years of experience as a change agent.

The key part really isn’t being an advocate for change, but the emphasis on 35 years.

And it has caught on because I’ve noticed the phrase taking foot among the electorate, and they are now repeating it.

Judging by her resume, the 60-year-old Clinton has decided to reach back and suggest that all that the work she has done since graduating from college matters. The compare and contrast is that with Obama being 46, Clinton is suggesting that she has been working on issues since her chief rival was still in junior high school.


The biggest knock on his campaign has been Clinton defining him as being inexperienced, even though it is true that he’s served longer as an elected official (11 years) than Clinton (eight).

The Obama campaign has failed to adequately respond to this change in Clinton tactics, and if they don’t, they will pay for it - because for the most part, the rest of the states will require getting traditional Democratic voters out to the polls.

One way for them to do so is to stop having Obama just say he worked as a community organizer. But what does that really mean?

He has to paint the picture of going into the public housing complexes of Chicago, helping people get needed services. He must say that he drove a beat up car to the West Side and South Side to sign people up to vote. He must say that his experience in the streets – laid out as explicit as possible – is the kind of experience that he will reflect on and use when sitting in the Oval Office.

Obama’s weakness is among low to middle-income voters. Speaking about this experience can help him identify with these voters.

But as of now, Clinton is winning the experience battle by changing the definition.

- CNN Analyst Roland Martin

soundoff (125 Responses)
  1. joe


    January 11, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  2. Gobama

    "Hilary Clinton is suggesting that she has been working on issues since her chief rival was still in junior high school."


    Implying that she's AN OLD WOMAN!

    Voters should love that, grandma. LOL

    January 11, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Oprha has professional goo-roo writers creating his speaches. I here cocaine will keep you up all night so theres time to reherse.I do not understand why or how a country would romance the idea of a COMMANDER AND CHIEF who sometimes does and sometimes does't respect our UNITED STATES OF AMERICA flag by a civilian SALUTE unless your suffering from past substance abuse or perhaps better yet, looking the direction of the country to which your spiritual alliance is sealed.Theres one thing Bush said that will always stand true,"YOUR EITHER FOR US OR AGAINST US"

    January 11, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  4. pam s.c.


    January 11, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  5. Jay Graham, Dallas, TX

    James – If you criticize Clinton's foreign policy as a disaster, then what would you say about Bush's? Great achievement! Masterful performance! Or Bush as the smartest foreign policy honk this country as ever produced! I don't know which state you live in? And whether you have traveled anytime outside US? But, pick up any country of your choice (not Crawford, TX), and ask anyone about Bush and Clinton? If you tell them that you are Bush man, I can't guarantee your safety.

    January 11, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  6. Jane

    In my opinion, Senator Clinton has not worked in politics for 35 years – in law maybe, but that's different. I think this assertion is a stretch. Thanks.

    January 11, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  7. Mario

    Obuma has more experience that Hitlery period!

    Go Mitt!

    January 11, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  8. Sean McM

    Suggestion to Mrs. Clinton:

    Get Obama off the experience firewall he has constructed to hide his brief history of non-accomplishments and exaggerated claims. When, for example, is part time lecturing at a college more than that.... a part time teaching job....why isn't he proud of 10 years of teaching? That is a respectable accomplishment, but why does it have to be inflated to the "Constitutional Law Scholar" status? Give us a break...we may be Americans but we are NOT stupid.

    Suggestion: Substitue the word performance for experience


    January 11, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  9. Jose Card - Independent

    Why would Hillary say such things to wipe out her efforts in making herself look younger and friendlier for the election? This reminds me of my favorite classic, "Singing in the Rain".

    The best proof Hillary can have for her self-claimed experience can be found in this recent article, "Hillary's Hidden Hand" in Newsweek.

    CNN keeps on stopping me from mentioning this article.
    Please remember Newsweek is sold everywhere and can be read online.
    And, this may be the only thing Hillary has got for her candidacy.
    BBC and other media published this article as well.
    Is CNN willing to get behind on news reporting and favor entertainment instead?

    January 11, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  10. AJ, IL

    Mr. Roland Martin has "hit the hammer square on the head". Obama is trying to run a positive campaign and get voters to believe in the government again. His message of hope resonates with Americans, black and white, young and old. In order for Obama to run a more effective campaign against the Clintons and Republican attack machine, he has to get in the dirt but keep his gloves on.

    Hillary and his campaign know that they can't compete against Obama's message of hope and change. So they are taking a page from the Republican's play book (as reiterated by Pat Buchanan on the show Hardball). Hillary (and Bill) have to define Obama and get the media and America to agree with their "definition". Now that Richardson is out of the Democratic race, Hillary can claim the "experience" factor as her own. Over and over again we hear that Hillary say's she has 35 years of experience fighting for change. Obama has to do two things to combat Hillary's claim, first define her experience. Question what change she has done in her 35 years that didn't involved Bill Clinton being in charge. Obama has to get Hillary to define her experience and "agent of change" status separate from riding Bill Clinton's coat-tails. Secondly he has to clearly and specifically demonstrate what his experience as community organizer and civil rights attorney entailed and what he learned from those experiences in relations to people's everyday problems.

    January 11, 2008 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  11. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    "Clinton is winning the experience battle by changing the definition."

    That's more or less the equivalent of the old politician's trick of ignoring the question that was actually asked and answering some different question entirely. Typical Clinton trickery.

    January 11, 2008 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  12. Christine NJ

    If Obama win, the better name for our country should change to THE UNITED STATE OF AFRICA.

    January 11, 2008 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  13. Jose Card - Independent

    Cave1n January 11, 2008 3:40 pm ET

    Uttered by Hillary Clinton January 2008—Only the Simpsons could have beat this.

    "I want to make change, but I've already made change," she said. "I will continue to make change. I'm not just running on a promise of change. I'm running on 35 years of change." "The best way to know what change I will produce," she said, summing up, "is to look at the changes I've already made."

    Nobody could have said it the way Hillary did.
    Perhaps that's why she likes to do things quietly and leaves no fingerprints – in her own words.

    Good material for South Park, too.

    January 11, 2008 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  14. Eric in Massachusetts

    Tom of Dedham, I'm ashamed to be from the same state as you. Why should Hillary apologize and explain what Cuomo said? I don't expect Baracka Husein Obama to explain what Kerry said or to explain Oprah's extensive use of ebonics while stumping in South Carolina. Both of those are examples of innapropriate behavior, but I don't blame Obama. Just his supporters.

    Get a grip dude.

    January 12, 2008 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  15. MG

    Very true – Obama cannot just say he has been a community organizer. That is not an accomplishment that is a task that he perhaps had to do so he can lay down the road map to his political ambitions.

    Obama who claims to be a uniter is creatively polarizing the American people by using Martin Luther King Jr's dream speech. It's funny how he is just talking about it again when the Clintons have already embraced that dream and have worked to prosper that dream. Why do you think Bill was called "the first black president"?

    To give Pres. Johnson credit for enacting MLK Jr's dream is not to discredit or reduce the dream or MLKjr but to put a stop to the "battle cry" if Obama aspires to be president of America and not just of Africa.

    Hillary does not have to talk about MLKjr's dream because she has already been working to prosper that dream. And at this time when the economy, security and foreign policy are paramount, that dream is better served by electing someone who vcan, will, abd has been enacting change to make noble dreams come true. That's Hillary.

    January 12, 2008 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  16. Eric, from THE, yes THE, Republic of Texas

    Headline: Clinton redefines what experience is

    Well, I suppose that depends what your definition of experience is...

    Maybe in Bizarro World where up is down and yes is no can Hillary Clinton redefine "experience."

    This is yet another chapter in a much bigger book written by the original King and Queen of Audacity where they attempt to rewrite reality and history.

    Experience means ACTUALLY doing something... not talking about it, not polling about it and not holding focus groups on it.

    The only thing Hillary has done in those 35 years is sit on committees. In effect, she's never had a job in her life.

    Get a job Hillary. Get some REAL experience. Learn to manage a payroll. Learn to make a business work and survive. And like the rest of us, learn how to keep the greedy fingers of Big Spending liberals out of your wallet (ie Taxes). It's amazing how generous some people want to be with other people's money.

    January 12, 2008 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  17. Tim Calhoun '08, Moreno Valley, CA

    Martha is wrong.

    Obama did not vote present "on most issues." He voted present 130 times out of 4,000 TOTAL VOTES!

    Voting present is not uncommon in the Illinois legislature. He mostly voted present on issues he found unconstitutional.

    Obama haters, please gets your facts straight!!!

    January 12, 2008 03:44 am at 3:44 am |
  18. ABC!


    GREENVILLE, S.C. — Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday she sees her sometimes Southern accent as a virtue.

    "I think America is ready for a multilingual president," Clinton said during a campaign stop at a charter school in Greenville, S.C.

    The New York senator — who said she's been thinking about critics who've suggested that she tried to put on a fake Southern accent in Selma, Ala. — noted that she's split her life between Arkansas, Illinois and the East Coast.

    Clinton added a Southern lilt to her voice last week when addressing a civil rights group in New York City headed by the Rev. Al Sharpton. On Monday, dealing with a microphone glitch at a fundraiser for young donors, she quoted former slave and underground railroad leader Harriet Tubman.


    January 12, 2008 04:25 am at 4:25 am |
  19. mark wilkes barre pa

    Mr Martin ,,, an empty resume is an empty resume no matter how you try to spin it. Obama simply has none and Hillary's is made up and changed daily to fit her agenda of the day. Obama is a likable guy no-doubt. He comes off as trustworthy and kind ,but in these times that is not enough for me. Hillary will further polarize the nation, continue partison feuding for however long she can hold on to the presidency. If americans really want change, we are going to have to demand a better crop of candidates on both sides of the isle

    January 12, 2008 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  20. redflag


    You're right! The middle class need to be willing to give up some of their "hard earned money" to help the poor. Obama will make it happen. Finally!

    Workers Unite!!!!!

    January 13, 2008 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  21. Mom

    Your mother here children- I have more exprience than all of you so don't tell me about HOPE AND CHANGE you will only fail if you go out there and challenge the status quo.

    January 14, 2008 02:32 am at 2:32 am |
  22. patty

    Like they keep saying; there will be no middle class in the future, only very rich or very poor. just keep voting for Obama and that is what is going to happen!!!!!!!!!

    January 14, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  23. patty

    I'll take Clinton over Obama any given Day!

    January 14, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  24. Lillian, Des Moines, IA

    Mr. Martin: Your CNN comments are unfair and biased toward Obama. Michelle O. started the "race" dialog back in early Nov when she made race solidarity an issue at the Obama JJ Event rally and she has continually used a racially-based "we" in her speeches.

    Meanwhile, Obama and his top staffer have been sexist beyond belief and no one calls them on it. Obama said Hillary's work as first lady was "taking tea" (You can't IMAGINE how that ticked us women off!). His top "strategist" said Hillary somehow CAUSED Bhutto's assassination because she voted to put UN inspectors back into Iraq (the so-called "Iraq War" vote).

    And while Hillary removed staffers and volunteers who raised racial overtones, Obama did not reciprocate by firing his sexist employees or apologizing for his own nasty comment.

    So if you're going to be a commentator, be a fair one!! Right now, you have a double standard. The Obamas can do no wrong, apparently.

    January 16, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  25. sORRY!

    OUCH! is the insanity of the clintons trying to run a government that they help to destory and the realization that they have faded out to the american people.

    Now here is the click to all of this. It does not matter who is running against the clintons america will see them act the same way.

    In this instance it just so happen to be obama.

    PS I would like to see a list of all hillary's accomplishments in congress, in senate, and why did she allow Walmart to take over small businesses and how much money did she and Billy bank up until the time Obama told America on them.

    January 23, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
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