Voices4Hillary is inviting outstanding Americans to write about Hillary the person, complementing Hillary the global leader and statesperson we all know. We are pleased that one of the first writers in the series is the distinguished economist and former White House OMB Director and Vice Chair of the Fed, Alice M. Rivlin


By Alice Rivlin

As I listened to one speaker after another at the Republican convention in Cleveland attack some evil witch named Hillary, I wondered who this person was. Not the Hillary I know.

And certainly not the Hillary that is being described at the DNC in Cleveland by 9/11 survivors, moms of disabled children, victims of violence, veterans, police chiefs, former Secretaries of State, mayors of major cities, small business leaders.

When I first met Hillary Clinton in January, 1993, she was about to become First Lady of the United States. Bill Clinton, then President Elect, was transitioning from governor of small, mostly rural Arkansas to the hardest job in the world.

Fixing the economy was a high Administration priority, and I was on the new economic team, whose first task was to turn campaign rhetoric into actual policy. As we met around the dining room table in the governor's mansion in Little Rock, all of us—including Bill and Hillary Clinton--were trying to figure out our new roles.

Hillary greeted me with a warm smile, "I know you; you're Doug's mom." (My son was working for the Children's Defense Fund, whose board she chaired.) I liked her immediately—as any mother would.

At this meeting and subsequent ones, Hillary impressed me with her grasp of policy issues especially those involving families and children. She listened and asked questions. When she offered an opinion, it was sensible and well-informed. When her husband, who has infinite tolerance for wonky talk, let the conversation meander too long, she would intervene with, "Bill, we need to move to the next issue." I was grateful for her discipline, without which I feared the meeting would never end.

As the Administration health care reform proposal took shape, Hillary spent countless hours absorbing the details of America's complex health care system, listening to proposals and counter proposals. I traveled with her to Iowa, where we sat in rural living rooms listening to farm families talking about their health problems. Many told heart-rending stories of failing to get coverage for a seriously ill or disabled child or being bankrupted in the process. I was impressed both with how passionately Hillary wanted to help them-- and with her stamina. She worked so hard and cared so much. I didn't always agree with her (I thought her health plan was too elaborate and hard to explain), but there was no mistaking the depth of her commitment to struggling families.

First Lady introducing health care proposals with Congressional Leadership

I remember worrying about Hillary jumping into the rough politics of New York when she announced her run for Senate, but she thrived on her own. She campaigned effectively upstate as well as down, and quickly won respect in the Senate for her grasp of policy issues and her dedication to the citizens of New York. When I testified at a hearing of the Senate Budget Committee, I remember she had to wait a long time, as a junior member, to ask a question. When she got her chance, she was clear and well-prepared. Vintage Hillary, I thought—working hard and intelligently.

I was proud to support Hillary in her first presidential campaign, and watched her grow more comfortable in her role as the campaign progressed. I was delighted when President Obama asked her to be Secretary of State and admired the wholehearted way she served in that demanding role. She threw herself into the job, boned up on the details, and traveled the globe to the point of exhaustion, shoring up America's allies and advancing American interests.

What a learning experience for a future president—beats being governor of Arkansas!

I certainly wouldn't claim Hillary has never made mistakes—a small fraction of those she is accused of—but I don't know anyone who hasn't. I certainly never met the evil witch the speakers attacked at the Republican convention. The Hillary I know is an impressively competent, experienced public servant, who cares passionately about America and is totally dedicated to making life better for all Americans.


July 27, 2016

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