Amid 2016 Groundwork, Hillary Clinton Remains Silent on Keystone and the NSA


On Friday, Ready for Hillary, a super PAC that has been described as “a make-work program for former Clinton hands,” and that is busy building a database of donors and volunteers that the group will eventually sell or rent to an official Clinton campaign, held an all-day meeting at the Sheraton on Fifty-third Street, in New York.

In what it billed as a National Finance Council meeting, the super PACsponsored a series of panels with well-known personalities from the Clinton world. Interspersed between seminars on politics and the media, state officials delivered testimonials before donors under the rubric “Why I’m Ready for Hillary.” Clinton was actually in town to deliver a speech a few blocks away, at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, but she didn’t stop by the Sheraton. The Ready for Hillary event was like a “Star Trek” convention where Captain Kirk never shows up.

The discussion panels were closed to the press, but reporters assembled in a room down the hall and a steady stream of Clintonites visited to take questions. Most everyone dutifully noted that the Clinton candidacy was still just a hypothetical, but occasionally some activists slipped. Buffy Wicks, the executive director of Ready for Hillary, started one sentence with “When Hillary Clinton decides to run…,” dispensing with the façade.

It was an odd event: reporters asked questions about Hillary Clinton’s plans and policy agenda to a group of people who knew as little as anyone about her presumptive campaign and its messaging. In that sense, the Ready for Hillary meeting was the perfect embodiment of the Democrats’ current Hillary problem: everyone in the party seems to be supporting her, and yet nobody can articulate exactly why. (I wrote for the magazine recently about Clinton’s seeming inevitability as a Presidential candidate.)

The meeting came at the end of an eventful week—one that only underscored Clinton’s continued reluctance to explain what she might want to do as President. In Congress, the Senate debated two major issues: the Keystone XL pipeline and reform of the National Security Agency. Clinton remained silent about both.

As Secretary of State, Clinton was in charge of the process that will eventually lead to a decision about whether the Administration allows TransCanada to build its pipeline, which would transport crude oil from northern Alberta down to American refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. It has become a defining issue for U.S. environmentalists, and was one of the most politically charged and significant issues that Clinton faced during her time at State—and yet her memoir, “Hard Choices,” contains not a single mention of Keystone. When the Senate this week debated a bill to force Obama to build the pipeline—rallied by Mary Landrieu, the Democratic senator from Louisiana, who faces a runoff election in December—Clinton still had nothing to say.

To be sure, the sensitive review process for Keystone is ongoing, and Clinton might feel that, by discussing her personal views, she would be prejudicing the outcome. Then again, if she has strong feelings one way or the other, shouldn’t she use her influence to affect the final decision?

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The New Yorker


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