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Human rights activists are ‘out front’ of others and ‘thank goodness they are’ –Hillary Clinton

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Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

A lot of people are talking about Terry Gross’s interview of Hillary Clinton last week in which Gross sought to pin Clinton down on the question of whether she changed her mind about gay marriage or just came out in favor when it was safe to do so politically. I often criticize Gross here for her old-school Middle East opinions. But this interview shows her brilliance– patient, penetrating, precise, courageous. The portion I’m excerpting below, though, is about Clinton stating that activists are out front on human rights and get other people to change their minds. It’s a truism, of course, but a good one. I think the unspoken part of this exchange is the idea that Terry Gross actually supported gay marriage back in the 90s, as did many progressives. She doesn’t say so, but you can sense it in her firmness with Hillary’s prevarication; she is honoring the vanguard’s courage by seeking to establish just when Hillary got in, and why. Some straight folks I know refused to get married out of solidarity with their LGBT brothers and sisters. (Not me; I was in the regressive camp here, I had to be educated/reformed.)

I offer this exchange because it is wise about how political movements operate. And let’s be clear: Palestinian rights are today in the vanguard. You can change your mind tomorrow or next week or in a decade, but you will change your mind, or become irrelevant.

GROSS: No, I understand, but a lot of people already believed in it back the ’90s. A lot of people already supported gay marriage.

CLINTON: But not – to be fair, Terry, not that many. Yes, were there activists who were ahead of their time? Well, that was true in every human rights and civil rights movement, but the vast majority of Americans were just waking up to this issue and beginning to, you know, think about it and grasp it for the first time. And, you know, think about their neighbor down the street who deserved to have the same rights as they did or their son or their daughter. It has been an extraordinarily fast – by historic terms – social, political and legal transformation. And we ought to celebrate that instead of plowing old ground, where in fact a lot of people, the vast majority of people, have been moving forward – maybe slowly, maybe tentatively, maybe not as quickly and extensively as many would have hoped, but nevertheless we are at a point now where equality, including marriage equality, in our country, is solidly established. Although there will be places, Texas, just to name one, where that is still going to be an ongoing struggle.

GROSS: I’m pretty sure you didn’t answer my question about whether you evolved or it was the American public that changed (Laughing).

CLINTON: I said I’m an American, so of we all evolved. And I think that that’s a fair, you know, that’s a fair conclusion.

GROSS: So you’re saying your opinion on gay marriage changed as opposed to you – you just felt it was comfortable…

CLINTON: You know, somebody is always first, Terry. Somebody’s always out front and thank goodness they are. But that doesn’t mean that those who joined later in being publicly supportive or even privately accepting that there needs to be change are any less committed. You could not be having the sweep of marriage equality across our country if nobody changed their mind. And thank goodness so many of us have.

GROSS: So that’s one for you changed your mind? (Laughing).

CLINTON: You know, I really – I have to say, I think you are very persistent, but you are playing with my words and playing with what is such an important issue.

GROSS: I am just trying to clarify so I can understand.

CLINTON: No, I don’t think you are trying to clarify. I think you’re trying to say that, you know, I used to be opposed and now I’m in favor and I did it for political reasons. And that’s just flat wrong. So let me just state what I feel like you are implying and repudiate it. I have a strong record. I have a great commitment to this issue and I am proud of what I’ve done and the progress we’re making.

GROSS: You know, I’m just saying – I’m sorry – I just want to clarify what I was saying – no, I was saying that you maybe really believed this all along, but – you know, believed in gay marriage all along, but felt for political reasons America wasn’t ready yet and you couldn’t say it. That’s what I was thinking.

CLINTON: No. No, that is not true.


CLINTON: I did not grow up even imagining gay marriage and I don’t think you probably did either. This was an incredibly new and important idea that people on the front lines of the gay rights movement began to talk about and slowly but surely convinced others of the rightness of that position. And when I was ready to say what I said, I said it.

P.S. At the risk of wading into the Clinton wars, this interview reminds me of why I hope Hillary Clinton doesn’t run: these types of verbal battles will happen again and again, with all the hints of opportunism and shadings of truth and unspoken back story (Brian Lehrer said yesterday that Gross and Clinton are at dagger-points because Gross once asked her whether her husband is a sex addict). I’m sick of the story and the dynamic.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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18 Responses

  1. palijustice on June 17, 2014, 12:04 pm

    I didn’t think Hillary handled the questions badly. Most Americans evolved on this issue. I’m not a fan of hers because she’s another warmonger and “Israel can do no wrong” politician. I hope Elizabeth Warren gets in the Democratic primary.

  2. seafoid on June 17, 2014, 12:07 pm

    Each wrinkle on her face marks x thousand dead brown people.

    The surge in support for gay marriage over the last decade must be very worrying for Zionist strategists. A few years ago Karl Rove could build an election win out of opposition to what is now commonly supported. Zionism will fall similarly. They just can’t sign up enough nihilistic kids.

    • joemowrey on June 17, 2014, 2:15 pm

      Seafoid, thanks for pointing out that Clinton is responsible for unconscionable amounts of carnage. Unfortunately, the vast majority of so-called progressives will forget all about her war crimes (not to mention her unflagging support of corporatism as well as Zionism) when it comes election time, just like they did for Obama in his second run. After all, she’s a Democrat and a Woman! Disgusting. She belongs on trial in the Hague. IMHO, any commentary on her (including this article) which does not mention her crimes is specious at best.

      And compliments for Terry Gross? That’s gross indeed. She is brilliant alright; a brilliant propagandist. If we aren’t telling it like it is about people like this then what we are doing is enabling their chicanery.

      • seafoid on June 17, 2014, 4:22 pm

        Libya is mired in death 3 years later. Great Secretary of State for the war industry.

        The lipstick is superfluous. Cheney never needed it.

  3. Woody Tanaka on June 17, 2014, 12:13 pm

    Besides many of her foreign policy positions (and the disgusting tape, recently uncovered, of her yucking it up talking about how she got the rapist of a 14 year old off on time served… Hardy har har, Hill…), the think I most hate about her is the fact that she is just so transparently fake. She can’t just say, “I used to be opposed to gay marriage, but not I’m not, and here’s why” like a normal person. No, she’s got to pretend that what happened was that she was just bopping along, entirely neutral (and thus non blameworthy) on the question of gay marriage, when suddenly a tidal wave of activism overtook her and the rest of America in 2004 and she woke up the next morning going “Oh, of course I support gay marriage, too bad I never even thought of the issue at all before. Nope. Didn’t give it a second thought before right now, and I’m totally coming to this conclusion on the merits without any concern for the political considerations…”

    No. Wrong. Besides being factually incorrect (as all of us who remember the 1990s can attest), what happened here was just millions of individual people changing their minds on the issue. But she can’t admit that, because if she were to do so, she would open herself up (and fairly so) to the charge that her previous opinion, in fact, was wrong and she was worthy of some blame for getting that one wrong.

    A normal person, with a normal level of humility and self-opinion, would just shrug their shoulders, say “yup. Live a day, learn a little” and move on. But for some reason she seems incapable of doing that. It’s insane. (I guess all polticians have to possess that toxic stew of runaway hubris and juvenile narcissism, or else they’d do something useful with their lives rather than being politicians, but she’s got a double dose, it seems.)

    • eljay on June 17, 2014, 12:30 pm

      Her about-face on supremacist “Jewish State”, when it finally falls out of favour with the U.S., will be even more impressive.

      • seafoid on June 17, 2014, 4:23 pm

        That is going to be a great week, when they all drop the bots.
        I might send Shmuley a voucher for counseling.

      • just on June 17, 2014, 4:46 pm

        I think you can hold onto your money seafoid.

        The US and the “west” will have plenty left over once the bots are dropped and peace, rather than war, is what we wage.

        We might even be able to help slow climate change, provide proper healthcare to all Americans, be a force for good again…

      • MHughes976 on June 17, 2014, 4:57 pm

        She has been inconsistent, which is not always a bad thing. But it means that backers find it hard to trust her. She’s very intelligent, of course, even deep, but that means that people can always envisage her shifting position suddenly, and giving a plausible-sounding story about why she’s doing it, as soon as that looks like the advantageous course of action. I’m sure that the Israelis, whose whole mentality is built (for some understandable reasons, I admit) on insecurity, don’t trust her further than they can throw her.

      • adele on June 17, 2014, 6:23 pm

        thanks for all the lol’s! On a sweltering summer day those lol’s, along with some fine breezes, work magic.

        PS: don’t forget to send those vouchers!

    • Donald on June 17, 2014, 7:55 pm

      “the think I most hate about her is the fact that she is just so transparently fake. She can’t just say, “I used to be opposed to gay marriage, but not I’m not, and here’s why” like a normal person.”

      I was just about to type the same thing–all Hillary had to do here was admit that she’s a flawed human being who, like many or maybe even most Americans in the 90’s thought that gay marriage was wrong, but she changed her mind, like so many others did. But no, she had to see Gross’s questions as an attack. And in her response she comes across looking like what she really is, a typical slimy politician, too defensive to admit to some normal human failings.

  4. Blownaway on June 17, 2014, 1:17 pm

    perfidy – an act of deliberate betrayal
    betrayal, treachery, treason knavery, dishonesty – lack of honesty; acts of lying or cheating or stealing double cross, double-crossing – an act of betrayal; “he gave us the old double cross”; =Clinton

  5. on June 17, 2014, 1:21 pm

    As you pointed out last year “Terry Gross aired (Max) Blumenthal when he went after Republicans, but Israel — no thank you”.

    I find it hard to get too excited about Terry Gross. Her Zionist ethos on the Israel/Palestine issue is a distortion of reality in my opinion. It is a fact that there are many Jews at NPR and they do not present a lot of criticism of Israel on the airways.

  6. Henry Norr on June 17, 2014, 2:29 pm

    >>I often criticize Gross here for her old-school Middle East opinions. But
    >>this interview shows her brilliance– patient, penetrating, precise, courageous.

    You are, IMO, way too kind here to Terry Gross, Phil. She obviously wanted to pick a little polite fight with Hillary Clinton, to liven up the show and score a few points with the right-wing Clinton haters. It’s probably a good thing she didn’t bring up Israel/Palestine – then we would would have been treated to the spectacle of the two of them competing about who loves Israel the most. But leaving that aside, there are hundreds of important issues she could have pressed Clinton about – after all, she just finished a term as one of the top agents and spokespersons of the US empire, and she’s clearly aiming to be its CEO come 2016. But instead of challenging her about, say, Guantanamo or drone killings or “free trade” or the abject betrayal of the Bahreini people or the idiotic embargo on Cuba or her support for Kagame, Museveni, and other brutal dictators in Africa, or, or, or, …. Gross chose to make a fuss over the question of why Clinton changed her line on same-sex marriage. However you assess the importance of same-sex marriage, the question of why Clinton changed her line on it is surely not a critical one.

    (Besides, isn’t it obvious that the answer must have been some combination of personal moral “evolution” on the one hand and political opportunism on the other?)

    • Boomer on June 17, 2014, 4:09 pm

      Henry Norr observes:

      “But instead of challenging her about, say, Guantanamo or drone killings or “free trade” or the abject betrayal of the Bahreini people or the idiotic embargo on Cuba or her support for Kagame, Museveni, and other brutal dictators in Africa, or, or, or, …. ”

      Indeed. To say nothing of neocon policies on Iraq, etc.

      • Citizen on June 17, 2014, 6:29 pm

        Would love to see somebody grill Hillary on why she chose to believe those saying Saddam had WMD, yellow cake, etc; rather than those offering contrary evidence & protesting the surge to war and Powell’s false evidence.

    • Donald on June 17, 2014, 7:59 pm

      There’s a certain type of liberal who is liberal on social issues and not much else. It’s upper middle class liberalism–they’re concerned for those human rights issues which also impact on the affluent. In the old days they could have been members of the Republican Party, but the GOP has moved far, far to the right.

      Terry Gross might be that sort of liberal–I never listen to her, but have a rather bad impression based on what I read here.

  7. Bandolero on June 17, 2014, 8:08 pm

    Is Robert Kagan an “activist”? He surely endorses Hillary Clinton, as the NY Times just got it. Quote Friday Lunch Club:

    Neocon Kagan: ‘Hillary is our best hope!’

    “….But Exhibit A for what Robert Kagan describes as his “mainstream” view of American force is his relationship with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who remains the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes. Mr. Kagan pointed out that he had recently attended a dinner of foreign-policy experts at which Mrs. Clinton was the guest of honor, and that he had served on her bipartisan group of foreign-policy heavy hitters at the State Department, where his wife worked as her spokeswoman.“I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy,” Mr. Kagan said, adding that the next step after Mr. Obama’s more realist approach “could theoretically be whatever Hillary brings to the table” if elected president.“If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue,” he added, “it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”…”


    From my point of view, Hillary “We came, we saw, he died” Clinton should be seen as the frontrunner candidate of the Israel lobby 2016.

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