Friday, February 1, 2008

A Hudson Valley activist speaks about his experiences with Hillary...

Why I can't vote for Hillary

By Sam Pratt, Founder - Friends of Hudson

When it comes to Hillary Clinton, there is no shortage of unfair and
unprincipled reasons for disliking her -- and if you listen to AM talk
radio for an hour, you'll probably hear them all.

I reject the sexism of those who still think a former First Lady has
no place in policy debates, just as I reject the absurd theories of
those who think she had a hand in the death of her close friend Vince

Having volunteered on Clinton's first senate campaign, I get mad when
I hear Rush Limbaugh savage her as a liar and an opportunist. I'm also
grateful to her for keeping Rudy Guiliani and Rick Lazio out of the

But you don't have to be a sexist or a conspiracy theorist to oppose
Clinton's candidacy.

I don't dislike Hillary; I distrust her. And my reasons are both
substantive, and based on direct personal experience. When a major
issue hit the Hudson Valley, Clinton was less than honest with her
constituents, and all to eager to take credit where none was due.

For nearly 7 years, our communities were riven with controversy about
a vast, coal-burning facility proposed by St. Lawrence Cement here in
the Hudson Valley.

Given the harsh health, scenic, noise, traffic, economic and other
negative potential impacts, opponents naturally wanted to get the ear
of Mrs. Clinton -- and we tried everything. She was approached at
campaign whistlestops, at private dinners, and public fundraisers.
Printed factsheets were pressed into staffers' hands, and handwritten
letters beseeched our new Senator to help end this dangerous idea. But
she refused to take any public stand.

Finally, as the leader of the grassroots opposition, I tried an old-
fashioned political route. A friend identified a celebrity donor in
nearby Dutchess County who was opposed to St. Lawrence's plans, and he
called in a big favor. Driving to the capitol in his limo, we met with
Hillary first in a chamber outside the Armed Services Committee, then
took a long walk and tram ride under the Capitol to her offices.
Hillary was both charming, and surprisingly well-informed on our issue.

At last, here was my big chance to make a full case for her involvement.

But when I launched into a carefully-prepared spiel, the Senator
stopped me: "You don't need to do the presentation," she said. "The
plant is a terrible idea. Just tell me how I can help." Delighted, I
described the various Federal permitting processes in which she could
intervene, and the benefits of her taking a public stand.

She called in her chief environmental policy advisor, and gave
detailed instructions: Get a memo on her desk right away, listing the
necessary action steps and the policy rationales for each, and she'd
get right to work on it. Her performance was smart and convincing, and
her celebrity backer and I practically floated down the Capitol steps
on the way out.

The rest was silence. After promptly delivering the requested memo, I
was never able to get her staff (let alone the Senator herself) to
discuss the issue again, let alone take action to stop the plant.

About a year later, Clinton was cornered on the SLC issue by an
interviewer from The National Trust for Historic Preservation, who
finally got her to say that she thought the proposal was "not the
right direction for the Hudson Valley." These remarks were published
in Preservation Magazine, which Clinton apparently thought no one
would read... because when we then alerted local media to her
statement, Clinton's staff denied the remarks and claimed she still
had not taken a position.

Only after nearly 14,000 residents and 40 groups wrote in opposition
to the Republican administration of George Pataki did this terrible
project get scrapped -- without any help from either of our Democratic

But there was one more damning chapter in our Clinton saga.

After we won, the group I co-founded received an award at the Waldorf-
Astoria from the Preservation League of New York. During the award
ceremony, it was announced that there would be a video tribute from
someone who couldn't attend, but who wanted to pay her respects. Up on
a giant screen came Hillary Clinton, talking about how we'd all fought
such a good fight together.

Those of us who had been in the trenches for years looked at each
other in amazement. All the awful things people say about Hillary were
horribly validated: She didn't deliver on her promises, and then she
took credit for a victory achieved without her help.

Now, some friends say, "Come now, Sam -- all politicians are the same.
They tell you what you want to hear, and then do the opposite. Get
over it!" Others say, "Well, Hillary dropped the ball on that one, but
I still trust her on health care, education, abortion, the economy, et

To these excuses I say: Other politicians from five states had the
guts to take a stand on an issue affecting hundreds of thousands of
downwind residents; why couldn't Clinton?

Why should we expect her to act differently the next time a major
regional controversy hits? If she won't stand up for the health of
children and the elderly, and won't expend any political capital to
save a broad swath of her own adopted State as its Senator, why should
we expect her to behave differently as President?

And why shouldn't I get behind another candidate who is just as strong
on core Democratic issues, such as Barack Obama -- whose campaign
overtly rejects this cynical brand of politics?

The whole experience brings to mind that phrase famously mangled by
our current President: Fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice, shame
on Hillary.

And that's why Senator Clinton doesn't have my vote on Super Tuesday.
She will almost certainly carry this State, but our votes can help
ensure that at least a portion of New York's delegates to the
Democratic convention are awarded to a more deserving candidate.

Ed: To make a reader happy, I am noting that this letter was forwarded directly to me by a volunteer for the Obama campaign in Columbia/Greene county, NY.
The letter was sent to him by Sam Pratt and he was given permission by Mr. Pratt to pass the letter along to as many people as possible.


Aaron said...

Please clarify that this was reposted from somewhere else (DailyKos?), otherwise it constitutes plagiarism and should be deleted.

Yes We Can! said...

First of all, I think you need a refresher on the definition of plagiarism...

pla·gia·rism [pley-juh-riz-uhm, -jee-uh-riz-] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
1. the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work.

The author of the letter is clearly credited.
Nowhere does this blog attempt to pass this letter off as our own original work.

Second, a link to one of the MANY places this letter has been published (in this case, the authors OWN SITE) is provided.

Third, the letter was sent directly to us from Christopher Swartout who actually knows Sam Pratt.
In the forward, Chris noted that Sam freely gave permission for ANYONE to pass this letter along.

From the email:
"I am forwarding a letter from Sam Pratt, who many of you in the area may remember as the person who started Friends of Hudson, the grassroots group who thwarted St. Lawrence Cement from opening up a toxic cement plant in the Hudson Valley. The fight against the plant was a major issue in the Hudson Valley for a number of years and Sam worked doggedly to defeat it. He was the classic David taking on the multi-national Goliath. And he beat them. And we in the Hudson Valley are grateful.

Here is his letter, which he has given permission to send to anyone that you see fit. Please do so.

Aaron said...

My apologies. I would simply recommend prefacing Pratt's excellent letter with an introduction and possibly Swartout's comment. Keep up the good work!

Aaron said...

Btw, here's a direct link to this article on Pratt's blog.