Clinton Says Middle Class Would Be Focus of 2016 Run

Clinton Says Middle Class Would Be Focus of 2016 Run
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Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that if she takes another run at the presidency, the heart of her 2016 campaign would be economic growth and middle-class advancement, combined with restoring “trust and cooperation within our political system.”

Speaking at a Silicon Valley conference for women, Clinton repeated her oft-stated belief that the United States is ready to “crack every last glass ceiling,” including electing the first woman as president.

And in a question-and-answer session after her remarks, the former secretary of state said a woman in the White House would be more than history making.  A woman could bring insights and attributes into the Oval Office that could shred blue and red political dogmas and join people in “a nice, warm purple space,” she said.

Clinton’s references to the middle class, pay equity and advancements for women and girls anchored her remarks, which she delivered while striding back and forth across a stage, TED-talk style at the Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women. She reportedly was paid $300,000 to be the lunchtime keynote speaker.

In March, Clinton has at least four more appearances scheduled on the East Coast, all of which shine spotlights on her career and dedication to furthering opportunities for women.

Political tea-leaf reading and information from advisers suggest Clinton will end the long deliberations and announce a decision between April and July. If she seeks the job she described in Santa Clara, Calif., as “really painful,” she would instantly be the dominant Democratic candidate with organization and money already in place. Her announcement could follow commitments announced by leading GOP aspirants, including Jeb Bush.

During the Q&A portion of the program, Clinton told Kara Swisher, a technology journalist and co-founder of Re/Code, that she continued to “talk to a lot of people” and was “thinking” about the hurdles in governance, which she said were dominated by Washington’s polarized environment where ideas are staked out but dialogue is rare.

Why wait, Swisher asked? “All in good time,” Clinton replied. “Because there’s a lot to think about.”

On issues she was questioned about, Clinton was at times specific and at other times wary of suggesting she had firm answers. Edward Snowden stole documents and damaged national security, she said: "I can never condone what he did."  The National Security Agency, which has been accused of burrowing into telecommunications and other companies to siphon away personal data, "has to be more transparent," she added. "NSA has to act lawfully," Clinton continued, without expressing an opinion about whether the intelligence agency had acted otherwise.

Whether Apple or Google or any other company should be able to market encrypted devices that keep the government and others from obtaining private data is "a classic hard choice" between privacy for end users and the government's efforts to respond to a "legitimate security threat," she said. "I don't have the answers."

As for whether social media can help defeat the Islamic State through counter-messaging, Clinton, after describing the genesis of ISIL, called the pledge to defeat the group "a very hard challenge … It's like three-, four-, five-dimensional chess." She volunteered that combating ISIL and other groups like it worldwide is a long-term endeavor.

When Swisher followed with a question about whether she really wanted to be president in the face of the global threats, Clinton shrugged. "Every time has its own problems.”

Clinton’s efforts to weave together her resume, her personal passions and her vision on policy issues went in a different direction than Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s populist anti-corporation rhetoric, in which Warren describes a system “rigged” against the middle class and average families. If Warren is the darling of the Democratic Party’s left wing, Clinton made no attempt to emulate her style, even as she embraced her general message.

The former first lady, sensitive to a mostly female audience drawn from the upper rungs of major corporations, law and smaller enterprises, cast herself as a champion alongside her audience’s efforts to achieve and innovate within male-dominated fields.

She noted her achievements in the Senate, working across the aisle with Republicans. She described inspiring women she’d met around the world as first lady. And she told them that at the State Department, after she saw “men’s eyes glaze over,” she adapted her women’s-rights-are-human-rights messages to world leaders to sell her points on mostly economic terms they would weigh.

If Clinton learned how to sell “soft power” abroad, she appeared to be practicing some political diplomacy while in California. She presented herself as tech savvy, current on issues that ranged from the Islamic State to net neutrality, and also as a blissed-out new grandmother who worries about whether the future for Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky and other young people will be “shrunken,” risking “destroyed dreams.”

“I don’t know,” she said about the trajectory of the next 25 years. A hope-and-change finale, it was not.

When asked if she had become “less polarizing” in a world she worried was now even more polarized, Clinton answered “yes.” But the example she offered was about arriving in Washington from Arkansas in 1993 (she did not mention her husband, the 42nd president). She said she discovered that the nation’s capital expressed “incredible shock” that a first lady who had been an advocate for decades would “have an opinion.”

Perhaps recognizing that a recollection about getting rebuffed more than 20 years ago was not evidence of her softer side, or of practicing what she’d just preached about “developing a thick skin,” Clinton changed tacks.

“I don’t think I have all the right ideas. I don’t think my party has all the right ideas,” she said.

Bridging divides “is possible,” she added. She pointed no fingers at congressional Republicans by name, or at President Obama. “It requires relationship building,” she said.

And what about the prospect of building new bridges to voters, Swisher asked. Did she do enough of that in 2008, when she lost to Obama in the primaries?

“I’m certainly trying to learn,” Clinton said, “in thinking through doing this again.”

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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