At an EMILY’s List gala, Hillary Clinton sticks to campaign themes: women, the family, wages. Meanwhile, questions continue about her State Department tenure.
WASHINGTON — About a dozen introductory speakers at a Democratic gala here on Tuesday heaped praised on the honoree of the evening: Hillary Clinton. But in the back of the ballroom at the Washington Hilton, as yet another speaker took the lectern, reporters hovered instead around Clinton’s spokesperson.
They hoped to pick up something, anything, about the pair of ongoing controversies that lent a dark hue to an event intended to celebrate the former secretary of state, and preface the presidential campaign she is expected to launch this spring.
Clinton did not acknowledge the recent scandals in her speech at the gala, a 30th anniversary dinner for EMILY’s List, a national organization that boosts pro-choice women running for office and supports Clinton’s likely presidential bid.
Negative headlines have run for weeks about foreign donations to her family’s foundation. And this week, Clinton has faced questions about the use of her personal email account to conduct government business at the State Department.
Clinton’s speech focused instead on the economic themes expected to play at the center of her second presidential campaign. She cast working families as the core of the economy and described the recovery from the recession as “real but fragile.”
“Across our country, Americans feel the ground shifting under their feet,” Clinton said, acknowledging efforts by the president to stabilize the economy. “Thanks to President Obama, we have fought our way back from crisis and recession…But there’s still so much anxiety and uncertainty. And the gains we’ve made are real but fragile.”
Her speech to the 1,600 in attendance gave the clearest picture yet of the language Clinton would use to pitch a weary electorate on the economy.
She returned to themes she tested during a string of rallies last fall for midterm Democrats. Her frame in those speeches was the family — and Clinton always made a passing reference to her newborn granddaughter, Charlotte.
“When a parent is short-changed, a family is short-changed,” Clinton said on Tuesday. “And if you go all the way up the ladder, the economy is short-changed.”
Following introductory remarks by such lawmakers as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Clinton praised EMILY’s List for its efforts on behalf of women in politics, naming Sen. Elizabeth Warren — the progressive often cast as her ideological foil — as an example. It’s because of EMILY’s List, Clinton said, that Warren “can work to hold Wall Street accountable.”
Clinton also spoke about affordable child care, closing the wage gap, and the right to collectively bargain. “The middle class was built in part by the right of people to organize and bargain on behalf of themselves,” Clinton said to a standing ovation.
“We’re fighting for an economy that works for everyone and includes everyone,” she said. “That is the only way to achieve broad-based prosperity in a world that is growing more competitive and interdependent every day.”
At the end of her speech, Clinton made one reference to what is now considered an imminent and inevitable presidential campaign. “I suppose it’s only fair to ask, don’t you someday want to see a woman president?” she asked the crowd, causing one group of guests in the ballroom to stand and swing their dinner napkins in the air.
Clinton closed with a call to action — “Let’s keep up our pressure, let’s understand what we’re facing, and lets go forth and win some elections!” — then left.
Only one speaker mentioned the scandals still precipitating negative headlines: the head of EMILY’s List, Stephanie Schriock, who defiantly told the crowd that no other figure in the history of American politics has “faced more unfair attacks.”
But, Schriock added, few know this better than Clinton: Just “ignore the haters.”