There was very little news to come out of Hillary Clinton’s appearance at Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) Iowa Steak Fry this weekend, other than the fact that Hillary was at it, but the political press did decide to fixate on one quote from the event, a quote that wasn’t from her, and wasn’t really news. Harkin, in his introduction, gave Hillary a compliment that she may or may not find useful:
Hillary was not there when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, she was, of course, Secretary of State, but I want you all to know that her fingerprints are all over that legislation, that it would not have happened but for her strenuous advocacy in that committee all those years she was there to get a health care bill passed in Congress.
It is undeniably true that Hillary Clinton has spent decades working toward universal health care, and people often forget that in 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama ran against the individual mandate, even mocked it, while Hillary supported it. Her instrumentality in actually passing the finished law is debatable, but it was definitely Hillary who first taught Republicans to put a Democrat’s name before the word “care” if they wanted to really enrage conservatives.
What’s interesting, then, is the way the political press extracted Harkin’s quote as the newsworthy nugget from the weekend, because it illustrates some of the dynamics Hillary will face going into 2016. The implication behind these headlines appears to be that maybe Harkin wasn’t doing Hillary a favor by tying her to Obamacare, which, come to think of it, Harkin makes sound like a grisly crime scene. At least he didn’t say Hillary’s hair and fibers are all up under Obamacare’s fingernails. Conventional wisdom is that Obamacare is political poison, despite a steady stream of good news for the law. The latest is that premiums and subsidies paid are looking to be significantly cheaper than originally estimated.
Two years is a long time, though, so eventually, taking credit for Obamacare may become the political benefit it ought to be. As far as many Democratic base voters are concerned, though, running away from Obama is not cool, nor is taking credit for his accomplishments. Regardless of whom she faces in the general election, Hillary is going to need the Obama turnout machine in order to win, so she’s got a fine line to walk.
On that count, the balance of Hillary’s speech was pretty decent. She offered praise for the president, and while she didn’t really have an opportunity to accept Harkin’s compliment, she did return the praise of his work on affordable health care.
Elsewhere in the speech, Hillary quoted Randy Quaid’s Independence Day character, and teased the crowd about “that other thing” that’s on her mind, like she’s deciding whether or not to whack Joe Pesci:
As the 2016 race slowly heats up, the political press will continue to bake the Hillary/Obama conflict under a heat lamp, but for now, Clinton seems to have learned at least a little bit from her dustup with the president over Syria. Eventually, though, there will no longer be a line to walk, and she’ll have to come down on one side or the other.
Here’s the full video of Hillary Clinton’s speech at Sunday’s Iowa Steak Fry: