Hillary Clinton’s advisors are annoyed by accusations that she’s only adopted economic populism to keep up with Elizabeth Warren. “Mrs. Clinton was the original Elizabeth Warren, her advisers say,” reports The New York Times, “a populist fighter who for decades has been an advocate for families and children.” In the Clinton administration, boasted Democratic Strategist Anita Dunn, “she had this reputation as being the very left-wing, liberal, Elizabeth Warren type.”
That’s true. In the 1990s, Hillary was considered further left on economic issues than her husband, and for good reason. Carl Bernstein has reported that in 1993, when Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen and National Economic Council head Robert Rubin wanted to prioritize deficit reduction over new spending, Hillary told Bill that, “You didn’t get elected to do Wall Street economics.” In 1995, according to Sally Bedell Smith, Labor Secretary Robert Reich convinced Hillary that the Clinton administration should make an issue of CEO pay, something Bill refused to do. George Stephanopoulos called Hillary “the most powerful liberal in the White House.”
But there’s an irony here. If Hillary’s advisors are angry that the press doesn’t describe her as “left-wing” anymore, they themselves are partly to blame. That’s because they, and she, have spent much of the last two decades trying to overcome exactly that reputation. In 1993, when journalists suggested that her college thesis on Saul Alinsky proved she was a big government liberal, Hillary insisted that it proved the opposite. “Even at that early stage I was against all these people who come up with these big government programs that were more supportive of bureaucracies than actually helpful to people,” she told The Washington Post. “You know, I’ve been on this kick for 25 years.” In a 1993 interview with The New York Times, she praised an article by Daniel Patrick Moynihan called “Defining Deviancy Down,” in which the scholar-senator argued that liberals had become too tolerant of anti-social behavior among the poor. Hillary made Mark Penn, among the most centrist of her husband’s political consultants, the architect of her 2000 Senate run and 2008 presidential campaign. And in 2005, she affiliated herself with the Democratic Leadership Council, the New Democratic group with whose views many pundits assumed she disagreed.