Sen. Clinton sounds off on Iraq, but not 2008 ambitions | AspenTimes.com

Sen. Clinton sounds off on Iraq, but not 2008 ambitions

John Colson

Mark Fox/TheAspen TimesSen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., took the lectern at Harris Concert HallSunday morning.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton may not be formally running for the job of president of the United States, but a speech in Aspen on Sunday left little doubt that she is a contender for the post.In a wide-ranging talk that lasted more than an hour, Clinton echoed her husband, former President Bill Clinton, on more than one topic during her talk at Harris Concert Hall.She advocated that the United States stay in Iraq until the Iraqi people show that they can run their own country and maintain the peace. This commitment, she said, is part of this country’s “long struggle against terrorism.”She also said America needs to get much more serious about weaning itself from a total dependence on oil by looking into alternative energy technologies.Clinton was speaking on the same stage that Bill Clinton had occupied two days earlier as part of the Aspen Institute’s Aspen Ideas Festival.She complimented the Institute on once again bringing together a gathering of thinkers and policy makers to examine the critical issues of the day. And she noted that the conference was appropriate in the wake of last week’s terror attacks in London.”The threat of terrorism is as close as our daily commute,” she intoned. “We need to keep our eye on the big picture.”That remark was a reference to the title of her talk, “The Big Picture.” Clinton explained that the United States and its allies must continue to battle against terrorism and its advocates “who attempt to trap us in the narrow spaces of fear and hate.”

In the meantime, she said, “We are living in an exciting, even unprecedented era for discovery.”Warming to the topic, Clinton told the audience, “Some nation is going to catch the wave just right and ride it into security and preeminence.”The question, she continued, is whether that nation will be the UnitedStates or another. She noted that America has been on the crest of pre-vious waves of progress, from the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century to the explosion of personal computers and creation of the Internet in the 20th century.But the pace of change is accelerating, she said, and there is no telling what the “steam engine and the computer chip of this century will be.”One example of the next wave, Clinton said, is nanotechnology, the science of miniaturizing computers to the point where they are scarcely larger than a single cell. Clinton said she has been a sponsor of legislation supporting such research, but pointed out that other nations also are working along similar lines.An example of breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, she said, is ongoing research to develop silicon retinas – implants that could allow blind people to see or give the gift of sight to a robot. And, she said, the International Space Station is to soon be run by a voice activated computer named “Clarissa,” much like “Hal” the computer in the seminal science fiction film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”While scientific understanding and inquiry are on the rise elsewhere, “There are tremendously powerful forces working to undermine science in the U.S. today.” That was likely a reference to the work of the religious right to inject greater levels of faith-based thinking into the nation’s policy-making bodies.

She called for a much more focused commitment to developing alternative energy sources as a way to vastly reduce or end reliance on foreign oil.”Ours will be the last generation to rely so exclusively on fossil fuels,” Clinton predicted, saying that the “ups and downs of the global oil market cost the U.S. economy $7 trillion last year … almost enough to pay off our entire national debt.”Clinton said she has worked to insert provisions into the ongoing Senate energy bill process, calling for increased reliance on such alternative energy sources as wind and solar. But she said the House of Representatives and the White House both have threatened to veto the energy bill because of the alternative energy provisions.She was critical of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which is being sought by the Bush administration. It is intended to enrich corporations without providing adequate safeguards against unintended negative effects, she said. She maintained that trade agreements to open up the flow of goods and service throughout the Western Hemisphere are a worthy goal, but they must be coupled with protections for American jobs, the environment and worker safety in the rest of the hemisphere.Clinton did not mention the presidential election of 2008, but she did make several critical, even derogatory, remarks directed at President Bush.”I sometimes feel that Alfred E. Newman is in charge in Washington,” she joked, getting a warm laugh as she described President Bush’s attitude toward the tough issues of the day as, “What, me worry?”She accused Bush of undermining the national economy with deficit spending and huge tax cuts for the wealthy; endangering U.S. soldiers by not giving them the proper equipment to fight the war in Iraq; and harming the nation’s historic role as a leader in scientific research and technological innovation by slashing funding for such efforts.”There has not yet been one net job created in the last four years,” she continued, arguing that the Bush administration has concentrated on helping the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.That middle class, she said, is now threatened by the ailing economy, which is suffering from everything from a burgeoning national debt (she called America the “largest debtor nation the world has ever known”), to the loss of manufacturing diversity, rising health care costs, loss of pensions in many sectors and other causes.

“You can find rich people anywhere in the world,” she said. “But you can’t find the American middle class anywhere else in the world.”There’s no overwhelming crisis – we’re just slowly being eroded day by day.”She said American voters are not alarmed enough about the current state of affairs, and are not being asked by the government to make the kinds of sacrifices, personal and national, that are needed to get the country back on track toward increased prosperity and security.She recalled that President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked U.S. industrialists to tighten their belts and retool their factories from war technology to peaceful pursuits following the Allied victory in World War II. That retooling, she said, did much to jump-start America’s long post-war economic boom.And when President John F. Kennedy announced his plan to put a man on the moon in the 1960s, he put his vision of national sacrifice into a memorable phrase, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” And it was Kennedy’s space program, Clinton noted, that kindled a prolonged spurt of scientific discovery and innovation.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com