IN AN interview with The Boston Globe editorial board on Oct. 10, Senator Hillary Clinton made a remark that has been so badly twisted by her opponents that we feel it necessary to reprint the interview transcript that contains the remark.
The quote that was lifted from the interview and magnified by Clinton's opponents is this: "I have a million ideas. The country can't afford them all." Within hours of the Globe's news report on Clinton's visit, the Republican National Committee sent out an e-mail alert claiming the remark showed how expensive a Clinton presidency would be for the taxpayers. It launched a "Clinton Spend-o-meter" on its website, tracking the potential cost of Clinton's campaign proposals.
A week later at the Republican presidential debate in Orlando, Fla., Rudy Giuliani played the remark for laughs, quoting her and adding the zinger: "No kidding Hillary, America can't afford you!"
All in good fun, perhaps, until you learn that Clinton was saying she opposes big government spending, not the other way around.
At the Globe meeting, Clinton was asked why she had turned cool on a proposal for so-called baby bonds that she has spoken favorably about just the week before. Baby bonds - sometimes called Individual Development Accounts - are small nest eggs government sets aside for each American child, which would build until adulthood when they could be used for college tuition or a down payment on a house. Though ridiculed when Clinton mentioned them, baby bonds have bipartisan support and can be an effective way to fight poverty. Clinton was asked whether dropping a good, new, bold idea like this was a symptom of what some critics have called a too-cautious campaign.
Here is Clinton's full answer: "Well, I have a lot of good, new, bold ideas, and I have to make some choices among them." She explained that baby bonds didn't have the level of political support of other proposals she had to help people pay for college. "I have a million ideas. I can't do all of them. I happen to think in running a disciplined campaign - especially when it comes to fiscal responsibility, which is what I'm trying to do - everything I propose I have to pay for. You know, you go to my website, you'll see what I would use to pay for what I've proposed. So I've got a lot of ideas, I just obviously can't propose them all. I can't afford them all. The country can't afford them all."
Clinton has adopted a pay-as-you-go rule for new spending, much like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's rules for the Democratic Congress. In order to avoid ballooning the deficit, the pay-go rules require a funding source be attached to any new spending. The 60-cent hike in the cigarette tax that would have paid for the expansion of children's healthcare is one example.
What Americans really can't afford are cheap political distortions.