Sabato: Bill Clinton’s progressive NY speech was to help position Hillary for 2016

Heather Hunter Contributor
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University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato observed during a CNN interview Wednesday that former President Bill Clinton’s speech at New York City’s mayoral inauguration Wednesday was to redefine “his own presidency as being quite a bit more liberal than it actually was,” and to help his wife’s bid for president in 2016.

“As you listen to Clinton’s comments, it seemed to me, first of all, that he was redefining his own presidency as being quite a bit more liberal than it actually was,” Sabato told CNN’s Dana Bash. “It’s obvious he’s doing it for Hillary, because if she has a fear, a challenge that can actually dethrone her in 2016, it may well come from the left, progressive, populist wing of the party.”

The inauguration ceremony was attended by both Bill and Hillary Clinton. The former president administered the oath of office to Bill de Blasio, who put his hand on a Bible that once belonged to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  In 2000, de Blasio was Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager when she ran for the Senate.

“I wanted not to say much except the oath, but I have to say this: I strongly endorse Bill de Blasio’s core campaign commitment that we have to have a city of shared opportunities, shared prosperity, shared responsibilities,” the former president remarked. “This inequality problem bedevils the entire country… horrible impediment to economic growth. We cannot go forward unless we do it together.”

Sabato analyzed: “So, as you listen to Clinton, in essence, speaking for Hillary, he was trying to reposition her to put as little distance as possible between the left wing of the Democratic Party and her candidacy.”

De Blasio thanked former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a “groundbreaking commitment to nurturing our children and families.”

The new mayor and former president’s progressive “inequality crisis” tone at New York City’s mayoral inauguration Wednesday comes as the 50th anniversary of the Democrats’ declaration of a War on Poverty occurs this year.  In his State of the Union address on Jan. 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared a “war on poverty” and helped push legislation through Congress that established a major set of government programs designed to help the poor.

De Blasio vowed to take action on what he called an “inequality crisis” and said the crisis was “not the stuff of banner headlines in our daily newspapers. It’s a quiet crisis, but one no less pernicious than those that have come before.”

“We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love,” de Blasio told the crowd in his inaugural address.

As Singer Harry Belafonte opened the ceremony, he likened de Blasio to FDR and told New Yorkers that the new mayor’s progressive policies could “become America’s DNA for the future” and ‘we must not let him fail.”

When de Blasio talked about taxing the wealthy to pay for a pre-kindergarten plan, Hillary Clinton could be seen clapping and nodding as he spoke.

De Blasio touted his promise to increase taxes on the wealthy: “Those earning between $500,000 and one million dollars a year, for instance, would see their taxes increase by an average of $973 a year. That’s less than three bucks a day – about the cost of a small soy latte at your local Starbucks.”

Earlier last month, President Barack Obama pushed the growing income inequality rhetoric  during an event by the Center for American Progress: “This increasing inequality is most pronounced in our country. And it challenges the very essence of who we are as a people.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens argued in an op-ed earlier this week that “inequality is a problem when the rich get richer at the expense of the poor. That’s not happening in America,” and the president suffers from an “envy problem.”

Stephens writes, “Somewhere in the rubble of Mr. Obama’s musings on inequality there was a better speech on economic mobility. Then again, under Mr. Obama the median income of the poorest Americans has declined in absolute terms, to $11,490 in 2012 from $11,552 in 2009, at the height of the recession. Chalk it up as another instance of Mr. Obama being the cause of the very problems he aspires to address.”

Fox Business reporter Charlie Gasparino said it best on Twitter: