While President George W. Bush was embraced warmly by the more than 600 troops he served dinner to in Baghdad on Thanksgiving, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton didn’t get the same treatment.
In fact so few U.S. military personnel volunteered to meet and sit with her, that military leaders in Baghdad had to designate enlisted personnel and junior officers to spend time with the New York senator.
“The meetings with [Iraqi administrator Paul] Bremer went fine, but we weren’t finding a lot of takers on meeting with Clinton and [Rhode Island Democratic senator Jack] Reed,” says an American staffer in Baghdad. “Maybe there weren’t a lot of New Yorkers in the area.”
If Clinton was aware of her seemingly unpopularity, she didn’t seem to care. Almost immediately after landing in Iraq, she began bad-mouthing the Bush administration to the military personnel she met, telling them that while America supported the troops, there were questions about the Bush administration’s approach.
“To these men and women over here, it is the same thing,” says the U.S. official. “Her husband didn’t get it and she obviously hasn’t learned. These men and women over here are America. They are the policy. For her to say what she said was just misguided.”
It wasn’t just the military having troubles rounding up cooperative folks for Democrats. Leading up to the final votes on the Medicare reform legislation, Democrats weren’t able to draw on the natural pool of vocal protesters to Republicans attempts to change the program. That’s because the AARP had signed off on the bill and was running ads supporting it.
So the Democrats had to use organized labor for the protests, even though many of those union members who appeared at rallies with such Democrats as Sen. Tom Daschle and Sen. Ted Kennedy weren’t old enough or hadn’t qualified for Medicare yet — no Gray Panthers here! According to one Democratic leadership aide, some protesters were being paid by the unions they belonged to to make up for lost wages because they took time off from work to help out their Democratic friends.
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