Kausfiles Special

Hillary’s Shocking Truth

“I supported welfare reforms. He didn’t.” That’s what Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton told the New York Times’ Adam Nagourney last week, by way of contrasting herself with her likely opponent, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (while at the same time denying that she is the left-winger depicted in Giuliani’s mailings).

Mrs. Clinton seems to be referring to the 1996 welfare-reform bill signed by her husband. This column has previously argued that the first half of Hillary’s statement is correct–contrary to the fantasies of her liberal backers, she apparently did support her husband’s decision to sign the bill. But did a tough welfare reformer like Giuliani really oppose the bill? Give me a break! Only Hillary Clinton would begin her first campaign with a big lie like that. Her bizarre assertion sent me scurrying to Nexis, where sure enough, I quickly discovered … that her bizarre assertion is true.

Giuliani denounced the 1996 law, primarily because of its genuinely nasty provisions denying benefits to legal immigrants (which President Clinton opposed as well). But he also whined like a congressional Democrat about the bill’s “lack of sufficient funding for day care”–a complaint that turned out to be largely bogus, given that the bill actually provided the states with a large increase in federal money per welfare recipient. (Why? States were guaranteed the funding they’d needed when caseloads were at record mid-’90s highs, even though the number of people on welfare subsequently fell dramatically.) According to news reports at the time, Giuliani’s administration actively lobbied President Clinton to get him to veto the 1996 bill.

Giuliani even ridiculed Clinton’s campaign pledge to fix the bad parts of the bill he’d signed (a pledge Clinton largely honored). At the time, Giuliani’s stand allowed him to bask in favorable national press attention as a Republican mayor who bucked his own party and defended poor immigrants.

All this doesn’t mean Giuliani’s not a serious welfare reformer. His welfare commissioner, Jason Turner, the man who designed Wisconsin’s highly successful reform, is making progress in applying the Wisconsin model to New York City. Unlike, say, Bill Bradley, Giuliani made it clear in 1996 he didn’t oppose the core provisions of the bill (requiring work, eliminating the welfare “entitlement,” and giving states authority over the program). It’s also true that the immigrant cuts in the 1996 bill would have hit New York especially hard.

Still, in retrospect, given the success–so far–of the 1996 reform, Giuliani’s opposition (like Bradley’s) sure looks like a misjudgment. And Hillary wasn’t lying. … 

Sentra! The New Name for Automotive Excitement:

Nissan’s automobile designs, and its slick spokesman, designer Jerry Hirshberg, were recently criticized in this space. But maybe I was being unfair in not giving Hirshberg and the new, retooled Nissan time to show what they can do. Well, the company recently unveiled its new Sentra small sedan. You can see it by clicking here. Make up your own mind. I wouldn’t want to bias you by suggesting, for example, that it is a bland little yurt of a car, an uninspired mix of design elements from the Honda Civic, Kia Sephia, and Dodge Neon. … Hey, at least it doesn’t have Hirshberg’s disastrous trademark drooping rear end! … One question, though: ¿Donde están los cojones?