And no, I do not lie in the titles of my posts:
Look, that’s me (secondish row back, second from left, white shirt, brown hair)!!! With Hillary Clinton!!!
When we went to lobby day at the Hill, I was more or less expecting the same thing I’ve seen when lobbying in Albany. State legislators don’t usually bother showing up for those meetings (and in terms of trying to get anything done, this is usually for the better), so I certainly wasn’t expecting Hillary Clinton to attend our little lobby visit.
So imagine my surprise and little freak out when we were briefed before our visit about what was going to happen after Senator Clinton came into the room.
Kathy and I outside of Clinton’s office
We went up for our visit (btw, security at the Senators’ offices is seemingly much more lax than at the airport . . .) and met with two of Clinton’s aides, who apparently work specifically with reproductive issues. They were very cool, and knew their shit — which is certainly a difference from state lobbying visits I’ve been on, where the person you’re meeting with might not understand your issue at all. They were very proud to tell us that Senator Clinton had taken the lead in combating the Bush HHS proposal to restrict women’s access to reproductive health services.
And when she entered the room, so was Hillary! It was kind of funny . . . we had been meeting with her aides for over half an hour, and it felt like the meeting was winding up. No Clinton. So I think that most of us were thinking “oh, I guess that she’s not going to make it.” When the door opened, everyone sat up really straight, only to see a total stranger behind it. And then *poof*! There she was! She just seemed to magically appear in the doorway like David Copperfield or something. And then she received a spontaneous standing ovation. For real — it totally wasn’t planned, but everyone in the room seemed to rise to their feet and begin applauding at exactly the same time.
Senator Clinton was extremely nice, charismatic and came off as very sincere. She talked with us in the room for certainly longer than I was expecting — probably 10 or 15 minutes. Now, most of that time I spent thinking “oh my god, that’s Hillary Clinton, oh my god, that’s Hillary Clinton . . .” so while I was attempting to listen very closely, my memory of what exactly she said is a little fuzzy. I do remember that she spoke out very adamantly against the proposed Bush HHS rule, occasionally shaking her head and laughing in semi-disbelief, and listened very carefully to the concerns vocalized in the room. She praised the work that Planned Parenthood does and thanked us for it. Clinton also chatted with some of the staff directly involved in political advocacy about NY state politics — and I was honestly very surprised and impressed that she knew what was going on at the local level, discussing how there is a new Senate Majority leader, how we just might be able to flip the Senate this year to a Democratic majority, and wondering which seats specifically we were targeting. For a Senator who has never actually been a member of the state legislature, I thought that was kind of cool.
When it was explained to Clinton that the room was so damn full because everyone there had really wanted the opportunity to meet/thank her, her face really lit up and she seemed genuinely happy and appreciative. She talked a bit about her presidential run, the sexism in the media, and how we still have a tough fight ahead in November. But she smiled, laughed and cracked jokes a lot during our visit.
Then as things were winding up, Clinton went back to discussing the HHS proposal, reiterating her strong opposition and talking strategy, saying something along the lines of “you know, we really ought to do a press conference together. Maybe in NYC — I know that it affects all New Yorkers, but we would want to go where the media is — maybe a hospital or something really visual to drive the point home.” To be entirely, perfectly honest, I thought that she was just bullshitting. I mean, people say things like this all the time in everyday life without having any real intentions of following through, so I didn’t exactly think that a Senator tossing out the idea of a potential press conference at some unspecified point in the future was actually going to go anywhere. So, um, I was pretty damn surprised when I learned the next day that a few people who were in that room and at the summit were running around trying to get a press conference ready for that Friday. A press conference which they pulled off within 48 hours of Senator Clinton seemingly spontaneously throwing the idea out there.
Clinton with an aide and Family Planning Advocates president Joann Smith (left)
Of course, my favorite part of the whole thing was after the official portion of the visit was over. We went to go take a photograph — Clinton was nice enough to offer the photograph so that we didn’t have to look like a bunch of giddy fangirls asking for one, but without sounding smug or like she was doing us some sort of favor. She was very down-to-earth, personally suggesting that we put our purses down for the photo when we looked a little awkward lining up on the stairs. And as we both came and went, she shook the hand of everyone who approached her. I was one of the last people to get to do so, and we both kind of said “thank you” to each other at the same time, and she did the whole gripping my arm with the other hand and everything. Yes, I felt like jumping up and down excitedly. And yes, I did, once she left and I saw that everyone else was already having that same reaction.
That would have been my favorite part of the trip. And that will commence my bragging.
[For those wondering, I have indeed been very critical of Hillary Clinton in the past. I stand entirely by those criticisms. That doesn't mean I don't still greatly admire her and appreciate having her as a senator. There are many people I have very strongly criticized who I would be absolutely thrilled to meet, in a just might pass out sort of way. Barack Obama and Paul McCartney immediately come to mind.]
Thank you to Robin and Susan for the photographs.