Hillary Clinton to Chart Centrist Democratic Agenda

Alex Chadwick talks with Bruce Reed, a former aide to President Bill Clinton, about this week's meeting of the Democratic Leadership Council, a centrist party organization. The group has appointed Hillary Clinton to define a party agenda for the upcoming 2006 and 2008 elections.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Political news. Meeting in Ohio, several hundred centrist Democrats have chosen New York Senator Hillary Clinton to formulate a set of policies the party can take into national elections for Congress next year and for control of the White House in 2008. The group that met in Columbus is called the Democratic Leadership Council. Its president and co-founder is Bruce Reed. He was domestic policy adviser to Senator Clinton's husband, Bill Clinton, when he was president. Mr. Reed's now writing a column for Slate magazine called The Has-Been.

Bruce Reed, welcome to DAY TO DAY.

Why Hillary Clinton to undertake this task for the moderate, centrist Democratic Leadership Council?

BRUCE REED (Slate; Co-founder, Democratic Leadership Council): Well, Senator Clinton has been an intellectual leader in the party for many years, and she's been involved with the DLC for a couple of decades now, so she was a natural choice to head up this effort to reach out to Democrats of all stripes and thinkers throughout the party to come up with a positive agenda for the country.

CHADWICK: But doesn't she have a reputation for being on the liberal end of the party?

REED: Well, I wouldn't say that. I think--you know, I've known her for 15 years and she's a Clinton Democrat from the get-go. She's always been quite culturally conservative. I worked with her on welfare reform. She did a number of things in the '90s that didn't get that much attention, like making it easier for adoption and reforming the child welfare system. She's always been a budget hawk. So despite the caricature that conservatives would like to stick on her, I think she is a natural for this.

CHADWICK: Well, this agenda is to be called the American Dream Initiative. Leaving aside for a moment the issue of whether or not that sounds like a FOX reality show, which might not be a bad thing, what is going to be in it? What do you think the American Dream Initiative is that the Democrats should offer to voters?

REED: Well, the reason that Senator Clinton wanted to do this, and the reason we asked her to head this up, is that Americans have a very good idea of what Democrats are against, but they would like to hear more from us about what we're for. So often with the political debate in Washington, we end up in a position of spending all of our time trying to stop the Bush administration from doing bad things. And we need to do that, but we also need to be prepared for the day when America turns the page on this president and looks forward to having a more compelling vision.

CHADWICK: Do you think, Bruce Reed, that observers looking at your choice of Hillary Clinton for this position will say this is kind of an endorsement by the Democratic Leadership Council for Senator Clinton's further political ambitions?

REED: Oh, I don't think so. Look, we have a wealth of talent in this party; that was on display in Columbus. So Senator Clinton is a well-known national figure. She's an intellectual leader in our party. She's been a good friend to us for many, many years. But her interest in this is helping to develop a strong agenda for the party. She's focused on her job as a senator from New York. You know, as her husband used to tell us, if you get the ideas right, then the politics will take care of themselves and the candidates will take care of themselves. And our focus has always been on trying to get the ideas right.

CHADWICK: Bruce Reed is president of the Democratic Leadership Council and a columnist for the online magazine Slate.

Bruce Reed, thank you.

REED: Thanks, Alex.

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