In media events Wednesday and Thursday on Capitol Hill, Sen. Hillary Clinton burnished her image as the nation’s leading Democrat who is both tough on national defense abroad and tough on cultural depravity at home.
Clinton called Wednesday for boosting the Army by 80,000 soldiers over four years, and was back in front of television cameras again Thursday calling for a new law to punish video game retailers who sell violent or pornographic games to teenagers and children.
The senator’s legislation would impose a $5,000 penalty on retailers who sell to underage consumers video games that are rated “M” (for mature) or “AO” (adults only) by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, an industry group.
She told reporters that her legislation would not, at least not initially, give federal authorities the power to get an injunction to stop a retailer from selling violent or smutty games to minors.
'A line of defense'
“We need to do everything we can to make sure that parents have a line of defense against graphic and violent video games and other content that goes against the values they’re trying to instill in their children,” Clinton said.
She portrayed video games as part of what she called “this overwhelming culture” which assaults children and teenagers with depraved images of violence and sex. She accused violent and pornographic video game makers of “stealing the innocence of our children.”
Asked about the difficulty of using federal powers to enforce rules on tens of thousands of retailers across the nation, she said the government could police video game sales “the same way we police cigarette and alcohol sales to children. We don’t get everybody who makes money off of selling harmful products to children, but we send a clear message that to do so, violates the law.”
With her stand on video games, Clinton has taken on the mantle of previous Capitol Hill cultural critics such as Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who has long assailed violent rap lyrics and video games; Tipper Gore, who campaigned in the 1980s against obscene and violent rock lyrics; and former Vice President Dan Quayle, who charged that the television show “Murphy Brown” was legitimizing unwed motherhood, to the detriment of the children of those mothers.
On Thursday, Clinton urged the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation of a video game called “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.”
Horrified by 'pornographic content'
The New York Democrat said she was struck with “absolute horror” when she read a report that the game had “pornographic content that can be unlocked by following instructions widely available on the Internet.”
Last March, Clinton joined Lieberman and conservative Republican senators Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Sam Brownback of Kansas in calling for $90 million in federal funds for research on the effect of the Internet, i-Pods, and other electronic media on children.
This week the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics issued a report saying that Clinton led all senators in first-quarter campaign fundraising from 14 out of the top 50 industries ranked by campaign giving.
The report found that Clinton's Senate re-election campaign was the top recipient of donations from the music, television, and entertainment industry, raking in nearly $800,000 from the industry so far in the 2005-2006 cycle.
On Wednesday with her frequent ally Lieberman again at her side, Clinton helped unveil a bill requiring an increase in the size of the Army from its current authorized strength of 502,400 to 582,400 by September 2009.
Lieberman is the principal sponsor of that bill.
“Our army is under unprecedented stress,” Clinton said. “When an army unit returns from service in Iraq or Afghanistan, it barely gets a breather before it begins training for its next deployment. This intense operation tempo is not only tough on soldiers and their families – it also hurts the readiness of our Army and our entire armed forces.”
Even as Clinton runs for her second term in the Senate, many reporters and pundits expect her to run for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
If Clinton runs for president
If she runs for president, it’s not clear whether she’ll do so as a conservative, pro-military “Lieberman Democrat” — a strategy which did not work for Lieberman himself in 2004 — or as a candidate who shatters the usual ideological categories and unites all factions within the party.
The non-partisan National Journal, which compiles ratings of all 10 senators based on 60 roll call votes on social, defense, and economic issues, ranked Clinton as more liberal than 71 percent of all her colleagues in 2004. Lieberman was rated at 69.8, with the most liberal senator being Hawaii Democrat Daniel Akaka at 94. National Journal’s least liberal Democrat is Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, at 51.2.
Asked to comment on Clinton’s announcements this week, Thomas Basile, a spokesman for the Senate exploratory campaign committee of Ed Cox, a Republican who is planning to run against Clinton for the New York senate seat next year, said, “As she focuses less and less on New York, and more and more on running for president in 2008, she is going to be under pressure from her party to change her position and set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. People who believe she is tough on national defense should look a bit deeper.”