First Lady Rips Into GOP ‘Negativism’


In a sharply partisan and at times caustic address to a Democratic women’s group, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday charged that Republicans were engaged in a “relentless campaign of negativism” designed to frighten and confuse the public.

She said the fall election posed a stark choice between President Clinton’s “hope and confidence” and Republicans “who would have us not be a community but a crowd.”

Mrs. Clinton made clear before 1,600 loudly appreciative contributors to the liberal Democratic women’s organization Emily’s List that she will be a principal political warrior for the Clinton administration in this year’s presidential campaign.

In fact, her speech Friday was one of the most overtly partisan public addresses by a top member of the administration this year.


The president, by contrast, has assumed an above-the-fray pose, sticking to domestic and foreign policy tasks and studiously avoiding public attacks on his Republican opponents.

Mrs. Clinton predicted that the Republicans, driven by “desperation,” will finance an intensely negative campaign of media advertising, telephone banks and phony polling operations.

“So that’s what we’re in for, for the next seven months. Get prepared for it, and don’t be surprised by it, because when you have nothing positive to say, that’s what you fall back on,” said Mrs. Clinton, who was repeatedly interrupted by applause.

Mrs. Clinton began the Emily’s List speech with what she said was a true anecdote about San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. It seemed designed to illustrate the point that many men are unaware of the fund-raising group.


Speaking in a mock African American accent, Mrs. Clinton said that Brown asked two years ago to be introduced to “this Emily List” whom he supposed to be a wealthy Democratic donor.

“She’s supportin’ all these people. She’s supportin’ [Sen.] Dianne [Feinstein]. She’s supported [Sen.] Barbara [Boxer]. . . . She supported everybody. Why won’t she support me?” Mrs. Clinton quoted Brown.

The first lady explained to Brown, then the Assembly speaker, that Emily’s List was a political fund-raising organization dedicated to electing female abortion-rights Democrats to federal office.

“Oh, I knew that all the time,” Mrs. Clinton quoted Brown as saying.


P.J. Johnson, a spokesman for Brown, said “the mayor is well aware of what Emily’s List is.”

The partisan tone of the luncheon was set by Ellen R. Malcolm, founder and president of Emily’s List. (Emily stands for “early money is like yeast.”)

Malcolm encouraged the ballroom crowd to stand up for Mrs. Clinton because “she’s standing in for us, taking the flak for an entire generation of women.”

The group’s leanings were apparent in the loud hissing that followed Malcolm’s sarcastic mentions of Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr and Sen. Alfonse M. D’Amato (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Senate committee investigating the Clintons’ business dealings in Arkansas.