Hillary Clinton laments Supreme Court decision on voting rights

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during the America Bar Assn. annual meeting in San Francisco.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during the America Bar Assn. annual meeting in San Francisco.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hillary Rodham Clinton continued her long, slow flirtation with the 2016 presidential campaign Monday, delivering the first in a promised series of speeches on restoring faith in government and other institutions corroded by cynicism.

The topic of her first address, delivered before the American Bar Association convention in San Francisco, focused on voting rights and the recent Supreme Court decision striking down the heart of the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act.

“Unless the hole opened up by the Supreme Court is fixed ... citizens will be disenfranchised, victimized by the law, instead of served by it,” Clinton said, and “that historical progress for a more perfect union will go backwards, instead of forward.”


She cited a number of state-level efforts to tighten voting requirements since the Supreme Court’s ruling in June and said they would disproportionately hurt minority voters, the group that has historically suffered the most grievous discrimination at the ballot box.

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“Anyone who says that racial discrimination is no longer a problem in American elections must not be paying attention,” Clinton said in a sharp rejoinder to the court’s 5-4 decision.

Clinton, who stepped down as secretary of State in February, made no mention of the 2016 presidential race but the contest -- and the prospect of a second White House bid -- was an unspoken subtext throughout her roughly 35-minute speech. She took no questions afterward.

After lamenting the public’s diminished regard for a host of institutions -- among them Congress, the media and sports heroes -- Clinton announced a series of campaign-style policy speeches to offer her restorative prescription. A national security address, set for next month in Philadelphia, will deal with “balance and transparency” more than a decade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Another, to be delivered in the fall, would focus on global leadership and America’s standing abroad, Clinton said.

Clinton, a former New York senator and first lady, appeared in San Francisco to accept the ABA medal for her groundbreaking career in the legal profession and politics. As first lady of Arkansas when her husband, Bill, was governor — and the first female partner at Little Rock’s Rose Law Firm — Clinton was chairwoman of a newly created ABA panel on women in the legal profession.

As Clinton weighs another run, a small groundswell has built in hopes of her making a second White House bid. The organization Ready For Hillary, which has attracted a number of major Democratic donors and local volunteers, is working to build a campaign operation poised for instant activation nationwide.

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The group Emily’s List, which promotes female candidates — chiefly Democrats -- is also staging a number of town hall meetings under the “Madam President” moniker. The first was last week in Iowa, the state that has long kicked off the presidential nominating process -- and where Clinton finished a disappointing third in 2008, behind then-Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. Other events are planned in the key early-voting states of New Hampshire and Nevada.

Republicans aren’t waiting to attack. On Monday, the Republican National Committee released a YouTube video — the first of a series — featuring Clinton’s heated testimony before Congress on the deadly September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Leaders of the party are also considering whether to bar NBC and CNN from hosting any 2016 GOP presidential primary debates; NBC is planning a Clinton miniseries, and CNN is producing a documentary film on her.

Twitter: @markzbarabak