Commie e-mail quiz gets an F
By Angie Drobnic Holan
Published on Wednesday, December 12th, 2007 at 4:59 p.m.
Sometimes anonymous e-mails just make up facts, mixing them in with a speck of truth, to create an attack. In a recent chain e-mail aimed at Hillary Clinton, the unnamed author cherry-picked actual quotes by Clinton and put them into a "gotcha"-style quiz. Give it points for creativity, but not for fairness and context.
The quiz lists six quotations, then asks which famous communist said them. The kicker is at the end of the quiz: Hillary Clinton said them all.
As with most chain e-mails, it's almost impossible to tell where this one came from. One thing we can say is that it's a recent creation of the 2008 campaign cycle, because it uses quotes Clinton made as recently as June 2007. (In contrast, an e-mail we checked previously about Hillary Clinton and military mothers has been trailing her since 2001; see our debunking of that e-mail here .)
In examining the communist quiz e-mail, we found its quotes included words that Clinton said, but the quotes were taken out of context or edited to distort their meaning. In none of the cases was Clinton advocating communist-style government for the United States or socialistic economic policies. In some instances she was criticizing out-of-control government spending or the excesses of Big Business; at other times she was saying that complicated issues will require political consensus.
• From the chain e-mail: "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."
This is from 2004 remarks that Clinton made to a roomful of Democratic donors, some of whom paid $10,000 to attend the function, according to the Associated Press. She was discussing the need to end the Bush tax cuts in order to balance the budget. Her full quote was, "We're not coming to you, many of whom are well enough off that actually the tax cuts may have helped you, and say 'We're going to give you more.' We're saying, 'You know what, for America to get back on track and be fiscally responsible, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good. ' "
• From the chain e-mail: "It's time for a new beginning, for an end to government of the few, by the few, and for the few. ... And to replace it with shared responsibility for shared prosperity."
In this one, Clinton was giving a speech in May 2007 attacking the economic policies of the Bush administration. She slammed subsidies for oil and gas companies, tax incentives for companies that move jobs overseas, and excessive CEO pay, according to a report in the Concord (N.H.) Monitor . Notice the italicized phrases that were left out of the chain e-mail quote: "It's time for a new beginning, for an end to government of the few, by the few and for the few. Time to reject the idea of an on-your-own society and replace it with shared responsibility for shared prosperity. I prefer a we're-all-in-it-together society. "
• From the chain e-mail: "(We) ... can't just let business as usual go on, and that means something has to be taken away from some people."
Clinton was speaking at a forum on religion and public life hosted by CNN in June 2007. This quote was in reply to a question from a Catholic priest, who asked, "In an age in which there is, oftentimes, narrow and excessive individualism, how will you speak to our country about the need for sacrifice, restraint, when it comes to the critical issues of taxes, gun control, health care, and energy consumption?" Here's Clinton's more complete response about energy: "You know, we can't keep talking about our dependence on foreign oil and the need to deal with global warming and the challenge that it poses to our climate and to God's creation and just let business as usual go on. And that means something has to be taken away from some people."
• From the chain e-mail: "We have to build a political consensus and that requires people to give up a little bit of their own ... in order to create this common ground."
This quote is from the same CNN forum and question mentioned above, but on the health care issue. Clinton's full quote is a little more verbose and concerns the uninsured: "I think we could reach that agreement, and then we would have to start doing the hard work of deciding what we were going to do to make sure that they were not uninsured, because an uninsured person who goes to the hospital is more likely to die than an insured person. I mean, that is a fact. So what do we do? We have to build a political consensus, and that requires people giving up a little bit of their own turf in order to create this common ground."
• From the chain e-mail: "I certainly think the free-market has failed."
This might be the most egregious of the quiz quotes, because it's taken from a long list of institutions that Clinton says have failed to help kids make good decisions. Clinton was responding to a question, again at the CNN forum, about how antiabortion and proabortion forces can work together to reduce abortions. Clinton said it was important for everyone to help teens make better decisions: "We have so many young people who are tremendously influenced by the media culture and by the celebrity culture, and who have a very difficult time trying to sort out the right decisions to make. And I personally believe that the adult society has failed those people. I mean, I think that we have failed them in our churches, our schools, our government. And I certainly think the, you know, free market has failed. We have all failed."
• From the chain e-mail: "I think it's time to send a clear message to what has become the most profitable sector in (the) entire economy that they are being watched."
Clinton's target here was oil companies. She alleged that they were gouging consumers by raising prices after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, according to a 2005 Washington Post story. "I think it's time to send a clear message to what has become the most profitable sector in our entire economy that they're being watched," she said in explaining her call for an inquiry by the Federal Trade Commission. "I think human nature left to itself is going to push the limit as far as possible, and that's what you need a government regulatory system for: to keep an eye on people to make the rules of the game fair, to make a level playing field and not give anybody some kind of undue advantage."
So is Hillary Clinton advocating communism? Hardly. The masked e-mailer hopes you might think so after reading a political tyrants' Hall of Fame list alongside truncated quotes about taking things away and the collective good.
We give the mock quiz a failing grade, with extra points deducted for unabashed fearmongering. Its argument that Clinton advocates Marxism is not just False, it's Pants-on-Fire wrong.
Sources:Associated Press, San Francisco rolls out the red carpet for the Clintons , June 29, 2004
Concord (N.H.) Monitor, Clinton emphasizes class divide; She recounts history, gives partisan attack , May 30, 2007
Washington Post, Oil Firms Turn Katrina Into Profits, Clinton Says , Sept. 3, 2005
CNN, Sojourners Presidential Forum , June 4, 2007
Read the full text of the anonymous e-mail here .
Names in this article: Hillary Clinton
We want to hear your suggestions and comments.
For tips or comments on our Obameter and our GOP-Pledge-O-Meter promise databases, please e-mail the Obameter. If you are commenting on a specific promise, please include the wording of the promise.For comments about our Truth-O-Meter or Flip-O-Meter items, please e-mail the Truth-O-Meter. We’re especially interested in seeing any chain e-mails you receive that you would like us to check out. If you send us a comment, we'll assume you don't mind us publishing it unless you tell us otherwise.
Keep up to date with Politifact:
- Sign up for our e-mail (about once a week)
- Put a free PolitiFact widget on your blog or Web page
- Subscribe to our RSS feeds on Truth-O-Meter items
- Subscribe to our RSS feeds on GOP Pledge-O-Meter items
- Subscribe to our RSS feeds on Obameter items
- Advertise on PolitiFact
- Shop the PolitiFact store for T-shirts, hats and other PolitiFact swag