The only even remotely positive thing that can be said about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s confounding statement praising the late Nancy Reagan for her “low-key advocacy” on HIV/AIDS as first lady, and praising the first couple for having “started a national conversation” about the issue, is that she realized her mistake relatively quickly and retracted the comment.
That said, it is no more than should be expected. To be generous to Clinton, one could perhaps assume that she was merely being overly cautious in trying not to speak ill of a generally well-respected, recently deceased person. I cannot not find any other reason why a statement so far from any recognizable truth emerged from the Clinton campaign, except if she was simply uninformed. That would be even worse.
I can stomach a lot of deliberately vague political rhetoric, but the words Clinton used – “national conversation” and “low-key diplomacy” – are vacuous even by those standards. “Low-key diplomacy” is so imprecise and potentially all-compassing that it’s very lack of success (if we even are to accept that Nancy Reagan ever attempted such a thing) could serve as proof of its existence. By the time Ronald Reagan was ready to have a “national conversation” about HIV/AIDS, most notably in a speech he gave in 1987, tens of thousands of people had died out of neglect and underfunded health care and medical research, suggesting that his wife’s “low-key diplomacy” was not particularly effective.
I guess I could give Hillary Clinton one more thing: At least she did not claim that her words had been misconstrued, or that she never said what she clearly said, as say, a Donald Trump might have done, turning it into yet another me-against-the-mainstream-media brawl. But the vast distance between the more or less undisputed facts about the Reagans’ record on HIV/AIDS issues and what Clinton said, suggests that using the cliched phrase “I misspoke” papers over a surprising unfamiliarity with how things really were.
This doesn’t make Clinton a foe of the LGBTQ community. When it comes to these issues, she has been better than her husband was. But she, at best, displayed ignorance about a central part of recent queer, heck, central part of U.S. history. Now she has bridges to build and books to read.