Hillary Clinton Lauds Progressive Think Tank, Denounces 'Evidence-Free' Policy Debates in DC

Clinton spoke at the Center for American Progress' 10th anniversary event.

ByABC News
October 24, 2013, 7:31 PM
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses the 51st Delta Sigma Theta National Convention in Washington, July 16, 2013.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses the 51st Delta Sigma Theta National Convention in Washington, July 16, 2013.
Cliff Owen/AP Photo

Oct. 24, 2013— -- Calling for a more inclusive, ideas-driven policy in Washington, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton feted the progressive think tank, the Center for American Progress, at its 10th anniversary reception today.

"We are careening form crisis to crisis instead of having a plan, bringing people to that plan, focusing on common sense solutions and being relentless in driving toward them," Clinton said at the reception in Washington. "So CAP is needed today as much if not more than it ever has been."

"As we look ahead to the next ten years, there are very big challenges facing us, facing our country and facing the world," she added.

Clinton reiterated a condemnation of the recent government shutdown, which she said left families dealing with the fallout of a "scorched earth over common ground" philosophy.

"We've seen unfortunately what happens in our public debates when they occur in what I call an 'evidence-free zone,'" Clinton noted. "When people make claims and arguments that have no basis in evidence."

"Families have felt the consequences," she added.

The organization was founded in 2003 by John Podesta, White House chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton, and it is currently being run by a longtime Clinton aide, Neera Tanden, who is the organization's president.

Clinton praised both Podesta and Tanden for molding the organization in a tumultuous time for the Democratic Party -- the years following Clinton's presidency and during the Iraq War.

Tanden noted that the center's position opposing the war was a central tenant of its early existence -- and it eventually became a central tenant of then-Senator Barack Obama's 2008 election platform.

Clinton, on the other hand, spent much of the campaign in 2008 defending her vote for the Iraq War while she served in the Senate.

The think tank has now become a pillar of Democratic policy-making in Washington.

CAP takes credit for the intellectual underpinnings of several other critical policies for Democrats in the post-George W. Bush era -- including health care reform and their continued advocacy for cap-and-trade legislation.

Clinton, who as first lady pushed for health care reform, praised the organization for bringing the issue back to the forefront of the policy debates.

"In particular, CAP's efforts to put the cause of quality affordable health care for every American back on the American agenda, was essential," Clinton noted.

"I'm grateful that CAP exists, I'm grateful that people support it generously, I'm grateful that it attracts such talent and incredible energy to make a difference on behalf of our country," Clinton said.

Clinton's comments at the swanky reception cap a day of events celebrating the progressive think tank's decade of existence. In addition to Clinton, the conference featured a slew of speeches from rising stars in the party -- and potential political rivals for Clinton if she runs for president in 2016.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who is emerging as a favorite among progressives, focused her remarks on the economic needs of women and families. She is often included among a short list of Democratic women who may have presidential ambitions, although likely only if Clinton declines to run.

And Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is also thought to be interested in a presidential run, focused his remarks on his efforts to steer Maryland in a more progressive direction on economic and social issues, as well as on immigration.

But if anything, the showcase of the progressive movement's biggest names highlighted even more that Clinton remains the person to beat. Few others engender the same passions among Democratic base activists. And even fewer have the range of experiences to bring to the table.

The favorite, at least among Democrats, is clear.