Watching Hillary Clinton Nod Vigorously

Decoding her appearance at the Center for American Prosperity.
Photographer: Getty Images

Mostly, what Hillary Clinton did on Monday morning, as part of a panel discussion on urban issues held at the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress, was nod vigorously and take copious notes. She did this with great enthusiasm, as if the ideas being presented were all thrilling and new. And in a way, the message her body language sent was perfect: I'm here. I'm listening more than I'm talking. And I am even willing to go to school.

For the many progressives who wonder where exactly Clinton stands on a number of issues, including trade, Wall Street reform and how she'd address income inequality, inspiring the feeling that they are being heard as she's still sketching out the policy particulars of her expected presidential run is no small thing.

Also in her favor, she looked far more rested and at ease than when most of us last saw her, at the news conference on her decision to do all State Department business on a personal email address.

When she did speak on Monday, she talked about investing in infrastructure, including human infrastructure. Among the most pressing questions, she said, are, "What do we do to better equip our people to be able to take the jobs? And how do we keep middle-class families in cities where they want to stay? They don't want to leave, but they're being priced out."

She applauded the work of unions pooling their public pension money to create green jobs by training people to do "energy retrofits, energy efficiency,'' and praised progressive New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio for "trying to create pre-K access for every young child in New York, regardless of who that child is and who its parents are."

And she cited new work out out of Harvard on how a lack of social mobility and income equality go hand and hand. "It turns out that places where the fabric of community is strong, with a vibrant middle class, places that are more integrated across class, places with good schools, places with unions, places with religious organizations and civic organizations help people feel rooted, part of a community and then being able to pull together all of the aspects that play into upward mobility."

She touted the work of her family's foundation in preparing young people for their first jobs -- through a program called "Job One." And she spoke favorably about Germany's wage-subsidy system, based on the idea that it's better to pay out to keep people employed than to pay unemployment benefits. 

In closing, she told advocates for criminal justice reform, job and skills training and Latino entrepreneurship, "Amen! I love discussions like this," and loved, too, she said, getting back to "an evidence-based discussion," presumably as opposed to the one about her exclusive use of a private email as secretary of state.

She also paid those present the compliment of hinting broadly that she'll need to hear more from them as she puts a campaign together: "Don't be surprised if you get a call.''

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