Hillary Rodham Clinton says the nation's political class could use "camps for adults" to foster cooperation but too many leaders get backed into partisan corners and refuse to work together.
Clinton offered a bipartisan, feel-good message Thursday during a paid speech to camp counselors in the weeks before her expected presidential campaign launch. She was presented with a gray sweatshirt emblazoned with "Camp David" — the presidential retreat in Maryland — but otherwise steered clear of her prospective campaign, pointing to a "huge fun deficit" in the nation and the need for politicians of all stripes to reach across the aisle.
"We really need camps for adults," Clinton said at the American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey's Tri State CAMP Conference. "Maybe mix it up a little bit." Playing on the colors of U.S. politics, she imagined a red cabin and a blue cabin where people "have to come together and actually listen to each other. Wouldn't that be a novel idea?"
Clinton answered friendly questions on stage in a session moderated by Jay Jacobs, a New York summer camp executive who supported Clinton's New York Senate bid and serves as chairman of the Nassau County, N.Y., Democratic Party.
The former secretary of state did not address recent criticism of her use of a personal email account at the State Department and was not asked about it.
Preparing for a campaign, Clinton has often spoken of the need for congressional leaders to work together even while she criticizes some of their actions. She has taken to Twitter in recent days to register disapproval with a GOP budget proposal, efforts by Republicans to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law and the stalled nomination of Loretta Lynch for attorney general.
Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short said Clinton's "lip service to bipartisanship" masked a partisan record in the Senate and support for Obama's "divisive, left-wing agenda."
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It was probably Clinton's final paid speech before the start of her presidential campaign. She has two public events on her schedule next week but nothing scheduled in April, when she is expected to announce her bid. Since departing the State Department in early 2013, Clinton has appeared at a number of corporate events, universities and conventions, often receiving fees of $200,000 or more, potentially opening her up to attacks of being beholden to corporate interests.
During her appearance, Clinton offered plenty of camp stories, recalling daughter Chelsea Clinton's insistence at attending a sleep-away camp as a child. When she and former President Bill Clinton let Chelsea go to a language camp to study German for a week, it was tough as a parent, she said.
"It was the worst week — well, I've had a few bad weeks," Clinton said to laughter in a nod to the scrutiny she's faced in public life. "But it was up there."
Asked about her resilience, she talked about her mother's difficult upbringing.
"Whenever I get a little bit, you know, feeling kind of sorry for myself, thinking 'That's not fair, that's not right,' I say to myself, 'Yeah, right and look at what my mother went through,'" Clinton said.