10/14/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Speak Up, Hillary!

In accepting her role as John McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin made an unabashed appeal to Hillary Clinton supporters and, in one of the greatest displays of chutzpah in recent political memory, offered to carry the baton that final yard for her to smash the glass ceiling. Women, and people who care about women, should be afraid of this Republican ticket. They should be affronted by the Republican's appeal for support to the very people whom they seek to harm. And they should look to Hillary Clinton to make clear the distinctions between herself and the Sarah Palins of the world. John McCain and Sarah Palin are people who can be counted on to repair any cracks in the glass ceiling made by Hillary and countless others, and roll back progress made by and for women over the past half century. Hillary is in a unique position to point out that this Republican ticket proposes to pack the Supreme Court with radical conservative judges, take away a woman's right to chose, blur the line between Church and State, jeopardize Social Security, and cut social programs whose beneficiaries are primarily women and children.

Yet, following the announcement of Palin as the VP nominee, Hillary Clinton released the following tepid statement: "We should all be proud of Governor Sarah Palin's historic nomination, and I congratulate her and Senator McCain. While their policies would take America in the wrong direction, Governor Palin will add an important new voice to the debate."

During the debates against Barack Obama, a man with whom she voted approximately 90% of the time in Congress and with whom she shares a basic set of values, beliefs and core political principles, Clinton did not hold back her pointed criticisms of the man she hoped to defeat. It is now time for her to unleash her oratory power and, in this case, well-deserved indignation, against John McCain and his choice for vice president.

John McCain and Sarah Palin are the antithesis of everything that both Barack Obama and
Hillary Clinton stand for, and everything that Hillary Clinton has fought for during her political career. I have been an Obama supporter from the start, but I always knew that, if Hillary turned out to be the nominee, the Supreme Court would be safe from justices who would seek to prevent women from maintaining control over their own bodies and reproductive decisions. I knew that the fight for healthcare, education, social security, and support for our nation's veterans would be in capable and concerned hands. And, I had the comfort of knowing that the unilateralism that has been the hallmark of the Bush foreign policy would come to an end and that we would once again reach out to our allies. These are the common causes that should spur Hillary on to step forward and make the difference she clearly can in shifting the tone and substance of the media coverage of this campaign. As a woman who has become a feminist icon with serious track record on issues relating to women and children, she is needed at the front lines, a place where she told us during the primaries she has always been.

Hillary was much praised for her speech at the democratic convention, but her relative silence now can only lead Democratic voters to wonder whether she is in this for the Democrats or for herself. If McCain's reckless ploy actually works and disaffected Clinton supporters vote to put oldest president and the least qualified vice president in American history in office, Hillary might have succeeded in proving that the Democratic party needed her more than it thought it did. And her legacy might very well end up being the first woman in the White House -- just not one who advances the cause of women. Hillary Clinton's silence could very well contribute to the election of John McCain, and to a President Palin who appoints a Supreme Court that overturns Roe v. Wade.

Hillary commands an audience when she speaks. And Sarah Palin has given her a veritable invitation to respond to and attack the McCain-Palin ticket for the devastating effect its policies would have on women and children. Hillary has it in her power to draw the cameras of CNN and FOX's. She has the opportunity to use her influence and unique position in this campaign to get the media to run and re-run speeches conveying her outrage over Republican lies and her exhortation to women voters to support the Democratic ticket. If Hillary Clinton was serious when she said that this election is not about her, but about the issues, then she needs to lend her voice, loud and clear, to help pop the Palin balloon with one of the shards of that glass ceiling that she can legitimately claim to have cracked. She needs to take the spotlight away from John McCain and Sarah Palin and focus it back on the issues that matter to her and to the American people.