Hillary Clinton is neither the anti-Christ nor the smartest politician around. We know, from pretty much everything she has done in her adult life that she is dishonest, opportunistic, and someone we cannot possibly trust with the security of our nation. Forget all that for the moment. Focus on the fact that she, like Howard Dean, John Kerry and Dennis Kucinich, is a pure-as-Ivory-Soap liberal.
Unlike the Deanocrat party leadership, Clinton is smart enough to realize that undiluted hyper-liberalism isn't a platform that will support any successful presidential candidacy. Clinton has, at least since her college days, been a near-radical liberal. (Any who doubt this should read Peggy Noonan's The Case Against Hillary Clinton.) But having lived with Lil' Billy for so long, and having helped create his post-Vietnam "New Democrat" persona, she knows how to conceal her liberalism under a cloak of phony moderation. Ever since 9-11, liberal Clinton has been wrapping herself in a political chrysalis. From it, with the aid of prominent Republicans who should know better, has now emerged the moderate Clinton butterfly.
There is a growing gap between Democrat voters and those who fund the Democrats' campaigns, and their problem is being exacerbated weekly by Howard Dean. When he says something such as the Republican Party is the Christian White People's Party, the Democrats' hyperlib base is energized. But all that energy short-circuits their donor base. The Dems' party activists want to push their party farther off into the lefties' parallel universe while the money men keep their checkbooks closed, hoping against hope that an electable moderate will suddenly appear. They are, quite literally, banking on Hillary to fill that bill.
To succeed, Sen. Clinton has to do two things. First, she has to keep the hyperlibs comforted and quiet. They trust her because she reassures them periodically that she is one of them. Speaking earlier this month, she said of President Bush and his team, "There has never been an administration, I don't believe in our history, more intent upon consolidating and abusing power to further their own agenda." But when the press tut-tuts about the outrageous rhetoric of the day, as the ever-reliable Dana Milbank did in the Washington Post yesterday, we read nothing about Hillary. Only Dean, Harry Reid and a slew of Republicans get mentioned. Clinton, of course, sits quietly while Dick Durbin slanders America and those serving at Guantanamo Bay. Her positions are as malleable as her husband's, tailored to whatever audience she addresses. And she can be confident that her payments of tribute to the hyperlibs will be buried by the press. Tying her down should be easy. But don't count on it. As Slick as he is, she is just as Slippary.
The second thing she must do is convincingly appear to be a moderate. Gaining a seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee was a real coup. She travels to Iraq and Afghanistan, claiming her pride in being the senator representing the home of the Tenth Mountain Division. The troops don't buy it. When they are dragooned into a Hillary photo op, as one young officer was in Iraq last year, they find ways to show their dislike and distrust for her. If only prominent Republicans -- Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and John McCain first among them -- were as honest and steadfast as the common soldier. But they're not. They're playing the useful idiot to Clinton's claim to the legacy of Scoop Jackson.
Gingrich is bizarrely eager to aid Hillary's campaign to credential herself as a moderate, even conservative, Dem. First he teamed up with Clinton to endorse her bill on health information technology. He described her as "more practical" than Dean or Kerry. Perhaps he meant to damn her with faint praise, but all he accomplished was to give her an invaluable sound bite to use in future campaign commercials. Gingrich then defended his odd couple alliance to Bill O'Reilly, saying that, "If Hillary Clinton is willing to support a good, practical, common-sense [bill], then we should take her support." Yes, Mr. Gingrich, we should. But why go the next step and help her change her image when she isn't changing her beliefs? Perhaps we should ask titular Senate majority leader Bill Frist, who joined her in mid-June in sponsoring another bill meant to reduce doctors' reliance on paper records.
HER MOST UNEXPECTED PAL is Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), who is as rock-ribbed a conservative as you're likely to find in the Senate. But rocklike ribs may be accompanied by political soft-headedness. Beaming her "I landed another sucker" smile at a March press conference, Clinton shared the stage with Santorum to announce a bill they cosponsored to measure the effect of television and the Internet on children. It's bad enough for a conservative to be sponsoring this kind of feel good nonsense -- the bill will not pass, and will mean nothing to our children -- but why do it in a way that helps Clinton claim the family values credentials of a moderate?
Republican presidential aspirant John McCain should be cagier than the others. If his dream comes true, he could be running against Clinton in 2008. But McCain has done more to re-credential Hillary than the others combined. He has gone to Iraq with her, joined with her in nominating Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko for the Nobel Peace Prize. Most awfully, McCain appeared on Meet the Press with her, talking from Iraq to Tim Russert on February 20.
The Meet the Press joint appearance was the greatest bonus Clinton could possibly have received for the trip. Appearing with McCain gave Clinton's claim to national security expertise credence when it would, before, have been laughable. The two debated the possibility of scheduling withdrawals from Iraq -- Clinton saying a schedule was inadvisable "at the moment" -- the strength of the insurgency, and what they talked about with the nascent Iraqi government. McCain, however wrong he often is, has enormous credibility on national defense issues. Appearing with him from Iraq gives Clinton a boost she desperately needed. As bad as that was, it was made much worse when Russert asked McCain if Clinton would make a good president.
McCain said, "I am sure that Senator Clinton would make a good president. I happen to be a Republican and would support, obviously, a Republican nominee, but I have no doubt that Senator Clinton would make a good president." Remember that line. You'll be seeing and hearing it all too often in 2008.
Hillary Clinton's presidential bid can be defeated, easily, with the facts. She is a pure liberal, uninterested in national security and as incapable of defending America as her husband was. She is working very hard to make people believe that she is something she isn't: a moderate, defense-minded Democrat who cares deeply about America's safety, our families and our future. If her false advertising campaign succeeds, it will be because her Republican enablers made it possible.
TAS contributing editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery, 2004).
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