May 9, 2005

Hillaryous

(-ous ; adjective suffix; 1: full of : abounding in )

The pundits are out in force talking Hillary, starting with Peter Beinart's Washington Post article, which makes the case that Mrs. Clinton's much noted shift to the political center isn't a shift at all:

In May 1993, in a long profile in the same New York Times, Clinton spoke at length about her Christian youth group, about theologians such as Paul Tillich and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and about her guest sermons for the United Methodist Church. "She is moved," wrote Michael Kelly, "by the impatient conviction that moderates and liberals have wanly surrendered the adjective 'religious' to the right." That was 12 years ago.

In the same article, Clinton attacks "rights without responsibilities," endorses welfare reform and lavishes praise on an article by Daniel Patrick Moynihan called "Defining Deviancy Down," which argued that Americans were tolerating more and more antisocial behavior.

In truth, Hillary Clinton was basically as "centrist" when she entered the national stage in the early 1990s as she is today.

Maybe. She definitely appears more centrist than ever before because her party has lurched so far left since the end of the Clinton co-Presidency. To be fair, her voting record on security and War on Terror issues has been responsible, and she has left most of the shrill rhetoric to the designated Democratic hitmen among her colleagues. But you don't have to be a Clinton-hater to get a sense that the woman does absolutely nothing that is without political calculation. Within days after the November 2004 election and the ensuing "values voters" talk, there she was at Tufts University, giving a speech in which she acknowledged that Democrats need to pay attention to such issues, but only it seems, as a way to win elections. Quoting Hill:

I don't think you can win an election or even run a successful campaign if you don't acknowledge what is important to people. We don't have to agree with them. But being ignored is a sign of such disrespect. And therefore I think we should talk about these issues.

In other words, patronize them. You know, start working little phrases into your routine like "I have more on my plate than I can say grace over". Get it? Back in December, Peggy Noonan predicted what we might expect from a smart politician who had learned a lesson from November 3, 2004:

...she is about to get very spiritual. She knows it's not enough to run around quoting scripture on the stump, as John Kerry did. On the other hand she cannot speak as Bush did of Christ as the center of her life because that would not be credible: She has never spoken that way and strikes no one as born again.

But she can go about it in her own way. She will begin giving interviews in which she speaks of the importance of the teachings of Christ in her thinking about policy issues. She will also begin to emphasize as never before her Methodist youth, and her hometown pastor's emphasis on public service. Something tells me a big black Bible is being put on a coffee table in her office even as I type.

I admire and respect Peter Beinart as one of the most principled and sensible liberal writers I can think of in the major media today. But he's still relying on a few selected quotes and not so many specific deeds to argue that Hillary has been a centrist all along. OK, she made some politically necessary compromises in her attempt to socialize health care in the 90's. But her arrogance and statist instincts were betrayed by her insistence on conducting the health care task force in secret, in violation of federal law in a telling ploy to keep the negotiations for the plan from the public. The federal court fine for this law-breaking was in six figures. The taxpayers had to pick it up, and the press gave Hillary a complete pass.

One convenient circumstance for Hillary is that she rarely if ever deigns to answer any questions from the press about things like this in her past. She doesn't hold press conferences or give interviews beyond the negotiated, scripted Barbara Walters-type affairs. And while it has worked out nicely so far, you can't run for President that way. Unlike John Bolton, she has never been made to account for her temper tantrums, her lamp-throwing fits of fury in the White House, her open contempt for Secret Service personnel and military escorts. I would think that, should Hillary be the Democratic nominee in 2008, Gary Aldrich's book Unlimited Access might make a comeback. And her remarks as First Lady to the trained professionals working as her Secret Service detail might be compared to some of John Bolton "rudeness" for which he is being given the third degree. Aldrich quoting Hillary in Unlimited Access..."Stay the f--k back, stay the f--k away from me. Don't come within ten yards of me, or else!"

Anyone who has the bad form to bring up these outbursts or any of the other unseemly episodes of Hillary's White House years will have to deal with charges of practicing "the politics of personal destruction" from her spin doctors. And if anyone should know it when they see it....

Another liberal writer, Joe Klein at Time Magazine, thinks Hillary in '08 is a really bad idea. I don't recall ever agreeing with Joe Klein on much of anything, and he manages to base his case against Hillary's candidacy largely on the amount of sheer hate it would engender from the evil right wing, but some points he makes about what I'll call "the Bill factor" sound a lot like things I've said before. Here are a couple of excerpts from Klein's Time piece:

A few weeks ago, the New York Post ran a photo of Bill Clinton leaving a local restaurant with an attractive woman, and the political-elite gossip hounds went berserk. Prominent Democrats—friends of the Clintons—were wringing their hands. "Do we really want to go through all that again?" one asked me. I don't know—should the sins of the husband be visited upon the wife? Absent any evidence, the former President should be considered guilty until proved really guilty. But there is another problem: What role would the big guy play in a Hillary Clinton Administration? Would he reform health care? Does anyone believe that a man with such a huge personality would have a less active role in her Administration than she had in his?...

... The Clinton line in 1992 was, Buy one, get one free. We've already had that co-presidency—for its full, constitutional eight years.

...compared to a Wizblog post from November:

...anytime there's talk of Hillary running for President is the fact that, as long as she's still married, electing Hillary would be putting Bill Clinton back in the White House, and I'm not sure the majority of the American people will ever choose to let that happen. In fact, if the same elite opinion holds in 2008 as held sway in 1992, the Democrats and the media will gush about the special package deal we would get. Co-Presidents they called it back then, and Hillary assumed control over much of the domestic policy-making apparatus and had more than nominal oversight of the Justice Department, without so much as a ballot being cast for her or an appointment being made. Huge power with zero accountability. Nice work if you can get it. Sort of like Kofi Annan when you think about it. Would Americans in 2008 be eager to take advantage of the manifest intellectual gifts and incredible career experience of the President's spouse, and hand him a significant unelected, unappointed policy-making role? I'm doubting it.

And then Dick Morris suggests that the Hillary candidacy could be over before it begins, if it turns out that the Justice Department has enough on David Rosen to force him into a plea bargain.

No summaries. No conclusions. The story is just beginning.

(hat tip RCP)

Posted by dan at May 9, 2005 2:33 PM