« | »

Washington Post Explains Hillary’s “Mystique”

Now here is some of the hard-hitting objective reporting we’ve come to expect from the DNC’s house organ, the Washington Post:

The Hillary mystique: How would it affect her candidacy?

By Dan Balz

WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton has fashioned a political persona that generates intense passions but defies easy characterization. She is viewed as a hawk on Iraq and national security, stamped as a big-government Democrat for her work on health care in the 1990s, and depicted as seeking the middle ground on abortion.

After three decades in public life, New York’s junior senator is one of the most recognized women in the world, her every move and utterance interpreted amid the assumption that her Senate re-election campaign, which she kicked off Wednesday, will pivot into a run for president in 2008. Yet for all her fame there are missing pieces to the Clinton puzzle: What does she stand for? And where would she try to take the country if elected?

Clinton’s roles as senator, first lady, governor’s wife, lawyer and children’s advocate have given her a depth of experience that few national politicians can match, but she is still trying to demonstrate whether these yielded a coherent governing philosophy. For now, she is defined by a combination of celebrity and caution that strategists say leaves her more vulnerable than most politicians to charges that she is motivated more by personal ambition and tactical maneuver than a coherent governing philosophy.

Clearing the air

In recent weeks, Clinton has moved to clarify her agenda with major speeches on the economy and energy. Later this summer she will help present a new governing strategy for the Democrats. She has given speeches setting out her foreign-policy views. But she has yet to wrap up her ideas in a package such as the "New Democrat" philosophy her husband, former President Bill Clinton, used in his 1992 campaign or the "compassionate conservative" label President Bush adopted in 2000.

To the contrary, she made clear in a telephone interview on Friday that her governing philosophy might never be easily reduced to a slogan. "I don’t think like that," she said. "I approach each issue and problem from a perspective of combining my beliefs and ideals with a search for practical solutions. It doesn’t perhaps fit in a pre-existing box, but many of the problems we face as a nation don’t either."

As a result, everyone seems to have a label for her. Roger Altman, a former Treasury Department official and one of her outside advisers, calls Clinton "a modern centrist." William Galston of the Brookings Institution, who was domestic-policy adviser in the Clinton White House, describes her as "a progressive without illusions" and a politician who has been "consistent but complicated."

Her detractors find much — and much different — to criticize. Liberal columnist Molly Ivins dismisses Clinton as the embodiment of "triangulation, calculation and equivocation." The Rev. Jerry Falwell, echoing a view shared by many Republicans, calls her a liberal "ideologue" who is far more doctrinaire than her husband.

Finding patterns

A selective reading of Clinton’s record can produce evidence to prove she is a centrist, a liberal and much in between. But there are some clear patterns:

• On defense, she has consistently supported the use of force abroad, having advocated military intervention in the Balkans during her husband’s administration. She differs with Bush administration officials on many aspects of how they have conducted foreign policy, but not on combating terrorism or the imperative of winning in Iraq.

• Domestically, she has a more complex profile. She is an activist who believes in the power of government to solve problems, but those pro-government instincts have been tempered by the health-care debacle of 1993-94 and the nation’s budgetary squeeze.

On family policy, she has some traditional, even moralistic, instincts that those who know her best say are genuine and deeply felt.

She believes government is an essential partner in a three-sided relationship that also includes the free market, and a "civil society" of churches and nonprofit groups. "I am a big believer in self-help and personal responsibility and a work ethic that holds people responsible," she added. "But I know one of the reasons our country has been one of the most successful organizations in the world is because we got the balance right."

The debate about Clinton’s beliefs is linked to one about her electability. Many Democrats fear she carries so much baggage that, if she becomes the party’s standard-bearer in 2008, she would prove too polarizing and lead it to a third straight defeat. Many Republicans see a shrewd politician who they fear would be a formidable opponent in a general election and who, if elected, would move the country left.

That she polarizes the electorate is clear from a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The survey found that 84 percent of Democrats have a favorable impression of Clinton, while 73 percent of Republicans have an unfavorable view. As a point of contrast, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a leading potential candidate for the Republican nomination, is viewed favorably by 65 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of Democrats.

Although she has drawn criticism from the left for supporting the Iraq war, Clinton remains more popular among liberal Democrats than among moderate Democrats. Overall, 37 percent of Americans said she is too liberal, which is less than the 45 percent recorded for Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., during the 2004 campaign and almost identical to perceptions of former Vice President Al Gore in 2000.

Personal strengths

Clinton’s advisers argue that most Americans have formed opinions about her based not just on Iraq or health care but also on how she has conducted herself through personal circumstances. In the Post-ABC News poll for example, 68 percent said they see Clinton as a strong leader, 16 percentage points more than Bush received a few months ago.

On balance, most of those around Clinton say her hard-to-pigeonhole profile is a political asset — the product, they say, of a curious intellect, the absence of rigid ideology, an instinct for problem solving and a willingness to seek consensus even across party lines. Her detractors see her career as the work of an opportunistic politician who has sanded the sharp edges off her views, so much so that there is little sense of authenticity when she speaks.

On Iraq, she has tried to be a critic of Bush without renouncing her support for the resolution that authorized him to go to war, as other Democrats have done. She opposes a timetable for withdrawing troops and backs an open-ended commitment.

In the interview, Clinton defended herself. "I’ve said many times I regret how the president has used his authority," she said. "But I think I have a responsibility to look at this as carefully as I can … and therefore I have resisted going along with either my colleagues who feel passionately they need to call for a date certain or colleagues who are 100 percent behind the policy and with the president. … I know I take criticism from all sides on this, but I’ve tried to work my way through it as clearly and responsibly as I can."

Voting record

In the Senate, Clinton has introduced about 190 bills. Of those dealing with matters not strictly involving parochial New York matters, about half include at least one Republican co-sponsor, her advisers say.

But a Congressional Quarterly analysis found she has voted with a majority of Democrats 95 percent of the time and has consistently recorded one of the highest percentages for opposing Bush on legislation of any of her potential 2008 Democratic rivals.

The defeat of her health-care proposal in 1994, advisers say, taught her to respect the limits of the political system to absorb major policy changes.

She said the biggest lesson learned is that there can be no progress on health care without the business community. "There has to be a consensus in the public and private sector before we can ever get the political system to respond," she said.

Hillary Clinton has a populist streak that sometimes takes on an angry edge, in contrast to her husband. But one policy aide in the Clinton White House who has worked closely with both Clintons suggested their differences are stylistic. "She’s just blunter in the way she talks about things than he is," the adviser said.

The abortion speech

No Clinton speech has drawn more attention than her January 2005 address in which she described abortion as a "sad, even tragic choice" for many women. The speech was widely interpreted as her effort to move toward the center. Her advisers, worried that she would be attacked for inconsistency, insisted that it represented no change from her past position.

The speech, read in its entirety, was a ringing endorsement of a woman’s right to choose, and its political purpose, advisers say, was to put abortion foes on the defensive about contraception.

Later this summer, Clinton will participate in the rollout of a Democratic agenda, a project initiated by the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). At her urging, the DLC project includes participation of the liberal Center for American Progress, as well as two other centrist groups, the New Democrat Network and Third Way.

When he sought the presidency, Bill Clinton used the DLC to signal a break from the old Democratic Party when the DLC officials were at war with the liberal wing. Hillary Clinton appears to have the opposite goal, which is to use the DLC as a base from which to unite the party to rebut criticism that Democrats have no common message.

Galston suggested people are asking the wrong questions about her. "I think the real issue that people ought to be talking about is not whether she’s consistent or sincere," he said. "If I’m reading her correctly, she is. The real question that people ought to be asking is, given what she’s stood for unflinchingly, is that the direction they want the standard-bearer to take the party?"

That they can write things like this with a straight face is chilling:

She is viewed as a hawk on Iraq and national security, stamped as a big-government Democrat for her work on health care in the 1990s, and depicted as seeking the middle ground on abortion.

Hillary is no hawk. And she is wildly pro-abortion. (She says "right-wingers are to blame for abortions.") And she isn’t stamped as a big-government Dem because of her "work on health care," but because she is a radical socialist.

Clinton’s roles as senator, first lady, governor’s wife, lawyer and children’s advocate have given her a depth of experience that few national politicians can match…

Maybe few politicians can match her work experience. But most of their wives can.

Ms Rodham only got her job at the Rose law firm because her husband was the Arkansas Attorney General. It was only when he was elected Governor that she was made partner. There is no record of Hillary ever doing any meaningful work for the firm. (Though of course, plenty of shady business for herself.)

Hillary’s next job was being First Lady, if you don’t count Monica and all the other "friends of Bill." She then served a term in the Senate, given her strictly on the basis of her name. And there, just like everywhere else, she has done absolutely nothing.

That is some impressive resume.

On Iraq, she has tried to be a critic of Bush without renouncing her support for the resolution that authorized him to go to war, as other Democrats have done. She opposes a timetable for withdrawing troops and backs an open-ended commitment.

Which makes her exactly like every other Democrat on the hill, none of whom voted for a timetable to withdraw the troops. Yet this is what the Post cites as evidence of Ms. Rodham being a "hawk" on national security.

But never mind these petty details. The Washington Post must do their best to rehabilitate her. Its what their masters at the DNC require.

Still, that they even have the chutzpah to include preposterous quotes like these:

"I am a big believer in self-help and personal responsibility and a work ethic that holds people responsible," she added.

This is simply hilarious of course, given her history and that of her husband.

In all it is deeply disturbing to see such outlandish propaganda being paraded as news. (Note that the only voice they could find to speak against her was Jerry Falwell.)

Then again, it is the Washington Post and not a real newspaper.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, June 1st, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

25 Responses to “Washington Post Explains Hillary’s “Mystique””

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.


« Front Page | To Top
« | »