May 12, 2006


Who Are You, Hillary? (Richard Cohen, 5/12/06, Real Clear Politics)

I know a businessman who says that if the answer to a question is not about money, the question has to be restated. If that applies to politics, the answer to the question of who the Democratic presidential nominee will be in 2008 is simple: Hillary Clinton. She has far and away the most money.

But politics is not just about money -- not quite yet, anyway -- if only because ideology or principles are not yet ``products.'' That being the case (I hope), then Hillary Clinton's vast lead in fundraising -- she now has more than $20 million in the bank -- will be offset by growing questions about her principles and ideology. In other words, who is this woman who wants to be the next president of the United States? Is she the wife of Bill Clinton, who we were once led to believe was more liberal than he was, or is she actually far more conservative? The answer, at the moment, is something I cannot provide.

The latest reason for my perplexity is Clinton's agreement to have Rupert Murdoch host a fundraiser for her this summer. Murdoch is the very personification of the contemporary conservative movement. He is the proprietor of both the New York Post and Fox News, both of which are ideologically biased, sometimes blatantly so. No doubt Murdoch can raise lots of money. That's not the question. The question is: What will it buy?

In Britain he backed Tony Blair when he made Labour the heir to Thatcherism as the Tories floundered. If Ms Clinton has sense enough to run as a New Democrat and try to remake the Party in the image of the Third Way it would make perfect sense for a businessman to cover his bets in case the GOP reverts to its pre-W ways.

Republicans for Hillary: Are they pretending she's a strong presidential candidate? Or do they really believe it? (John Dickerson, May 11, 2006, Slate)

There are good reasons why Republicans are taking her very seriously. Hillary seems to have genuinely impressed her Republican Senate colleagues, including McCain, with her careful diligence. In New York she has won over upstate conservatives and has become powerful enough that arch-conservative Rupert Murdoch is throwing a breakfast fund-raiser for her. "We think that she's been effective on state issues and local issues here in New York," he told reporters Wednesday. "She's been an effective and good senator."

In Washington, she has been on a careful program of aisle-crossing. She formed ad-hoc alliances with Tom DeLay on foster care, Newt Gingrich on health care, and Bill Frist on improving medical-record technology. Most recently, her cultivation paid off with a valentine from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham in Time. Her prolonged discipline in office suggests she has the focus to make it through a long and complicated campaign.

Her surprise competency may be doubly disturbing for Republicans who also see she shares her husband's resilience. Every time they thought they had Bill Clinton cornered, he escaped in better political shape. When Hillary arrived in the Senate in 2000, Republicans were sure her arrogance and pushy liberalism would doom her. They seemed itching to slap her down. "When this Hillary gets to the Senate," said then Majority Leader Trent Lott, "she will be one of 100, and we won't let her forget it.'' She may lack her husband's talent on the stump and easy likability, but she has shown she can outmaneuver her detractors.

Hillary is so far ahead of her potential Democratic presidential rivals she looks like the kind of candidate the GOP usually nominates—the "it's their turn" candidate who has either been through national campaigns or has the star-quality, finances, and a big lead in the polls over their rivals. This doesn't ensure a seamless coronation (it hasn't for the GOP in the last three contested nominations either), but it means she can win commitments from key fund-raisers and activists or prevent them from signing up with other candidates. This adds to her air of inevitability. Even those Democratic strategists who are likely to work for her opponents concede her overwhelming advantages.

She's certain to be the nominee, but for all the wrong reasons: she appeals to the core constituencies of the Party. The problem is that she can't win the election if she's the Bill/Hill Clinton of 1993-94 and she's not yet shown the courage in her Senate votes to be the Bill Clinton of 1992 & '95-'00.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 12, 2006 10:00 AM

Are you conceding that the Bill Clinton of 2000-present is the 'real' Clinton?

The Democratic primaries in 2008 are going to be very interesting. There will be slashing and gnashing and crashing, utterly unlike 2004, when nobody wanted to offend. But this time, Warner, Gore, Kerry, and Edwards are going to try to knock Hillary off her pedestal. She may out-manuever them, or she may wind up like the John Connally (or Phil Gramm) of her day. And if the GOP does well in the mid-terms (which I think will happen), then the Democratic primary season takes on a note of desperation, doesn't it?

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 12, 2006 10:25 AM

There is no real Clinton--they're opportunists.

Posted by: oj at May 12, 2006 10:29 AM

If the eeeeevil Rupert Murdoch is "buying" Hillary, well . . . expect the Kos Kiddies to go utterly ape. Could be fun to watch.

Posted by: Mike Morley at May 12, 2006 11:35 AM

Murdoch has already been bought by a Sheik of Araby who must be calling the shots.

I don't read the NY Post, but Fox News, other than Brit Hume's show, is as leftie as the nets or other cable shows and their viewership is declining accordingly.

Posted by: erp at May 12, 2006 11:47 AM

It seems clearer every day that not only is HRC smart, but she's way smarter than any of the other "leaders" who populate the Democratic Party.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at May 12, 2006 11:48 AM

Can anyone associate "principles and ideology" with Hillary? A lady who was once being discriminated against by the Marine Corp. because of her gender, and was discriminated against by NASA and couldn't become an astronaut. Interesting.

Posted by: ic at May 12, 2006 2:42 PM

careerism is a principle too.

Posted by: oj at May 12, 2006 2:48 PM