Man Without Qualities

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Hillary, Dillery, Dill ...

... it isn't like running with Bill.

That's what the Man Without Qualities is increasingly convinced Hillary Clinton and many of her denialist supporters are going to have to find out the hard way. For example, the Democratic Leadership Council, an organization described in some guileless quarters as consisting of "influential [Democratic] party moderates," has named Sen. Clinton "to direct a new initiative to define a party agenda for the 2006 and 2008 elections." That appointment most clearly reflects the now well-documented dwindling to near nothingness of the "centrist" wing of a party whose official leaders are the anything-but-centrist Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Howard Dean. But to Hillary's supporters like Ron Brownstein, the appointment shows that Hillary, too, has become "moderate:"

[T]he appointment solidified the identification of Clinton, once considered a champion of the party's left, with the centrist movement that helped propel her husband to the White House in 1992, to present herself as a moderate on issues such as national security, immigration and abortion.
Mr. Brownstein is not alone in puffing hot air into the balloons said to have transported Sen. Clinton's closer to the winning center. Jacob Weisberg, for example, proves that he should write Hallmark Valentine cards with But Why Can't Hillary Win? - an amazingly misdirected Hail Mary airily dismissing all obstacles to Sen. Clinton's path to the White House. For Mr. Weisberg no excuse is too insubstantial to counterbalance a possible Hillary Clinton negative. For example, suppose one argues that she seems now to oppose more free trade, citing her "no" vote against CAFTA - where 11 of her fellow Democrats (including Sen. Jeffords) had the guts to vote "yes"? Some observers see CAFTA's Congressional close shave as a sign that protectionists have captured the Democratic mainstream and the Congressional Democratic naysayers. (UPDATE: John Fund reports on that Democratic leaders are especially mad at two Black Caucus Members from the same New York that Sen Clinton purportedly represents, Edolphus Towns and Gregory Meeks, for voting aye on CAFTA in the House.) But for Mr. Weiss it's no problem: Despite her pandering vote against CAFTA, [Sen. Clinton is] a confirmed free-trader. Well, now that you've explained it that way, Mr. Weisberg .... (Mr. Weisberg does admit that the Senator is not "likeable" - apparently her one real obstacle in his judgment.)

One could go on through a longish list of obstacles that Mr. Weiss (and others with similar agendas) either misstate (thereby avoiding the obstacle-making issue) or dismiss with silly counter arguments. But what about the big enchilada, Sen Clinton's putative abortion rights reach-out? A few months ago, marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Sen. Clinton gave a speech that the ever-obliging New York Times covered under the headline "Clinton Seeking Shared Ground Over Abortions." Since then, many of her fans (and some who are not her fans at all) have proclaimed her supposedly brilliant move, including William Saletan in a particularly risible Slate article, Safe, Legal, and Never:
Clinton isn't trying to end the abortion war. She's repositioning her party to win it. .... Clinton recalled. "In China, local government officials used to monitor women's menstrual cycles and their use of contraceptives." In both cases, "the government was dictating the most private and important decisions," said Clinton. "With all of this talk about freedom as the defining goal of America, let's not forget the importance of the freedom of women to make the choices that are consistent with their faith and their sense of responsibility to their family and themselves."

Note the concluding words: faith, responsibility, family. ... "There is no reason why government cannot do more to educate and inform and provide assistance so that the choice guaranteed under our constitution either does not ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances." ... Not safe, legal, and rare. Safe, legal, and never. Once you embrace that truth — that the ideal number of abortions is zero —voters open their ears.
Of course she didn't say "never," she said "not ever have ... or only in very rare circumstances" - which is just a bloated and less memorable restatement of Bill's old "safe, legal and rare." Mr. Saletan's willfull misquote seems a particularly egregious example of the Senator's fans hearing only what they want to hear. But for the moment set aside Mr. Saletan's curious aphasia and his equally curious adoption of the new Democrat faith that magic words will set them free (and put them in office), and consider instead a major detail of the big picture: President Hillary Clinton and the Supreme Court. The bottom-line question: Is Hillary Clinton suggesting that as president she would not impose a pro-Roe v Wade litmus test on her Supreme Court picks? Is she saying that she would adopt standards for such picks that would be substantially different than those of her husband, Al Gore or John Kerry? Candidate Bill Clinton declared: "I hate to have any litmus tests, but ... I would want to know that Roe v. Wade would be secure." He later noted, "I'm pro-choice and I would expect to make appointments accordingly." He clarified even that with: "I wouldn't appoint anyone to the Supreme Court who didn't believe that there was in this Bill of Rights ... a constitutional right to privacy" (which of course includes the right to abortion). We now know that this formulation led Mr. Clinton to appoint two Justices of adamantine faith in Roe v Wade. An "outreaching" Hillary Clinton would have to take a different approach.

As a Senate candidate she was anything but "outreaching":
My position is clear: as a member of the United States Senate, I will not vote for a nominee to the Supreme Court who would oppose Roe. I believe a woman's right to choose as stated in Roe vs. Wade is a fundamental, constitutional right, and therefore, it will be fundamental to how I view nominees ... The most important vote to protect the right to choose that will be cast by the United States Senate will be the vote to confirm justices to the Supreme Court. I will vote to support Roe when it counts, in choosing nominees to the Supreme Court.
Rumors now abound that Sen. Clinton is considering voting to confirm John Roberts, who almost certainly would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. But Sen. Clinton is the high priestess of political trial balloons, and these rumors probably represent nothing more than her advisors inflating and releasing a predictable bunch. Her own statements regarding Mr. Roberts are mostly noncommital, but full of liberal codespeak for hostility to the nomination:
I look forward to the Committee's findings so that I can make an informed decision about whether Judge Roberts is truly a guardian of the rule of law who puts fairness and justice before ideology.
No deference to the President expressed there! Will Sen. Clinton's supporters allow her to vote to approve Mr. Roberts even if she is so inclined? That's highly unclear - and a vote for Mr. Roberts in the Senate would still be far from a repudiation of a Roe litmus test by a President Hillary Clinton. But a Senate "yes" vote would be consistent with her "outreach" effort, where a Senate vote by Sen. Clinton against Mr. Roberts would be strong evidence that her "outreach" effort won't even get off the ground politically.

What to do? What to do? I haven't seen anything on the Clinton/Roberts question coming from the Senator's media supporters, such as Messrs. Brownstein, Weisberg and Saletan. It's not hard to imagine reasons why. They're probably waiting to see if those trial balloons get shot down.

UPDATE: Michael Pollard at Scrutineer does a great job of getting into the numbers documenting Sen. Clinton's very liberal voting record, as recognized by just about every outfit that monitors Senate voting, regardless of the outfit's own political cast. Her overall Senate voting record is another important obstacle that must be ignored or misstated by her supporters even as they quietly rely on it to hold the Senator's uber-liberal political base together while she's out on her "moderate" peregrinations. Of course, most of the mainstream media and other Democratic apologists had no trouble construing the records of Kerry-Edwards as "centrist" despite voting numbers very much to the contrary. A substantial portion of the same group had no trouble at all passionately arguing that Republican attempts to disabuse the public of the "centrist" impression Kerry-Edwards was desperately trying to present were just lies, lies and more Republican lies! (Hey, boy, don't look at that Senate voting chart too long, it will hurt your young eyes!)

Of course, there is lots of evidence that the influence of the mainstream media has continued to shrink since the last election. So the "liberal-vanishing-trick" will likely be somewhat harder to pull off in 2008 than in 2004, when the trick didn't work, and vastly harder than it was to pull it off in 1992, when it did work. Heck, in 1992 the mainstream media helped the Clintons put Gennifer Flowers back in the hat, and she was telling the truth and had the tapes to prove it. Try that kind of thing today and the blogosphere would erupt like Krypton in the last days of Jor-El. But Hillary and her supporters seem determined to give it a try.

One Man's Attempt At A Frank Assessment Of Democrat Lassitude:

On the home front, Bush is again blessed with weak adversaries. The top Democrats - Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean - have not proven particularly effective in rallying the "loyal opposition."

Reid is canny enough as an inside pol to block many of Bush's programs, but he is not a strong national spokesman. As for Pelosi, she is simply a stereotypical liberal; the American people do not want to be led by a San Francisco Democrat.

As for Dean, he has been a disappointment as party leader. He is too strident for the party establishment - fund-raising is down - yet not strident enough for the activists.

There's not much room for a "centrist" in the current national Democratic Party described by Mr. Pinkerton. So how much room is there for an "outreaching" Hillary Clinton, at least if the "outreach" goes beyond harping on the magic words that ultimately mostly just embarrass the Democrats who fall for this phony non-solution? There appears to be exactly one Democratic Senator who is at least arguably an actual centist - and the trick of making Joe Lieberman the vice presidental candidate has already been tried and didn't work. But even Sen. Lieberman had to cave in and humiliate himself by abandoning many of his core positions, including those pertaining to education, to satisfy those party activists.

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