There are few incontrovertible truths preceding an actual vote of the citizenry in republican politics, but here is one: if she wants it, Senator Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for U.S. President in 2008.
This is astoundingly clear to me. Indeed, it's a waste of ink, effort, and bandwidth to even type the names Kerry, Edwards, Biden or Bayh. If Senator Clinton makes the run (and I think she will) the nomination is hers. She is the leading American Democrat. And she is the leading American woman. Dual stature of that magnitude gives her the nomination for the mere asking, and at least even odds at leading the next administration.
Democrats who doubt this are wasting time and energy; the money will flow to Senator Clinton and she will clear the field easily. Republicans who dismiss her are whistling past the graveyard. Because the antidote the "great Democratic identity crisis" has a name, and it's Hillary Clinton. As a politician, Senator Clinton reminds me of a talented left-handed pitcher, the kind who actually learns how to pitch after 30, and suddenly shows up at the Cy Young Awards dinner a decade after beginning a career in the bigs with some wildness, a trip to the minors, and a well-planned comeback. If you're not paying attention, here's the scouting report - she's throwing high heat, displays a wicked curveball and the change....well, let's just say it's a Republican's nightmare.
Nick Kristoff gives a two-part answer to the question of Senator Clinton's viability in national politics in today's NYT, and he goes one-for-two, looking rather stupid taking a called third strike right down the middle in that second at-bat. First off, he's right that Clinton's "move to the middle" is really nothing of the kind; it's a switch of emphasis on the Senator's part, cleverly playing the press into reporting the "shift" on abortion and religion.
In fact, most of America is standing, conflicted, on middle ground. Many people are deeply uncomfortable with abortions, but they also don't want women or doctors going to prison, and they don't want teenage girls dying because of coat-hanger abortions. What has been lethal for Democrats has not been their pro-choice position as such, but the perception that they don't even share public qualms about abortion. Mrs. Clinton has helped turn the debate around by emerging as both pro-choice and anti-abortion. That is potentially a winning position for Democrats. Abortions fell steadily under Bill Clinton, who espoused that position, and have increased significantly during President Bush's presidency.
This is true. When asked whether I'm pro-choice or pro-life I have a favorite answer: "both." And I believe approximately 70% of the country goes various shades of gray on abortion rights. (I can't tell you the number of good New York liberals who have whispered over the years something along the lines of "you know, sometimes I'm against abortion.") So where does Kristoff whiff? In positing that Clinton cannot be elected President because people in the heartland don't like her. This is silly stuff, reminiscent of dismissing a certain Texas Governor in 2000 because he didn't seem all that bright to those residing on the coasts. For crissakes, John Kerry almost won and nobody liked him - even the Democrats! (Worse: Al Gore did win.)
Further, there is no heartland. It's a Republican myth, pulled out of the barn to clip-clop around the brain-brain dead political media landscape every year like those dopey overfed Clydesdales in the misty Budweiser Christmas ads. Hardly anyone lives in the vast middle of the country; most people either live in cities or very near to them. And we're all wired up anway. Most of that big red map you see on TV is empty space, town after town giving away free land if anyone would agree to build a house on the jobless prairie.
There is, however, a South and a Southwest - swaths of expanding cities and fast-growing, tightly-packed suburban domains. And this is where the Senator from New York and Illinois and Arkansas needs a handful of small victories to create the Clinton dynasty. She can, of course, get them - in Arkansas, in Florida, in New Mexico. I'm not saying she will; I'm saying she most definately can, especially if she starts dropping the hard G from present tense verbs again, and hangin' around pit row at NASCAR tracks. (You doubt she will? Fool, you!)
Have you noticed the love affair the press is having with Senator Clinton of late? All the quotes by Republican Senators who loooooove her for her kind, solicitous ways on Capitol Hill? (Cream in your coffee, Senator Graham?) And if you're a woman running for President as a Democrat, can you possibly buy better coverage than this on an anti-Bush Iraqi site (tip to Ben Smith for finding it):
Once again, showing that she's as evil politically as her husband, ex-president Clinton, the shill for Israel - Hillary Clinton is in the infamous American fortress called 'the green zone,' telling the Iraqis who should be their next Prime Minister.... After all, who tells Hillary what to do, and gives her the money to remain in office--the biggest zionist voting bloc in history, in New York City. Thus, Hillary is there to do the bidding of her zionist constituency, not the American people's constituency, nor for freedom or justice in the world.
I mean, who wrote that? Howard Wolfson? It's brilliant, as is Senator Clinton's feckless pro-war demeanor (hey, I didn't say I thought her perfect; my days of political idolatry ended as a 22-year-old Bronx political reporter). Look, you can cling to the "she can't win" theme all you want (those who do mostly possess the Y chromosome, sadly) but her numbers are moving up faster than Google's post-IPO price. Her approval rating in skeptical, anti-carpetbagging New York is a whopping 69%, higher than superhero Chuck Schumer. And these are the new national numbers from Quinnipiac against two Republican stars much less likely to get their party's nomination: Hillary Clinton (D) 43% - 44% Rudy Giuliani (R); Hillary Clinton (D) 41% - 43% John McCain (R). Now substitute names like Frist or Hagel. See what I mean? Sure, you can point out - as Kristoff did - that Senator Clinton's unfavorables turn to immovable stone at around 40%. But there's another fella on the national scene who suffers from the same political malady.
Middle initial W, address Washington ... seems to be good buddies these days with a Mr. Clinton.