Feature

Clinton

Playing it down the middle.

Sen. Hillary Clinton has some brand-new enemies, said James Pinkerton in Newsday, and they don't listen to Rush Limbaugh. Now it's her own party's liberal base that's furious with the Democrats' biggest star. Even as Rep. John Murtha and party chairman Howard Dean bang the drums for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, Clinton is sticking to 'œa moderate conservative' position, which she outlined in a 1,600-word letter to supporters last week. The letter said, in essence, that there should be no 'œrigid timetable' for a withdrawal. Widely assumed to be running for president in 2008, Clinton clearly has adopted her husband's strategy of seeking 'œa third way,' with centrist positions on abortion, violent video games, and Iraq. 'œBut in pursuing this plan, she has taken her blue state base for granted, and the blues have noticed.' She's now being angrily denounced by pundits on the left, with Moveon.org accusing her of 'œcowardice in the face of the right-wing noise machine.'

If Clinton's position on Iraq sounds calculated, said The New York Times in an editorial, consider her new campaign to ban the burning of the American flag. The Supreme Court has already ruled that burning the flag is a form of political speech, protected by the First Amendment. Nonetheless, Clinton is now co-sponsoring a bill with a conservative Utah Republican to criminalize flag burning, on the grounds that flag burning, like cross burning, may incite violence. That's a 'œridiculous comparison,' since crosses were burned by the Ku Klux Klan to intimidate and terrorize black people. Flag burning has no target but government policies, and Clinton knows it. 'œIt's hard to see this as anything but pandering.'

So far, said Dick Morris in The Hill, Clinton's 'œfudging' doesn't seem to be working. She'd hoped to carve out a role as America's Golda Meir or Maggie Thatcher—a tough, decisive female leader with no reluctance to use military power to defend the country. But now all the momentum in the Democratic Party is toward outright opposition to the Iraq war. That's why Clinton is now tiptoeing a few steps back to the right, by saying in last week's letter that while she supports the war, she might not have voted for it if she had known then what she knows now. The right isn't fooled by such double talk, either, and 'œknows that she is, at best, an unreliable ally and, at worst, an insincere one.' Where does that leave Hillary? Trying to figure out 'œhow to have her cake and eat it, too.'

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