Cal  Thomas

The Washington Post carried a strange story on its front page Tuesday (May 30). It was headlined, "Clinton Is A Politician Not Easily Defined: Senator's Platform Remains Unclear."

Were the story about a Republican politician, the Post headline might characterize such a person as having no convictions and being opportunistic.

The tone of the piece by Dan Balz resembles that of a supporter who wishes Hillary Clinton would be clearer about where she stands on which issues. Balz writes: "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 ..."

If that is so, why does Balz not know whether she has any strong convictions, other than the conviction she should be president? Indeed, Balz seems to invalidate his claim about Clinton's "experience" in the rest of his paragraph: "... but she is still trying to demonstrate whether these (roles) 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 by a clear philosophy."

Whatever gave Balz the notion that a Clinton - Bill or Hil - would be motivated by personal ambition in which she and he are most experienced?

Hillary Clinton has tried to get to the right of President Bush on the volatile immigration issue, saying she is against illegals and employers who hire them. If immigration becomes a single issue for some voters - as abortion is for some - Mrs. Clinton could possibly pick off votes in certain red states where the issue is hottest. She has attempted to sound moderate on abortion, calling it a "tragic choice," ignoring that if it were not a human life being destroyed there would be nothing tragic about it. She's supported a meaningless and constitutionally dubious bill to make flag burning a crime, and she has advocated a crackdown on violent video games and supported the war in Iraq.

As with all things Clinton, any or all of these positions could be rendered inoperative if they are seen to be an impediment to her ultimate goal of becoming president.

Few people know the Clintons better than their former adviser and pollster, Dick Morris. In a June 2003 article for National Review Online, Morris wrote: "The fact is that Hillary and Bill have had a relationship based on a sick cycle of accusation-denial-admission-reward for decades. He is accused of an affair. He denies it. He admits it when he has no choice. Hillary forgives him and then Bill showers gifts upon her in gratitude. For putting up with Gennifer Flowers and going on '60 Minutes' to 'stand by her man,' she got control of health-care policy. For Monica, she got a Senate seat. Some guys give necklaces, some give Senate seats."

Character is the starting point for judging the worthiness of Hillary Clinton to be president of the United States, not her positions on issues, whatever they may be.

The larger question is whether any of this - from character issues to shifting positions - will matter, especially to many "Oprah" women voters who may think Hillary "deserves" the job of president because of what she has endured with Bill (as if they had not made a bargain of convenience with each other).

According to the latest Fox News poll, Hillary Clinton is believed "qualified to be president" by a 59 percent majority, though the poll question was carefully phrased "Regardless of whether you would vote for Hillary Clinton ..." She even scores well among certain Republican constituencies.

As Morris notes in a column for The Hill newspaper, Hillary would be the strongest Democratic candidate since her husband first ran in 1992. Morris still wants Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to run against her, though Rice has firmly told me and others she has no interest in the job.

Morris asks us to "remember that while Bill is a moderate who becomes a liberal when he must ... Hillary is a liberal who pretends moderation when she has to."

In our feel-good age, we want to be told what we want to hear, and Hillary Clinton is the ideal pander candidate. Whoever runs against her will have his work cut out for him ... or her.


Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
 
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