On Iraq, for example, she talks like someone who knows she may soon be commander in chief and will need room to maneuver in order to achieve whatever success might be possible. Clinton has emphatically refused to give assurances that she would get us out of Iraq during her first term. Unlike, for example, Bill Richardson, who advocates a rout so radical that we'd leave equipment behind, she has committed herself to little more than a drawdown of forces as conditions allow.
On Iran, Clinton has been pilloried from the left for supporting a completely anodyne resolution designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. This would trigger serious economic sanctions that would greatly complicate its ability to operate.
Her leading rivals opposed the resolution on the bogus grounds that it is a blank check for Bush to go to war with Iran. It is nothing of the sort. An earlier version of the Iran resolution that would have allowed "the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments" to counter Iranian activity inside Iraq might indeed have been interpreted as such an authorization. But that provision was dropped in the resolution that Clinton, and 75 other senators, voted for.
And look what Clinton unveiled this week: a modestly government-subsidized, personal retirement account. True, it is yet another big-government middle-class entitlement. Yes, she ignores the looming Social Security crisis. On the other hand, establishing a universal, portable, personal retirement account (though without the government subsidy) is something conservatives have long and devoutly sought. It establishes a parallel to the Social Security system -- the perfect vehicle for a future conservative administration to use for shifting from the current unsustainable government-controlled program to a privatized system such as the one in Chile.
Even Clinton's response to a debate question on torture -- "As a matter of policy it cannot be American policy, period" -- is elegantly phrased to imply an implacable opposition to torture, and yet leave open the possibility that in extreme circumstances a president would do what she had to do, i.e. authorize torture, regardless of the express policy.
Clinton rarely falters. Always careful, always calibrated, always leaving room for expediency over ideology. That's Clintonism, of both marital flavors. Gender sensitivity prevents me from calling her the consummate needle-threader. Consider her instead Columbus' match as the Great Navigator.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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