Debra J. Saunders

I'm done hating the Clintons. They're not worth the anger. Voters elected Bill Clinton to serve two terms in the White House, and the nation survived.

Besides, hating the Clintons only makes them stronger. They've turned victimhood into a victory formula. She parlayed his indiscretion into a U.S. Senate seat, and he fared well in national polls largely because the public disapproved more of his Republican critics than of him.

Besides, I always disliked him more than her -- and wanted no part of the misogynist element to Hillary-bashing.

At her campaign block party in downtown Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton showed why she is polling ahead of the other contenders in the Democratic primary. Not only did Clinton press all of the Dems' buttons, she also pledged that if she is elected, ordinary Americans will not feel "invisible" -- as too many voters feel with George W. Bush as president. She came across as authoritative, likable and accessible.

I didn't hear the HRC cackle -- the Sunday talk-show big laugh, which you know had to be the fruit of focus groups that led consultants to conclude that voters want to see the lighter side of La Hil. Is it phony? Sure. It's a politician's laugh. But what am I going to do -- hate her for hiring the best brains in the campaign business?

Instead, I'll acknowledge that Hillary Clinton has become a very able politician, who also knows enough to move to the center. As one aide told U.S. News & World Report: "She does not touch a hot stove a second time -- I can't see her overreaching. She saw what happened to her husband and herself. She will have lofty ambitions, but she will pursue them with balance."

Of course, I disagree with Clinton on vital issues. I don't like her sort-of promise to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq.

Maybe.

It scares me to think how much Clinton wants to expand the size of an already-big government. She doesn't just want universal health care, but also universal preschool. Then there's the $5,000 "baby bond," an idea she just tossed out last week. Don't worry about how to pay for her programs.

No doubt only the rich, smokers and oil companies will have to pony up.

On Sunday, Clinton talked up regulations to curb global warming at an event in which she also criticized higher gas prices. Again, don't you worry about the federal government making you curb your energy use -- Clintonia II promises to squeeze other people's energy consumption.

Clinton also told the Oakland audience that she would unite America. Be it noted that if a President Hillary Clinton passed the sort of programs San Francisco Bay Area voters like, then she surely would divide the country.

Back to Iraq. While I cannot prove it, I believe that Clinton voted for the Iraq war resolution not because she thought it was the right thing to do for the country, but because she believed it was the right thing to do for her presidential aspirations.

I know Democrats who oppose the war -- who think Clinton's Iraq war vote was pure calculation -- and nonetheless plan to vote for Clinton. Why?

Because they think she can win. (I guess it's more acceptable to have supported the war if you did not believe in it.)

I may well be wrong, but I don't think the Democrats can win if Hillary Clinton -- or any other Democrat who voted for the 2002 Iraq war resolution -- is the nominee. In 2004, voters faced a choice between two candidates who supported the war in 2002. (Oddly, many Democrats who opposed the war supported John Kerry, who had voted for the war resolution, because they thought he was more electable.)

In the end, Americans chose the candidate who did not back away from it. That's why Illinois Sen. Barack Obama may be the Democrats' best hope. But if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, and if she wins in November, it will be because she ran the best campaign and she knew how to reach out to the American public. I may not like it, but she will have earned it.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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