Hillary Clinton is likely to be the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee because she is so much smarter than her rivals now on the horizon. Once in the Senate, she made a beeline for the armed services committee because she understood that the first female president will have to be a hawk, just as the first Catholic president (JFK) had to be adamant about not aiding Catholic schools, and the first Jewish president will have to voice doubts about Israel.
When she ran against young Rick Lazio for the Senate, my wife and I had dinner one night with four other couples. The four other women, all liberal Democrats, were bitterly and almost violently anti-Hillary, mostly because they thought she had served as the enabler for Bill Clinton?s self-destruction. But all the women at the table wound up voting for her, partly because Lazio was a poor choice, mostly because Hillary ran such a strong campaign.
She startled a lot of analysts by running so well upstate, an area New York City residents know nothing about and like to refer to as ?apple-knocker country.? This part of the state is traditionally Republican and reliably hostile to urban liberals. Hillary Clinton nearly carried it losing to Lazio by only 47-50 upstate. People tell me she knows more, and responds better, to upstate New York and its problems than any other statewide politician ever has. Imagine this capacity projected onto anti-liberal ?apple-knockers? nationwide.
Suddenly Clinton seems to be on the move, laying the groundwork for a centrist campaign in 2008. She has come out in favor of immigration reform, in effect, saying: close the borders. She has demanded a role for religion and faith-based programs in the public square. And last week, while clearly underlining her pro-choice position, she expressed many sentiments firmly held by the anti-abortion movement. She called abortion a ?sad, even tragic choice to many, many women,? called for pro-choicers and pro-lifers to work together to reduce the number of abortions, and praised the influence of religious and moral values in delaying teenaged girls from becoming sexually active. Imagine, an important Democrat saying a good word for abstinence.