Jonah Goldberg

What Bill says with rakish bluster, Hillary pulls off with schoolmarmish fog.

For example, in a recent interview with Salon, Walter Shapiro asked Hillary Clinton whether she took offense to commentators using only her first name. She said that she has an "open mind" about the practice but sympathizes with feminists who complain that it's demeaning. But she also thinks it's just fine for her own campaign to refer to her relentlessly - and sometimes almost exclusively - as "Hillary." In one convoluted paragraph she manages to admit that she does something that is sexist for others to do, but claims to have an open mind about it.

During the YouTube-CNN Democratic debate, she was asked what a liberal is and whether she is one. In a brilliantly crafted non-answer, she explained that the word "originally meant that you were for freedom ... that you were willing to stand against big power and on behalf of the individual." But, "in the last 30, 40 years it has been turned up on its head" as a word to describe "big government." That's exactly right, though she made it sound like mean-spirited conservatives slandered the word, assigning no blame to liberals themselves.

Indeed, it actually sounded like the woman who wanted to nationalize one-seventh of the U.S. economy was never in favor of big government. But rather than admit she's a liberal, she pulls the rhetorical rip cord and parachutes to safety: "I prefer the word Œprogressive,'" she proclaimed, "which has a real American meaning, going back to the progressive era at the beginning of the 20th century. I consider myself a modern progressive." Refusing to define that, she moved on, neglecting to mention that progressives - modern and old-fashioned alike - believe in big government, too.

Clinton's criticism of Petraeus was offensive on the merits, but it was interesting because Hillary failed to tell every constituency what it wanted to hear. I guess practice doesn't always make perfect.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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