Kathryn Lopez

Hillary Clinton is brilliant. She's politically savvy is what it is. Which is why she could seriously be president of the United States.

Sorry. I had to stop for a minute to sit down, take a quick swig.

Most recently, even after the initial nonsense accusing some conservatives of wanting to criminalize Jesus, my junior senator has gone to the right of a Republican U.S. president by talking enforcement of immigration laws and endorsing a fence along our southern borders.

In truth, her rhetoric is common-sense law-and-order, of the type that's the least we should be doing almost five years now after the Sept. 11 attacks. Sen. Clinton saw a leadership gap left by Republicans who were arguing over fake compromises and calling each other names -- so she positioned herself to fill it. As Republicans in the Senate were making a mess of immigration reform, there she was, looking like a leader. The woman knows an opportunity when she sees one.

The possibilities for her political potential hit you like a ton of bricks as soon as you sit down with Ramesh Ponnuru's (monumental) new book, "The Party of Death" (Regnery, 2006). Ponnuru, my friend and colleague, writes up an imaginary Hillary speech -- one he actually dreamt about, in which, she says, in part: "I think maybe we've gotten so busy fighting the people who want to throw women in jail that we've somehow lost sight of the fact that abortion is a terrible act of violence against the young. If the law can discourage it -- without, I want to repeat, making criminals out of women -- then we ought to consider it. We ought to have laws that involve parents in their children's decisions, for example."

She talks about letting states determine their laws and continues in this hypothetical speech: "America deserves better than abortion, and America deserves better than a fight we've been having for over a generation. And I'm willing to work with anyone, in either party, who wants to move past this fight."

Someone in the age of vivid 4D-ultrasound technology has to make that speech. Why not Hillary? As Ponnuru announces, "if Hillary Clinton ever made that speech, she would be elected president of the United States."

Don't hold your breath, though. Clinton supposed "respect" for pro-lifers leaves something to be desired. While giving her now-famous speech early last year, she began by comparing them to brutal tyrants -- reminding listeners of inhuman practices in Communist Romania and population control in China. As Ponnuru puts it, "The idea that the alternative to abortion-on-demand is Ceausecu's Romania is the kind of thing that one would expect in a paranoid feminist novel." But the media gets nuance and compromise out of it and don't question her record -- opposing prohibitions on partial-birth abortion and federal funding of abortion, opposing parental-notification, voting against pro-life judges.

Hillary probably won't give that fictional abortion speech anytime, too soon because of her record, and how wedded her party is to abortion and emanations and penumbras from its legality. But she's smart and the media has shown a willingness to work with her -- so it's not completely implausible.

In short, whatever her contradictions and other problems, the election could be hers if Republicans don't get it together. With every legitimate criticism from the right of Republicans in Washington -- on spending, on immigration -- Hillary should be writing thank-you notes. My friends on Capitol Hill and in the White House will argue many legitimate "buts," though when even Republicans are souring on the White House -- and not only presidential, but congressional poll ratings are the pits (50 percent of Republicans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, according to the latest Fox News poll), then Grand Old Party -- you've got a problem.


Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.