Still, it would be foolish to laugh off the New Hillary. Political makeovers have succeeded in the past (the New Nixon, the New Wallace), and the Clintons have shown a knack, rare in the Democratic Party, for grabbing symbolic bits of conservatism and weaving them into sheep's clothing. Bill Clinton latched onto curfews and school uniforms to signal a comfortable centrism, and then supplemented this window dressing with a couple of substantive concessions, one on welfare reform and the other on a balanced budget, and thereby ran away with the prize.
Can Hillary do the same? It's not impossible. She can sniff the wind with the best of them. But she has two major hurdles. The first is the Democratic Party, or at least that part of the party that nominates presidential candidates, which is moving steadily to the left even as the country is moving the other way. Hillary cannot campaign as a centrist and hope to win the nomination.
The second hurdle is her life. She has made a career as a liberal do-gooder, rolling up her sleeves to attempt single-handedly to refashion one-seventh of the U.S. economy with Hillarycare. When told that her plan would bankrupt small businesses, she sniffed haughtily that she couldn't be "responsible for every undercapitalized small business in America."
Her proudest moments as a lawyer were those she devoted to working on behalf of the Children's Defense Fund, a super-liberal lobbying group that promoted welfare dependency as a right and fiercely resisted reform. It was Hillary who initially backed Dr. Johnetta Cole, not a "friend of Bill" but a friend of Fidel Castro, for secretary of education. And it was she who coined the phrase "vast, right-wing conspiracy" to describe those who noticed her husband's lies.
She may be moving to the center, but her past will cast a long shadow.