Hillary Clinton, novelty item

Posted: Jan 26, 2006 12:05 AM

Hillary Clinton wants to be all things to all people. In the last couple of weeks, she has stepped to the left of the president on health care, to the right of the president on Iran and into the realm of radicalism on race.

Positioning herself for the 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. Clinton (D-N.Y.) is simultaneously broadening and narrowing her policy positions. Mostly, she just calls repeatedly for "new leadership." Hillary's policy positions are nothing new. She has nothing particularly interesting to say. In fact, Hillary's talking points are the same as 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's were during his failed run. Both Hillary and Kerry criticize Bush's handling of health care in eerily similar language.

"Today, we're making things worse with deliberate neglect and flawed policies that are diminishing the coverage that Americans have. That is shifting costs to others and leaving consumers, businesses and local governments with the bill," Clinton said this week. And here's Kerry, circa October 2004: "Bush has turned his back on the wellness of America. And there is no system. In fact, it's starting to fall apart … because of the larger issue that we don't cover Americans."

Hillary wants to be viewed as a hawk on foreign policy, just as Kerry did. And she is simultaneously taking money from pro-Iran sources, just as Kerry did. Kerry repeatedly called Iran a bigger threat than Iraq during his 2004 campaign yet took hundreds of thousands of dollars from pro-regime groups and individuals. Hillary called for United Nations sanctions and even placed the threat of military action against Iran on the table this week; meanwhile, she accepts campaign donations from wealthy Muslim Americans connected to the pro-regime American Iranian Council. Hillary's racial pandering is nothing new, either.

With Al Sharpton looking on, Hillary remarked this week in Harlem that the House of Representatives was run "like a plantation." John Kerry's pandering was slightly more amusing; he remarked that rap "has a lot of poetry in it. There's a lot of anger, a lot of social energy in it. And I think you'd better listen to it pretty carefully 'cause it's important."

Hillary votes like Ted Kennedy on a consistent basis. Congressional Quarterly compiles a list of "key votes" each year: In 2001, Clinton voted like Kennedy 9 out of 10 times, in 2002, 12 out of 13, and in 2003, 13 out of 14. She receives a 100 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America each year. In 2004, she received an 11 percent rating from the National Taxpayers Union; in 2003-2004, she received a 78 percent rating from the American Civil Liberties Union; and in 2003-2004, she received a 100 percent rating from the NAACP.

Hillary is a doctrinaire liberal. She follows the party line. Read transcripts of her speeches, and she is indistinguishable from Harry Reid, Tom Daschle and a hundred other Democratic hopefuls. She is not a great thinker. She is not a great speaker. She has one thing going for her: novelty. Hillary might as well wear a T-shirt reading: "Vote for Me: I'm the Woman Who Married Bill Clinton."

Were Hillary not Bill's wife, she would likely be an obscure partisan hack working at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Because she is Bill's wife, she is the leading contender for the Democratic nomination in 2008. There's only one problem for Hillary: Novelty campaigns do not win presidential elections. She will not win the presidency simply on the basis of her gender. She will not win simply because she can bring out Bill to rally the crowd (just ask Al Gore and John Kerry). Winning our nation's trust -- and our highest office -- requires more than a pantsuit, nicely coiffed hair and a purse. Americans are not sexist; we are quite willing to vote a woman into office.  We are not willing to vote a woman into office, however, simply because she is a woman.  Just ask Geraldine Ferraro, Walter Mondale's running mate.  That novelty gambit garnered Mondale slightly more votes than he had family members; he was defeated by a 525 to 13 margin in the Electoral College.

American politics has become identity politics, but it still takes more than identity to be elected. The novelty of a high-ranking woman in politics doesn't even last on television -- ask Geena Davis, whose "Commander in Chief" ratings have been falling steadily since the beginning of the season. It certainly won't last in the real world, where decisions actually matter.