Hillary Clinton has done the last thing I expected, and she’ll regret it in the end.
In a previous column, I predicted that Senator Clinton would have a “Sister Souljah” moment. It would be similar to the politically defining moment that energized her husband’s first presidential campaign. In 1992, Bill Clinton attacked a young female rapper for her thoughtless and socially destructive comments.
This sent the message he was a moderate Southerner, not a creature of the far left. I thought Senator Clinton would create a similar episode and send the same message.
I was wrong. Last week was her perfect chance, and she couldn’t bring herself to do it.
MoveOn.org took out an ad that will go down in history as one of the most despicable and over-the-top ever. This full-page ad called General Petraeus, “General Betray Us.”
Both Rudy Giuliani and John McCain were out in front condemning the ad, with Mr. Giuliani even taking out his own ad to defend General Petraeus. Both men seized the opportunity to stand up for the decorated combat soldier now leading our troops in war.
Encouragingly, the condemnation from many Democrats was almost as strong as from Republicans. On the left, General Wesley Clark said that General Petraeus would never give a report he did not truly believe. Senator John Kerry, and even San Francisco liberal Nancy Pelosi, criticized the ad.
But Senator Clinton refused to condemn the ad. Instead, she said on camera to General Petraeus that his sworn testimony called for “the willing suspension of disbelief.”
That’s a theatrical term. When we go to a play or movie, we willingly suspend our disbelief. We allow ourselves to forget that it’s fiction, that it’s untrue, so we can enjoy it. So Senator Clinton told the general that the only way she could possibly believe his report was if she pretended it was movie entertainment.In essence, she called our commanding general a liar to his face.
In his September 18 Washington Post column, Richard Cohen criticized Senator Clinton for missing her chance to be a moderate. He even said it revealed bad character on her part. It’s devastating when a liberal columnist like Mr. Cohen says that the biggest problem with Senator Clinton is whether she has “the character to be president.”
It also shows that Hillary is no Bill Clinton.
President Clinton was a master of the politics of triangulation. Designed in large part by his strategist Dick Morris, triangulation was all about resisting the right, but then finding a counterpoint on the left to push against, to appear moderate by being in the middle.
I disagreed with many things President Clinton did, but while much of his triangulating was for political benefit, it sometimes made him appear to be fairly moderate. He was a pragmatic politician, and despite his liberal leanings, he often went with the moderate move because it was the smart move.
President Clinton would have condemned this ad.
But not Hillary Clinton. She could do it. She’s opened up a big enough lead over Senator Barack Obama that she could now turn on parts of the left to portray herself as moderate to Middle America. MoveOn.org is such a rabidly extremist organization that it would be politically smart for her to publicly break with them.
This is the man she voted to send to Iraq just earlier this year, when everyone was singing his praise. Now she calls him a liar, and defends those who call him a traitor.
I thought she would be smarter than this. Senator Clinton has done more damage to herself than she knows. She has distanced herself from what her husband would do, and from Middle America, going to the left of many prominent liberals to join forces with radicals.
Senator Clinton expects Americans to believe that she is as centrist as her husband appeared to be while running to the left of Speaker Pelosi, Senator Kerry and General Clark to attack our commanding general and defend an extremist, ultra-left group.
Yet she wants us to believe she’s moderate. Believing that now would require the willing suspension of disbelief.