Hillary for President?

Posted: Jan 03, 2003 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Despite what he and his pundit pals say about wanting to spare the country from a divisive and gut-wrenching presidential rematch, Al Gore withdrew from the Democrat presidential primary for one reason: because he knew that he could not defeat the widely popular incumbent President George W. Bush, who is providing strong leadership in challenging times. Although Gore would have lost in the general election, many analysts believe he would have struggled his way to the Democrat nomination. With his exit, every second-string Democrat presidential aspirant is dusting off his snow boots, believing that his policy pronouncements and potshots at the president in the tundras of Iowa and New Hampshire will be newsworthy. Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is struggling to find anybody to listen, while Sen. Joe Lieberman's penchant for political sermonizing is captivating pundits as he revives his old "Hamlet in Connecticut" routine. Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina are vying for television time and commitments from top consultants, proven fund-raisers and favorite hairdressers. Al Sharpton, fresh from his crusade to save Michael Jackson from the evildoers in the record industry, pledges to bring his divisive demeanor to Democratic primary voters. Sen. Tom Daschle, S.D., and Reps. Richard Gephardt, Mo., who are struggling for relevancy, will likely toss their hats in the presidential ring, believing that will do the trick. Democrat Sens. Joe Biden, Del., Chris Dodd, Conn., Russ Feingold, Wisc., and Bob Graham, Fla., are all rumored to be brushing up on their New Hampshire and Iowa geography. With so many Senate Democrats on the hustings, they may have to hold their weekly caucus meetings in a Des Moines donut shop. And yet, try as they may, these fellows fall victim to polls showing that the Democrat faithful favor Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York over any of the declared and presumptive 2004 Democrat contenders. The Hillary who, in 1992, derisively boasted that she'd never stay home to bake cookies is trying to repackage herself as the moral conscience of the Democrat Party. Advisors tell her she can afford to stand in the wings, waiting to be drafted for president rather than groveling to win the nomination. It's a strategy that appears to be working. Last month, two polls confirmed Hillary's front-runner status. A Harris Interactive survey of 400 Democrats showed that 30 percent would choose her as the nominee, with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman taking 13 percent each. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll, also conducted in December, recorded a 41 percent preference for Hillary, leaving Kerry in the dust as the nearest runner-up at 15 percent. But like Mario Cuomo, another New York politician who was courted for president by the Democrat Party only to leave them standing at the altar, Hillary will bask in the attention only to turn her back on the faithful. Why? Because like Al Gore she knows she can't win. Since being elected to the Senate in 2000, Hillary has lavished her attention on core liberal constituencies and causes. She opposed the popular repeal of the death tax; President Bush's much needed tax relief -- after her husband admitted, "I raised your taxes too much" -- and the nomination to attorney general of the man who is rounding up terrorists within our midst, John Ashcroft. In March 2001, Hillary joined Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts as co-sponsor of a new Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. Last June, she co-sponsored a bill to add "sexual orientation" as a protected class in the Senate's own employment practices. No wonder the far-left Americans for Democratic Action has given her a 95 percent approval rating. After eight years of observing Bill shake down donors, Hillary has mastered the time-honored practice of raising cash. While she was publicly posturing for campaign finance reform, her political action committee raised a whopping $3.2 million during the 2002 election cycle. And behind closed doors she sparred with the bill's sponsor, Sen. Russ Feingold, who actually wants to see the law enforced. "Russ, live in the real world!" she snapped, underscoring the Democrat belief that reforms are something to be advocated, not adhered to. While she voted in favor of the congressional authorization of action against Iraq, she condemned "the arrogance of American power." Reminiscent of the old Soviet economic planners, Commissar Clinton tells liberal audiences that "a tax cut is not a substitute for an economic plan," and resorts to Bush-bashing by insisting that the administration's opposition to the flawed Kyoto environmental treaty is "a global license to pollute." Hillary received a grade of "F" from the nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union for proposing $37.5 billion in new federal programs and income transfers. She sponsored 74 different bills in 2001 to increase spending. The Clintons have always had a shameless capacity for self-advancement. Hillary condemned Trent Lott's birthday tribute to Strom Thurmond as "offensive and divisive" but remained silent about her husband's awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former segregationist Sen. William Fulbright, a man whom Bill Clinton lauded as a "visionary humanitarian." Hillary has her hands full defending her short Senate record. She doesn't need the added burden of explaining leaked FBI files, fund-raisers at Buddhist temples, obstruction of justice charges and more. When Democrat activists clamor for a Clinton encore in the presidential primaries, Hillary, like Mario, will exit stage left.