Perusing the blogs and the political wire this morning, one would think that Hillary Clinton’s candidacy just received a death blow from which she will be unable to recover.
I’m talking, of course, about her non-answer to the question of whether she agreed with the program being proposed by New York Governor Eliot Spitzer to give drivers licenses to illegal aliens.
“Clinton on the Ropes!” screams Andrew Sullivan.
“Clinton Stumble Provides Dems an Opening,” opines The Note.
“Hill Trips Over Spitz Debate,” gasps the New York Post.
“Hillary’s Big Blunder,” says a satisfied Malkin.
To political junkies, Hillary’s answer to the question about drivers licenses for illegal aliens showed a chink in her armor:
McKinney said Clinton grew testy when pressed on whether she agrees with a proposal her home state governor has to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. She first expressed support for the idea. But when Dodd objected, Clinton grew defensive and said she wasn’t saying it should be done, although she recognizes why the governor is trying to do it even though she doesn’t think it’s “the best thing for any governor to do.”
Edwards pounced. “Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes,” he said. “America is looking for a president who will say the same thing, who will be consistent, who will be straight with them.”
Obama piled on. “I can’t tell whether she was for it or against it,” he said. He said he supports the idea.
Ed Morrissey sums up Hillary’s play nicely:
Hillary Clinton cannot have thought that the policy would go unremarked during the debate. In New York, it has created a firestorm of controversy for Governor Eliot Spitzer, who has seen his approval ratings plunge in the first months of his term of office, thanks to tone-deaf manoeuvrings such as this. With immigration policy on the forefront of both political parties this year—and with MSNBC so desperate for new material that they started asking about UFOs (see below)—Hillary should have prepared an answer for this question.
Clearly, she did not. And just as clearly, the result left her looking shifty, pandering, and unsure of herself. It also brought out her public personality problems—showing her to be cranky and rather unlikable when on stage. Worse yet, it made her look indecisive, a quality no voter wants in a President, and the same quality that made Kerry such a lousy candidate.
While all of this is true, aren’t we used to this sort of thing from the Clinton’s by now? These guys have made straddling a preferred sexual position. It gets them off every time with the majority of the American people. For the Clinton’s, there is no real history; only quicksand and painted over memories. Was Clinton really against welfare reform before he embraced it as his own? Not according to him. Was Hillary’s health care plan really defeated because the insurance companies and doctors ganged up on her and brainwashed the American people into writing their Congressman to reject it? Or did citizens not like the idea of the government making so many health care decisions for them?
There is a political art to the straddle and the Clinton’s have been masters at it for more almost 20 years. True, Hillary’s rather inelegant response to the drivers license question was perhaps not her best attempt at appealing to all sides of a question. But the point wasn’t to win the argument but simply not to lose it.
Did she anger anyone beyond the beltway elite and political class? I doubt it. Citizens from both sides of the debate heard what they wanted to hear which is what you get when you examine Clinton’s tactics on just about any issues but especially controversial ones.
Think about her position on Iraq. She mouths platitudes about leaving while slamming George Bush. Meanwhile, she makes it clear she will stay and if not finish the job, not withdraw willy nilly thus endangering American interests all the while slamming George Bush. She says she opposes the war but refuses to apologize for her vote authorizing it all the while slamming George Bush.
Do we see a pattern here? She has successfully made Bush’s policies in Iraq the issue not what she will do about the place once she gets into office. Perfect triangulation.
If Clinton loses any ground because of this flap I will be shocked. The beltway boys in the media may desperately wish to see a competitive race on the Democrats side given the orgasmic coverage that Obama is getting and would continue to receive. But it’s extremely difficult to see such a race developing since Obama has forsworn using the kind of attack politics that would give him a chance to get back in the race. His “campaign of hope” may be what the people crave. But beyond that, Democrats want to win very badly. Torn as they are in being tempted to give their messiah Obama a shot at the nomination, hard headed realism tells them – correctly – that Hillary would be a better candidate to go against the Republicans. Therefore, her little slip in the debate last night won’t matter a fig.
And Republicans are dreaming if they think they can nail Clinton to a cross of flip flops and double talk on any issue during the general election campaign. She’s too clever and is so good at parsing her responses that it will be like trying to nail down a Mexican jumping bean. Best that the GOP concentrate on her far left agenda while reminding people why they don’t want to elect another Clinton to the presidency. That way lies a better chance of success in what is still promising to shape up as a Democratic year.