Volume 76, Number 48 | April 25 - May1, 2007

Talking Point

Liberal columnists keep bombarding Hillary on war

By Ed Gold

Two of my favorite liberal columnists, Frank Rich and Paul Krugman, should give Hillary a break and stop bashing her.

They cannot forgive her vote on the Iraq war and her refusal to ask for forgiveness. It should be noted that the other Democratic senators running for president — Biden, Dodd and Edwards — all apparently believed in Bush’s integrity, as she did, in the Senate’s unfortunate vote.

She did not give her vote with any enthusiasm. She made clear that the “resolution before the Senate is not as strong as I would like it, requiring the diplomatic route first.”

She also insisted, incorrectly as it turned out, that it was “not a vote for any doctrine of preemption or for unilateralism.”

Hillary and the others were clearly betrayed by Bush and his neo-con cohorts when she said: “I will take the president at his word that he will try hard to pass a U.N. resolution and will seek to avoid a war, if at all possible.”

At the time, five years ago, most of the nation believed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Bill Clinton included. Even Hans Blix, who was assigned by the U.N. to look for W.M.D.’s, thought he would find them.

Dick Cheney was telling the nation that we could be hit with W.M.D.’s “within 45 minutes.” Condi Rice warned of “mushroom clouds.” Colin Powell, the most respected of the Bush entourage, told the U.N. about Iraq’s W.M.D.’s, only later to find he had been bamboozled with misleading documentation.

That’s how Bush got more than 70 votes in the Senate.

Hillary, of course, regretted her vote in hindsight, but she decided the onus should be on Bush for taking us into war before the Blix inspection had been completed.

She is now fully committed to “changing the course” in Iraq and supported the recent Democratic move to set a date for redeployment and the beginning of troop withdrawal, knowing it could not get the necessary 60 votes for passage.

“We’re just trying to create pressure on the president,” she said. “That’s the whole point here.”

Now she has introduced a redeployment policy that is very risky politically, particularly with liberal supporters. She would pull our troops out of the mess in and around Baghdad and leave the tribal civil war to the Sunnis and Shiites.

She would move some troops to western Iraq to challenge Al Qaeda, which has gotten a foothold there only after we invaded the country. Some troops would settle near the Iran border to discourage any Iranian adventure, and she would go north to reassure the Kurds and thwart Turkish involvement. These tentative recommendations will no doubt get Frank Rich even madder.

He has attacked Hillary for “theatrics in her fledgling campaign.” He calls her “overscripted and focus-group bland.” He accuses her of “patently synthetic playacting and carefully manicured sound bites.”

Similarly, Krugman suggests she is “arrogant” and “sounds like another George Bush.” And then there is the great wordsmith, Maureen Dowd, who enjoyed eviscerating the Clintons for eight years, and now refers to Hillary’s main spokesperson, Howard Wolfson, as a “pinstriped thug.”

Hillary remains anathema to the right. They hated her during her husband’s eight-year run, placing her somewhere between Lady Macbeth and Madame Defarge. They cannot bear the thought of her returning to the White House.

They will claw her any way they can and the gloves will be off.

A speaker at a recently held Conservative Women’s Network luncheon asserted that “we’ll let the redneck guys who just aren’t ready for a female commander in chief take care of the woman thing.”

A university colleague of mine who has me in his address book and sadly belongs to the Ann Coulter school of politics, has been feeding me attack themes that are likely to emerge.

The Coulter crowd will go after character. They are loading up with anecdotes about Hillary’s cruelty to subordinates, her terrible temper and her dirty mouth. And the campaign has just begun.

One wonders, with the bashing from left and right, how she remains strong in the polls.

If her critics are right about her, she is America’s top actress. You watch her before large cheering crowds in Iowa and New Hampshire, before smaller groups in South Carolina and Nevada, before a church group in Selma and firefighters in Washington and she seems at ease and joyful, and talks about the issues that have attracted her for more than a quarter of a century. Of course, in South Carolina, she drops most of her “G”s, in Selma she talks religion and in Washington she tells how she will protect and strengthen union rights. She also says complimentary things about other candidates, including Obama, Dodd and Richardson.

She is energized by the crowds and, like her husband, seems relaxed in answering questions on any subject. Her energy seems extraordinary, shaking hands, hugging, asking everyone to help, giving autographs and posing for snapshots. Who are all these people who haven’t bought either Frank Rich or Ann Coulter?

It seems clear, even at this early date, that Hillary and Barack are the party’s rock stars. An Al Gore entry could change that picture, but the other contenders, many of them worthy, will run into money and organizational difficulties as important states like California and New Jersey move up their primary dates.

While her critics say she never admits error, she readily tells crowds, with self-deprecating humor, that as first lady, she messed up on universal healthcare, and will do it differently “when I’m in the White House.” She often says, with a smile, that she should probably wear armor when discussing that subject.

And she is not without a whimsical side, critics to the contrary. In Des Moines, her handlers told her she was expected at a restaurant in Cedar Rapids. She was really enjoying herself. She walked to the front of the stage and shouted to the audience: “Anyone have a phone out there? Please call Cedar Rapids and tell them I’ll be a little late.” Then she invited anyone who wanted to talk to her to come up onstage.

Rich, Krugman and even Dowd may yet have to say nice things about her should she prevail in the primaries. It’s hard to imagine they would want any Republican sitting in the Oval Office after January 2009.

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