I think this thread would be good for interesting observations about people who consider themselves candidates in 2008. To start with, some observations about Hillary’s feigning move toward the center (but other candidates are good fodder too – Mitt Romney has been vacationing in MI, a big swing state, and NH, a huge primary state…):
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From Josh Gerstein’s N.Y. Sun report on Hillary Clinton’s speech to the DLC ( http://www.nysun.com/article/17534 ):
The potential candidates and their staffs were treated to a first-hand reminder of how Mrs. Clinton’s sheer star power threatens to skew any race for the nomination. The senator’s delivery yesterday was strong, but far from her most electric.
Is Hillary Clinton ever electric? I deny it. Her speaking style is controlled and insistent–at best, strong–and her substance quotient hovers close to zero. Expectations of electricity are expectations that will be disappointed. …
Update: Gerstein and other reporters ( http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-dlc26jul26,0,1878987.story?coll=la-home-headlines ; http://www.nydailynews.com/07-26-2005/news/wn_report/story/331560p-283341c.html ) saw in Hillary’s DLC speech more of her now-famous move to the center. Here’s Gerstein:
Mrs. Clinton also set forth the litany of socially conservative points that are part of her regular repertoire, such as a call to reduce the number of abortions and to protect children from destructive forces in popular culture. At moments, she voiced themes that sounded downright conservative. “We can restore America to its historic devotion to opportunity, responsibility, and the common good, with big dreams, new ideas, and old-fashioned values,” the senator said.
I’m not so sure. The speech (which you can read here: http://clinton.senate.gov/news/statements/details.cfm?id=241451&& ) doesn’t sound too conservative to me. For one thing, Hillary avoids completely the obvious hot-button move-to-the-right issue of immigration, a subject on which she’s made conservative noises in the past. Her language on abortion pledges to “support a woman’s right to choose”–as Joe Klein has noted ( http://www.time.com/time/columnist/klein/article/0,9565,1059000,00.html ), her abortion statements are “centrist” mainly in attitude, not substance. And if reporters are willing to give Hillary credit for being “downright conservative” just because she uses the phrase “old fashioned values”–well, reporters are cheap dates!
I’d always thought this Cheap Date Syndrome helped Hillary mainly with the Left, which loves Hillary so much it could conceivably be bought off with a bit of Bush-bashing that covers a dramatic Hillary shift to the right. But it’s now also clear that her shift to the right doesn’t have to be that dramatic, because the equally Cheap Date press is ready to interpret even the subtlest, most insubstantial shading as part of Hillary’s New Moderation. She can get credit for centrism without having to actually take too many positions that the left would disagree with (and hold against any another politician). Paleoliberals can love her, the DLC can love her, and she never has to say anything, either leftish or moderatish, that commits her publicly to a position that might annoy someone. Her primal drive for vagueness is free to trump her drive to the center.
The only problem is that the resulting biteless rhetoric is almost totally uninspiring. Read the speech, and see if you are actually moved to cheer at any point. (I was, only once, at the line: “The Republicans abandoned arithmetic; well, we brought it back.”) Hillary’s instinctive contentlessness is both the symbol and part of the substance of what may be the biggest doubt she has to overcome–not the issue of whether she’s right or left, or the issue of whether she’s “tough” enough on defense, but the issue of whether she’s tough generally. When has she told off or even firmly-but-gently rejected someone in her own coalition? When has she ever stood up, in public, against, say, a big union? When has she pulled off a difficult legislative triumph? ** We know she’s smart and cautious and flexible. We need to know she has balls. No more cheap dates!
P.S.: In the options-preserving department, Hillary’s DLC statement on Social Security does leave her a breathtakingly large amount of room to make major un-paleoliberal changes. Here is her vision of the Democratic future:
And in 2020, Social Security is safe from the ideologues. It is still providing survivor benefits and benefits for the disabled and providing millions of retired baby boomers with benefits without the threat of bankruptcy while all Americans, regardless of income, have more options to amass additional retirement savings. [Emph. added]
Note that this statement is perfectly consistent with a radical means-testing of the Social Security system, in which the affluent get cut out (but still “millions of retired baby boomers get benefits” because they’re not affluent). The non-Cheap Date Centrist version of this sentence wouldn’t simply (and covertly) leave the means-test option open. It would advocate or at least explicitly suggest cutting the benefits of the affluent. Even John Kerry did that much. You could call it starting a “National Conversation!” ( http://www.dlc.org/ndol_ci.cfm?kaid=126&subid=166&contentid=253406 )
**–Don’t answer “welfare reform” to any of these questions. I do think Hillary favored the 1996 bill, but if so she did it in private, which allowed her left-wing Cheap Dates to tell themselves she surely must have actually opposed it ( http://www.kausfiles.com/archive/index.07.13.99.html ). Meanwhile, her strategic contribution to the bill was passive–she just didn’t block her husband. Not ballsy!)
Update: Ted Frank is not impressed with Hillary’s moderation on the medical-malpractice issue ( http://www.pointoflaw.com/archives/001378.php ). 5:25 P.M.