Monday, August 13, 2007

Hillary Clinton: tragically misunderstood?

Yes, I'm back, and no more urinal stories this time, I promise. I'll start off with politics...

Anti-Hillary screeds have always had a hollow ring to them (scroll to the comments section)... Their coarse indictments, their sputtering rage... As if the person had willfully ignored the recent past and instead succumbed to her opponents' attack campaign circa 1994.

For starters, Hillary Clinton is not anti-military by any means (check out this fascinating profile by Michael Crowley in The New Republic). She doesn't advocate a hard-line gay marriage position (civil unions with spousal benefits as a good first step). Nor does she advocate a single-payer universal health care system, which is the only way it could truly be called “socialized medicine.” Indeed, out of the Democratic contenders she is probably the most business-friendly—she didn’t get on the cover of Fortune magazine for nothing.

It’s true that some of her positions have evolved over the years, occasionally in ways that could be interpreted quite cynically. Still, her views have hardly been more elastic than, say, Mitt “Multiple Choice” Romney or Rudy “Three Wives Club” Giuliani.

Regarding her Iraq war vote, I think Sen. Clinton was against pre-emptive war from the beginning, though she took a more nuanced position that recognized the global dangers we faced, unlike some of the more knee-jerk pacifists of the Left. Her current characterization of her vote on the Iraq war authorization is just as she originally framed it: she voted for the authorization so that Colin Powell could better leverage the UN Security Council into drafting a resolution that would give inspectors unfettered access to Saddam's illegal weapon stockpiles.

In fact, here is her original speech on the Senate floor regarding her vote on Iraq war resolution (October 10, 2002):

“If we get the [U.N. resolution calling for unfettered inspections] and Saddam does not comply, then we can attack him with far more support and legitimacy than we would have otherwise . . . My vote is not, however, a vote for any new doctrine of pre-emption, or for uni-lateralism, or for the arrogance of American power or purpose — all of which carry grave dangers for our nation, for the rule of international law and for the peace and security of people throughout the world.”

Lost in all of this is a Senate record of work ethic that even her detractors have begrudgingly admired. Despite the demands of a national presidential campaign, she has missed a scant 3% of roll call votes in the Senate this year, which leads all candidates currently serving in Congress. She has a knack for impressing her Senate colleagues with her dedication and preparation, and there’s little reason to think that Hillary couldn’t impress the American people as well.

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