Cover Story

Reinventing Hillary

"Reinventing Hillary" Continued...

Issue: "Reinventing Hillary," Nov. 17, 2007

Still, China-gate, File-gate, Travel-gate, and Monica-gate didn't keep the former Watergate attorney from being elected to the U.S. Senate from New York after her husband served two terms as president. And now, having emerged as a political force in her own right, Clinton is mid-stride in what is perhaps her most masterful reinvention of all: She is successfully re-branding herself as the moderate choice for president.

She has moderated her talk on abortion (see sidebar below). At a January 2005 fundraiser, she declared that "there is no contradiction between support for faith-based initiatives and upholding our constitutional principles." Although she has repudiated her vote in favor of war in Iraq, she is not generally anti-war.

And yet, when alone with her base, Clinton still toes the progressive line. In January 2006, her Don Jones youth-group indoctrination resurfaced when she declared to a group of black leaders that the U.S. House of Representatives "has been run like a plantation." Speaking to Planned Parenthood in July 2007, Clinton pledged in her "very first days in office" to reverse "these ideological, anti-science, anti-prevention policies that this administration has put in place."

Despite Clinton's latest shape-shifting-or perhaps because of it-Dick Armey fully expects her to win the presidency. "Those running against her need to understand two things," he said: "She's smarter than they are, and she's meaner than they are. Hillary Clinton is a very skillful politician. A failure to understand that is going to be very risky."

Choice language

Hillary Clinton's abortion rhetoric suddenly changed one day in November

By Paul Kengor

To understand Hillary Clinton politically is to understand her on the abortion issue, an area which, for her, is sacred ground. Similarly, to understand Clinton politically in 2008 is to understand her on abortion. She realizes that in order to win in 2008, she will need some of those pro-life "values voters" who provided decisive religious rejections of pro-choice Democratic nominees Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. Clinton is now engaged in a remarkable shift in her abortion rhetoric-but not abortion policy. To illustrate this striking turnabout, consider a very telling 12-month period from January 2004 to January 2005.

It began with Clinton giving the keynote address at a Jan. 22, 2004, NARAL event celebrating Roe v. Wade. "While the choice debate has changed little since Roe v. Wade was decided 31 years ago, the tactics employed by our opponents have changed," began Clinton. "They have realized it cannot be done quickly and in the light of day. . . . As we gather today, forces are aligned to change this country and strip away the rights we enjoy and have come to expect. Slowly, methodically, quietly . . . as the American public sleeps."

She zeroed in on stances by "anti-choice forces" that "seem reasonable." Among them, "It's a crime to harm a pregnant woman, so it should be a crime to harm the fetus, as well. Right?" She warned: "Many of these policies sound perfectly reasonable to the untrained ear. But they are not reasonable when you realize the true intention-which is not to protect fetuses from crime. . . . These policies are meant to chip away at all reproductive rights."

This also applied, said Clinton, to the use of federal tax dollars to pay for abortions: "On the surface, this argument also sounds reasonable," she averred. "But by imposing this ban, Congress has denied access to a legal procedure for women who depend on the government for their health care-poor women, women in the military stationed overseas, Native American women, women in prison, federal employees, Peace Corps volunteers."

She went on to claim that pro-lifers were seeking to end "all rights of privacy," and magically read rights that do not exist into the U.S. Constitution.

This same Clinton was on display at the April 2004 "March for Women's Lives" in Washington, where women hoisted placards condemning the president's mother and the late pope's mother for not aborting their sons: "If Only Barbara Bush Had Choice," read one sign; "The Pope's Mother Had No Choice," regretted another. Read one placard: "Pro-Life is to Christianity as Al-Qaeda is to Islam."

But then came the November elections, when George W. Bush won reelection with a big boost from pro-life Christians-a wake-up call for Clinton. Only days later, in a Nov. 10 speech at Tufts University, she said her party had erred in ceding evangelicals to President Bush. Suddenly, a very different Hillary emerged, as evidenced in her next major abortion speech: the annual conference of the Family Planning Advocates of New York State.

Gathering in Albany, the faithful expected another take-no-prisoners talk framing "anti-choicers" as intransigent fanatics. But not this time: The zealots of last January were the values voters who had defeated John Kerry.

"[W]e should be able to find common ground . . . with people on the other side of this debate," offered Clinton. "I believe we can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women." In a startling about-face, she now seemed to respect pro-lifers: "I for one respect those who believe with all their hearts and conscience that there are no circumstances under which any abortion should ever be available."

She would soon hire Burns Strider, a top Democratic Party political strategist who specialized in advising liberal Democrats how to appeal to pro-life evangelicals.

Clinton has learned: Do not demonize pro-lifers, tell them you respect them-you need their votes. And yet, she refuses to budge an inch on a single matter of pro-life legislation.

-Paul Kengor, a Grove City College professor, is the author of God and Hillary Clinton (HarperCollins, 2007)

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