Hail, Hillary!

Radley Balko doesn't like Hillary Clinton:

As a libertarian, it will at least be entertaining to watch the left squirm while defending Hillary Clinton's "right" to employ the same executive powers and engage in the same foreign policy blunders they now argue that President Bush has superceded his authority in claiming. And it'll be equally fun to watch the right cry foul when President Hillary claims the same powers they have so vigorously fought to claim for President Bush. The problem, of course, is that entertaining as all that might be, an increasingly imperial presidency isn't good for our republic.

Neither is our overly interventionist foreign policy, or the continuing erosion of our civil liberties, be it in the name of "family values," government paternalism, the war on drugs, or the war on terror.

Activists on the left need to recognize that Hillary Clinton winning the Democratic primary is the GOP's last best hope to elect a Republican to continue pursuing President Bush's pursuit of these unfortunate policies. And judging by her political career and recent voting record, they should also realize that even if they succeed in electing Hillary Clinton to the White House, it's likely that the only real resulting change in Washington will be that come 2009, we'll merely have a Democrat pursuing the same misguided policies.

In our magazine, Caitlin Flannigan is also disenchanted, for slightly more personal reasons:

Hillary started taking Socks with her on personal appearances, and a cartoon version of him was installed on the White House Web site, so that children could take virtual tours of the building with Socks as their guide. And then, of course, there was Hillary’s crowd-pleaser, Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets. The book showcases the way Hillary wanted to be seen as a first lady: not an aesthete like Jackie, not a shopaholic like Nancy, not a country-club dowager like Bar. Hillary wanted to be seen as warm, spontaneous to the point of being a little bit silly sometimes; someone who always has a twinkle in her eye whenever children are around. The book is, perforce, cloying, super-cute, and pun-riddled, and it would stand today merely as a curio if Hillary had—for once in her life—avoided her characteristic flaw. If only she had resisted the urge to drift past the homey anecdotes and family photographs, everything would have been fine. But, Hillary being Hillary, she had to turn the book into a lecture on pet care, and the person whose shining example we should all follow was none other than Hillary herself.

In Dear Socks, Dear Buddy, we are hectored never to give away a pet, always to regard one as an “adoption instead of an acquisition,” and to be forever on guard for its physical safety (cold comfort to Buddy, who had barely sniffed his first Chappaqua crotch before the poor beast ran off and got killed by a car, as had the Clintons’ previous dog, the much-loved but equally ill-tended Zeke). Hillary tells us that the Clintons “didn’t take on the responsibility of our pets lightly,” and more than anything, the reader is left with a vivid impression of Socks’s central position in the heart of the Clinton family: When they arrived in Washington, they brought with them from Little Rock their “family traditions, favorite pictures, and personal mementos to make the White House feel more comfortable.” But it was only when Socks appeared on the scene—bringing with him his “toy mouse”—that “this house became a home.” (Hillary’s literary exploitation of Socks continued long after she discarded him. On the second-to-last page of her memoir Living History, she offers a dreamy, after-the-ball portrait of her family savoring their last days in the White House: wandering down to the Children’s Garden one last time, Chelsea and Hillary admiring the handprints of former presidents’ grandchildren, Bill tossing the ball for Buddy, while Socks … “kept his distance.”)

Hillary’s insistence that we follow her example in pet ownership, when she should really be on Cat Fancy’s Most Wanted list, makes her a tiresome bore. But exploiting the emotions of good-natured people (including “many of the retired servicemen and women who live at the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home in Washington, D.C.,” whose bravery and patriotism she honored by having them send out kitty-cat “greetings” to Socks’s correspondents)—well, that’s just another example of her three-decade-long drift from the girl she once was to the woman that circumstance and ambition have made her.

I have, as of yet, no real opinion about the race, except, as stated before, that I think Giuliani is crazier than a funhouse full of drunk chimps. But what I wonder about Hillary is: do Democrats really like her? Or do they just think that other people like her?

That, after all, was the main problem with John Kerry: he was a Democrat's notion of what a Republican wanted to vote for. After all, he served in 'Nam! I know of exactly one person who was really enthused about Kerry before he won the nomination--and that person worked for the Kerry campaign. Yet somehow, my friends were actually surprised when it turned out that no one else liked John Kerry any more than they did.

I get a similar lukewarm vibe about Hillary from many of the people I know. They themselves will vote for her in the general election because she's a Democrat. But the reasons that they offer that other people will vote for her are kind of lame. Like, she's female. Or she's a Clinton. Or . . . hey, have you noticed, she's a woman? Women love that. And they're half the population!

No one ever argues that they'll vote for her because she's got sound policy ideas and a winning personality, which kind of seem like the criteria Democrats ought to be using.

What's weird is, in their quest to nominate a candidate who can win, it seems like Democrats are going to pick the one with the greatest chance of losing. After the disaster of the Bush administration, it seems hard to imagine any Republican pulling a victory out of this next election. But Hillary seems like the Democratic candidate most likely to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Unlike the other Democrats, she has absolutely enormous negative baggage, and it's all going to come out during the general election. The only reason it hasn't already (or so I mote) is that the other Democratic candidates are trying to avoid doing anything to tarnish the nostalgic glow that currently surrounds the last Democratic presidency. The GOP candidate will have no such restraint. Moreover, I think Democrats are underestimating just how suspicious Americans will be of a presidential roster that goes Bush . . . Clinton . . . Bush . . . Clinton.

It's not that I think she's likely to lose, exactly . . . but given how lukewarm they seem to be about her ideas, I don't understand why Democrats are willing to take the chance.