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May 7, 2006
Clift: Hillary Is The New Reagan

reagan.jpgNewsweek's Eleanor Clift reports on the nascent Hillariphobia creeping through the ranks of Democrats as they begin to seriously consider their presidential prospects in 2008. Clift tries to sell the idea that Hillary Clinton somehow represents the Democratic version of Ronald Reagan, divisive yet full of courageous leadership that her party can ill afford to discard at this political juncture:

The late great Jerry Garcia used to say the Grateful Dead were like black licorice. People who loved them loved them a lot. People who hated them really hated them. "Hillary Clinton is black licorice," says a Democratic strategist. "There's a huge upside, and there's a huge downside. And we don't know how it will balance out."

When was the last time we had such a dominant front runner this early who raises such anxiety about electability? The answer is Ronald Reagan. It took a leap of imagination to believe an aging grade-B movie actor with orange hair could win the presidency. Hillary's supporters are counting on the same act of faith in the political marketplace, but they are far from making the sale. The angst among Democrats borders on insurrection over whether to place their bets for '08 on Hillary.

Orange hair? Excuse me? Maybe Clift has mistaken Ronald Reagan for Strom Thurmond. It's no sillier than mistaking Hillary for the second coming of Reagan, and just as obviously dense.

Reagan may have well been a divisive force in 1976, during his first presidential campaign, when the Rockefeller Republicans still held sway over the Goldwater faction that had performed so disastrously in 1964. However, by the time Reagan ran in 1980, the GOP had fully embraced the limited-government and anti-communist messages he had consistently heralded for his entire political career. The supposedly "divisive" Reagan not only unified the GOP for the first time since Watergate, he also dispensed with that scandal's legacy in unseating Jimmy Carter after a single, pathetic term in office.

The only quality Hillary shares with Reagan is that at one time, a large number of people in their own parties did not trust either one. Unfortunately for Hillary, that season is now, when she wants to take her best shot at the presidency. If another Democrats wins, the best she can hope is that people won't think her too old to run in 2016. Otherwise, she'll have to hope that the GOP can hold the White House for another term in order to run.

What doesn't she have in common with Reagan? Consistency and a philosophical core on which it's based. Hillary has been everything but consistent in her political career. She started off by sitting on the board of Wal-Mart -- until she needed to get populist. She wanted to nationalize health care -- until it lost her husband control of Congress. She supported the war in order to run to the right of the Kerry/Feingold clique. She now wants to occupy a moderate position on abortion publicly while supporting unfettered abortion on demand through her legislative votes.

That's not Reaganesque, it's Clintonesque. Clift should know the difference. However, for someone who cannot tell the difference between orange and black, distinguishing between political consistency and opportunism must be well-nigh impossible.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 7, 2006 11:50 AM

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