Clinton Counting Chickens

When Hillary Clinton first entered the Senate, she laid it down.  She would not be one of those Democratic sissies always whining about not wanting to go to war.  Early on she positioned herself as a hawk in a world where Republicans were reaping large political dividends as a result of the neoconservative ideology.

Then the Iraq war got unpopular.

Running for president’s something of a tough gig, and for Hillary it required something on the order of ideological gymnastics.  After putting a decent effort into establishing herself as hawkish in order to appear tough in a political environment dominated by the tough talkers, Hillary had to bend over backwards to throw red meat to the growing anti-war base.

“If Bush doesn’t end this war, when I’m president, I will!” goes her stump speech, and she makes a point to say it at virtually every single primary debate and forum.  The line gets thunderous applause, and then, if you’re watching a debate, you don’t learn anything more as Senator Clinton politely passes on any hashing over the details to the rest of the Democratic field who are all too willing to follow her lead.

But one thing has been bothering me; you still don’t know what she’ll do.  Further, this pretty much stands for just about everything about the former First Lady.  All of the rest of the presidential candidates in the Democratic race have stumbled over each other to put forth detailed plans on health care, Iraq, foreign policy, etc. in order to try and steal some of Clinton’s spotlight, but as the frontrunner, Hillary has been for the most part mum on how exactly she would serve as president.  She’s in charge, people are going to vote for her whether they know or not, so might as well not turn any voters off by going into detail.  It’s safer that way.

Then this last Sunday, Clinton hit the Sunday morning chat circuit, and if you were looking for edification on her stance in Iraq, specifically, pulling out of Iraq, good luck.

On “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” Clinton could have vowed to vacate Iraq. Instead, she delivered hawkish mini-speeches that few Republicans would object to. She listed a series of threats and interests in the region and made it clear that she’d be willing to keep U.S. troops there to handle them.

Andrew Sullivan is particularly dead on when it comes to this one.

The conservative Washington Establishment is swooning for Hillary for a reason. The reason is an accommodation with what they see as the next source of power (surprise!); and the desire to see George W. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq legitimated and extended by a Democratic president (genuine surprise). Hillary is Bush’s ticket to posterity. On Iraq, she will be his legacy. They are not that dissimilar after all: both come from royal families, who have divvied up the White House for the past couple of decades. They may oppose one another; but they respect each other as equals in the neo-monarchy that is the current presidency. And so elite conservatives are falling over themselves to embrace a new Queen Hillary, with an empire reaching across Mesopotamia, a recently deposed court just waiting to return to the salons of DC, a consort happy to be co-president for another four years, and a back-channel to the other royal family. She’ll even have more powers than Clinton I, because Cheney has given her back various royal prerogatives: arrests without charges, torture, wire-tapping, and spy-ware on your Expedia account. Only the coronation awaits.

In essence, what we are seeing is simply this.  Hillary believes she’s got the Democratic nomination in the bag.  And why shouldn’t she (aside from the fact that there’s still plenty of time left on the clock?), she’s got strong leads in the polls, and no matter what Edwards or Obama try, nothing seems to work.

So with the nomination all locked up, it’s time to start wooing the right, right?  Personally, I think that may just well be her undoing, especially when you stop to consider that a lot of the people who are going to vote for the Democratic nominee still aren’t paying attention quite yet.

It would be a pity (for Hillary anyway) for her to get caught hawking it up just as a surge of Democratic voters finally tune in to what’s going on.  Such a thing could result in all those chickens she’s counting ending up hatching in someone else’s favor.

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