A Look Inside The Right

I’m often confronted with the question, “Why are the Republicans going after Hillary this early in the Presidential race?”  Such a concept, believe it or not, does go significantly against the grain of political conventional wisdom.

Logically, it follows that if candidates from the opposing party are to inject themselves in their opponents’ contest at all, it would be to do whatever they could to prevent the ascension of their least favored candidate, laying hands off of whichever candidate they feel would be easily bested.  In this race, that would lead one to believe that the last person the Republicans would want to attack head on would be Hillary Clinton.

This is because, let’s face it, Hillary Clinton is the preferred target of the bunch.  More specifically, she would be the preferred target of those likely to actually win the nomination (let’s face it, Kucinich or Gravel would each be a pretty easy to beat).  You’ve heard the arguments before, the electability issue, the fact that Republicans and their associated wind machines in the right wing have had more than enough target practice against her to mount an effective offense, Hillary’s high negatives among the electorate, etc.  And yes, these factors have been a large factor in the Democratic conversation of whom to nominate, but why are the Republicans jumping on the bandwagon?

If anything, you would think they would at least wait until she was actually nominated before going after her.  But a piece written up by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey betrays the kind of menatality that has seeped into the braintrusts of the leading Republican campaigns.

A couple of the key paragraphs:

What you need to understand is that Hillary Clinton is, quite simply, craftier and more aggressive than the rest of the field. I know this firsthand, having battled with the Clinton Administration throughout the 1990’s while serving as a leader in Congress.

She’s only gotten tougher since then.

Early on, there were many fights, but one of the most important was over Hillary Clinton’s 1993 plan to expand government control of the health-care system. We were lucky to stop it, and we did so by standing our ground on the principle of putting patients ahead of bureaucracies. But now she’s back, and the health-care issue is a perfect example of the way she’s learned on the job and evolved her tactics.

Her latest health-care plan is more of the same stuff—greater federal control of our lives—but this time she’s presenting it in a way that is far more politically savvy. She leaves open questions of funding and enforcement, and is actively working to buy off the groups who opposed her plan in 1993.

Hillary Clinton and her agenda are not going to fade away. She is relentless and determined. Once she resolves a course of action in her mind, she is not going to be wishy-washy. The other candidates, and the rest of the world, will quickly learn that Hillary Clinton means business.

No doubt, Hillary Clinton has the Democrat primary all wrapped up. A couple of one-term senators are simply no match for the political machine she and her husband have built. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s not possible for a Republican to defeat her in the general election. But as things stand today, the GOP has a very real set of problems that are larger than any of the party’s candidates.

To counter Hillary Clinton’s perfectly oiled political machine, Republicans need to return to their Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan roots. They need to present an alternative vision for America—a positive vision that limits government and trusts individuals and leaves families, churches, and businesses free to make their own decisions, and not have bureaucrats and politicians calling the shots.

Right now, the country is headed toward a date with Hillary Clinton, and big government is on the agenda. The only way to change that rendezvous is for candidates to offer a clear, principled, limited government alternative.

(Bold added for emphasis)

Recalling back to his own political battles with Hillary, Armey’s piece as it relates to the candidate and not to the GOP makes clear two things; she is a political juggernaut, and she is among one of the big government liberals that are a plague upon the country.

The truth is a little bit more complex, however.  Hillary Clinton is the actualization of a dream opponent in more ways than one.  She is iconic among the Republican base of the ills and evils of liberalism, the landmark battle over healthcare in the nineties setting the stage for how she would be viewed by many throughout the country for years to come.

But at the same time, she is, and never was, nearly as liberal as the evil avatar pinned upon her would have you believe, and herein is the rub.  I’ve documented countless times how Hillary leans right, the brief months long flirtation with the liberal base earlier this year almost a perfunctory action necessary to garner her nomination.  Outside of this, Hillary has been hawkish from the moment she entered the senate, and I think a telling aspect about her economic approach might be in the differences between she and Obama on Social Security.  Where Obama seeks to raise the cap on Payroll taxes, possibly creating a donut hole for small business owners, Hillary evokes the great name of “growth” which has in recent times become something of a code word to corporatists signifying that you’re on their side.

The short version is simply that, of the main three Democrats running right now, Hillary Clinton is easily the most conservative, making her nomination something of a win/win among Republican faithfuls.

If she is nominated, they already have mountainfuls of ammo to unleash upon her, and a considerable wind at their backs in the form of national unease about the former first lady.  If she were to be nominated and actually win the White House, though, it is also safe to say that she would not stray too terribly far off the Republican reservation in governance.

But that still doesn’t explain why Republicans are already lining up to take her on in their debates.  That question is simple.  As Armey points out, Clinton’s apparently huge leads make it look as though her nomination is unavoidable.  There is nothing that Obama or Edwards can do to change this (according to their thinking) and so they are put into an even more beneficial situation than the win/win situation above outlines.  Not only are they ready for her, not only would she not be a disagreeable president to them if she were to win, but her inevitable status means that GOP hopefuls can get a head start on attacking her.

A win/win/win situation.

By all rights, Armey is largely right, and while Clinton is facing some campaign woes right now (that go beyond the horrible debate performance), all indicators would show that she is still slated to take the Democratic nomination, and would at least enter the General Election contest a strong frontrunner.

But these things have a tendancy to go off script.  Bill Clinton was struggling with his Presidential campaign until a solid showing in New Hampshire made him, in his own words, the “comeback kid”.  Likewise, Howard Dean was looking real good right up to the “Dean Scream” after which chips started falling Kerry’s way and pretty fast.

Bad news for Clinton, good news for Obama, and an Iowa race that has the frontrunners in a statistical dead heat are proving to indicators that may propogate cracks in the armor of Clinton’s invincibility.  If this plays out, the GOP facing Obama in the General Election could put them in a worse situation than they are already in.

8 Responses to “A Look Inside The Right”

  1. Mark says:

    One thing you fail to grasp- the Republicans are going after Hillary this early because the Republican Party is in deep shit at the moment, and the specter of Hillary is the one thing that can rally people to the party. On the other hand, Obama is tough to go after for Republicans seeking to rally the troops because so many Republicans in exile have flocked to him.

    More importantly than that, though, is the fact that Hillary is the single greatest fundraising tool the Republican Party has, and especially that Giuliani has. It has less to do with her substantive positions than it does with the fact that her substantive positions are slightly to the left of Bush, but they are combined with a Bush-level addiction to secrecy and executive power. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: Hillary is Bush with a brain and a pantsuit, with slightly more left-leaning politics.

    Something else worth pointing out- Armey is himself something of a Republican-in-exile, having joined forces with the ACLU. If you read the whole article closely, you will notice he is engaging in a desperate plea for Republicans to abandon the Hillary-esque style of governing the Bushies have pursued and return to what used to be their bread and butter before Bill Clinton beautifully co-opted it. In that sense, he is demonstrating how he hopes the specter of Hillary will wake the Republicans up and adopt principles that they have long since forgotten.

  2. Actually, grasped all three, but didn’t go in depth (enough apparently).

  3. Mark says:

    Poor phrasing on my part. I need to do a better job proofreading.

  4. One thing Mark said is ringing true to me, the idea of Republicans in exile flocking to him. I am sheerly amazed at the number of Republicans professing their support for Obama. Now the question is, is it sincere or calculated?

    Case in point, former eCampaign Director for the RNC and currently self descibed “online strategist dedicated to helping Republicans and conservatives achieve dominance in a networked era” Patrick Ruffinni changed his facebook status just this morning to read “Patrick Ruffini is an aggrieved Obama supporter.” Now I don’t know Patrick personally, he is merely someone on my facebook friends list that I keep an eye on (and vice versa I am sure) but the question begs to be asked, could someone like Patrick really support Barrack Obama? If the answer is what I think it is, that is to say no, then what kind of twisted strategy is the GOP trying to play out here?

  5. I don’t think there’s much reason to be suspicious of the Republicans-in-exile. A good number of the Republicans-in-exile are your more socially liberal types who don’t see Ron Paul as a worthwhile endeavor, either because of his stance on fiscal issues or because he has about zero chance of getting the nomination. Many of the Republicans-in-exile are in exile precisely because they could no longer go along with party orthodoxy, especially in the foreign relations arena. They’ve been called RINOs, but they’re more likely to simply be classical conservatives.

    Actually, Obama’s support in Iowa does a great job showing what I mean. Sully pointed out today that a majority of Republicans there are opposed to the war; well, if you’re opposed to the war, live in Iowa (which depends heavily on agriculture subsidies), and are a church-goer, who are you more likely to support? The famously divorced neo-con Giuliani, the anti-subsidy quasi-neo-con McCain, the Mormon Scientologist neocon Romney, the anti-subsidy and anti-drug war Paul, or the church-going, anti-war Obama?

    Plus, I’ve said before that there’s just something about Obama that makes him appealing to Republicans-in-exile, even libertarian types like me. I think it’s his general humility and non-dogmatic approach to things. Of course, people said that about Bush in 2000, but Bush never seemed particularly sincere about those issues like Obama does.

    Another, probably more common, possibility is that Republicans-in-exile by definition are no longer card-carrying Republicans. In our two-party system, that means they have to support a Dem. Since only Hil, Obama, and Edwards have an actual chance, the choice is pretty easy for the Republican-in-exile. It’s easy because Hillary is pretty much a neo-con in disguise, and is still every bit as polarizing to many ex-Republicans as she was when they were still Republicans. Meanwhile, Edwards’ class warfare rhetoric and penchant for socialism (or something akin to it) scare the hell out of anyone who still has a drop of fiscal conservative in them. That leaves Obama, who at least gives off the vibe that he is really concerned more with doing the right thing than with ideology.

  6. Sorry for being rude earlier; I’m kinda blogging under duress, and if I were halfway sane, would probably be taking the rest of November off, but I can’t. Won’t let myself.

    Sorry again.

  7. I hear you Mark but I still think there is something odd going on, mainly because I don’t think Ruffinni is a RHINO or a Republican in exile at all. That definition I quoted above comes from the about page of his current website http://www.patrickruffini.com/.

    By the way, I am not picking on Patrick, he is just the easiest example of someone that, on the surface, should not be an Obama supporter.

    Rather than speculate I will shoot him a message on Facebook and see if he will come over to explain the phenomenon.

  8. I don’t know much about Ruffini in particular- he may be an odd case. But the vast majority of Repubs-in-exile are unsuspicious in my view.

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