- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is staking out centrist positions on values issues that helped decide last year’s presidential election, positioning herself to the right of her party’s base on abortion, faith-based initiatives and immigration.

In the past few weeks, the New York Democrat has embraced the role of religion in addressing social ills, decried abortion as “sad, even tragic” and complained about the influx of illegal aliens — all stances that run counter to liberal party leaders, but which are popular among voters.

“I think what we’re seeing is, at least rhetorically, the attempt of the ultimate makeover,” said Gary Bauer, president of the American Values organization and a former Republican presidential candidate.

“She clearly wants to sit in the Oval Office. She’s a bright lady, and I think she watched her party throw everything, including the kitchen sink, at the president and still lose. She’s made her own calculation that values in the broadest sense of the word was the reason for that loss,” he said.

Considered by many Democratic Party leaders to be the front-runner for the 2008 presidential nomination, the senator is raising eyebrows among the party’s liberal elite, who moved left after the surprising Democratic losses in the 2002 midterm elections.

Although the party appears poised to continue on that path — just one of the seven candidates to head the Democratic National Committee, Timothy J. Roemer of Indiana, is pro-life — Mrs. Clinton has sought to position herself as a more moderate alternative.

But Philippe Reines, press secretary for Mrs. Clinton, said his boss is not attempting to remake herself. Instead, he said, she is simply repeating positions that she has set out in the past.

“The times may have changed, but her beliefs have not,” he said.

Some conservatives, however, saw a change when Mrs. Clinton delivered a speech on Monday, two days after the 32nd anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that made abortion a constitutional right. In her remarks, she offered some conciliatory language on the divisive issue.

“Yes, we do have deeply held differences of opinion about the issue of abortion, and I, for one, respect those who believe with all their hearts and minds that there are no circumstances under which any abortion should ever be available,” the former first lady said.

“There is an opportunity for people of good faith to find common ground in this debate. We should be able to agree that we want every child born in this country to be wanted, cherished and loved,” adding that abortion “represents a sad, even tragic choice to many.”

The story was splashed across the front page of the New York Times and included the conclusion by the reporter that Mrs. Clinton “appeared to be reaching out beyond traditional core Democrats who support abortion rights.”

Mr. Reines said that Mrs. Clinton’s stance was not new and probably didn’t deserve to be on the front page.

“As Senator Clinton has done for over a decade, she emphasized her desire to focus on making abortions safe, legal and rare, and she emphasized that we should be able to find some common ground,” the spokesman said.

Nancy Keenan, the new president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, also said she saw nothing new in what Mrs. Clinton said Monday.

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