- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 31, 2005

Aims to lessenliberal imagebefore 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is reaching out to the nation’s veterans as part of a bid to tone down her liberal image and position herself for a possible 2008 presidential bid.

In October, the New York Democrat quietly signed on to a bill, sponsored by Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican, that would outlaw flag burning in a few specific instances.

Now, Mrs. Clinton is leading a charge to force the U.S. Postal Service to continue issuing its Purple Heart stamp after rates go up next week. Traditionally, the postal service stops issuing noncommemorative stamps when new rates go into effect.

“This is the beginning of her cultivation of veterans,” said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. Keeping the Purple Heart stamp in print “is one of those micro issues that doesn’t matter in the great scheme of things, but sends the right message.”

Mrs. Clinton dodges questions about whether she plans to run for president in 2008, insisting that her focus is on serving New York state in the U.S. Senate. But the former first lady is widely viewed as the Democratic front-runner should she decide to enter the race.

In the past year, Mrs. Clinton has taken other steps toward the center in order to make her more attractive to moderate voters.

• In a speech last January to abortion rights advocates, she carefully articulated a moderate policy stance on abortion, saying there was “an opportunity for people of good faith to find common ground” on the issue.

• Mrs. Clinton has been critical of the war in Iraq. But unlike some of her Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate, she has not gone so far as to suggest a quick pullout of troops.

• Mrs. Clinton formed an unlikely alliance with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Georgia Republican, to push health care providers to modernize the way they bill patients and insurance companies.

Mrs. Clinton has a lot of incentive to win over veterans. As a woman, she has the extra burden of proving that she is fit to lead the nation in wartime, Mr. Sabato said.

“She’s trying to become the first female commander in chief, so she has to make a special effort to reach out to the military and veterans,” he said.

Some veterans are critical of Mrs. Clinton’s latest attempts to reach out, including her petition drive to persuade the U.S. Postal Service to keep printing its nearly three-year-old Purple Heart stamp.

Mrs. Clinton’s effort to keep the stamp alive is “nice,” but not substantive, said Thomas Bock, the American Legion’s national commander.

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