- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2006


By John Podhoretz, Crown Forum, $26.95, 255 pages

In a book about Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations, we are reminded that Ronald Reagan as governor of California in 1967 signed “the most liberal abortion law ever passed.” John Podhoretz mentions this in part to show that in the past conservatives have been forgiving; and that conservatives will be called on to forgive again very soon if they do not wish to see Chief Justice John Roberts deliver the oath of office to President-elect Clinton on the front steps of the Capitol in 2009.

That’s because Point #10 in Mr. Podhoretz’s “Stop Hillary” Ten-Point Plan is “Nominate Rudy” — as in former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who capped his brilliant administration with an equally brilliant performance on September 11. Yet Mr. Giuliani is pro-choice. Worse than that, in 1999 he said he opposed a ban on partial-birth abortion — thus placing him to the left of several possible Democratic candidates, at least rhetorically.

If it sounds strange to begin a review on a book about Mrs. Clinton with Mr. Giuliani, it’s because “Can She Be Stopped?” is in fact as much a polemic about the present state of the Republican Party as it is about the junior senator from New York.

Fortunately, Mr. Podhoretz doesn’t really try to make the case that Mr. Giuliani could win as a pro-choice Republican. Rather, his hypothetical candidate must “flip-flop” on abortion, and conservatives must let him as they once let Mr. Reagan.

It’s a cynical scheme, one of many Mr. Podhoretz suggests in his compelling book. And wouldn’t Mr. Giuliani actually doing it smack of cold-hearted Clintonian ambition? Yes, probably, writes Mr. Podhoretz, “but you can’t have it all” — an appropriate epithet for “Can She Be Stopped?”

For this reason and others, Mr. Podhoretz has written a distinctly somber book, the central thesis being that unless Republicans and conservatives get serious and play for keeps, Mrs. Clinton will be the next president of the United States.

Mr. Podhoretz hopes that that very thought should be enough to convince the right to consider at least some of his suggestions. Just in case it isn’t, however, Mr. Podhoretz lays out a strong and unrelenting case for Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy. For instance, those inclined to find comfort in her high disapproval ratings need only be reminded that at least 40 percent of Americans will not vote for whomever is the Republican candidate, such is the present state of American politics.

Nor is Mr. Podhoretz fooled by the media accolades portraying her as a “centrist” or a “moderate,” a distinction conditioned solely on her votes for the Iraq war. Quite the contrary, he argues. Her history as a liberal feminist combined with her near-perfect liberal rating as a senator by Americans for Democratic Action should be enough to tell even the most denial-ridden Republican what kind of president Hillary would make.

The question is what kind of candidate she would make. On that, Mr. Podhoretz’s book provides fewer answers. But, if we accept his central argument, we’ll soon find out.

The book’s message is one many conservatives won’t want to hear. “You must not hold ideological purity more dear than partisan victory in the coming two years,” he writes. As for Republicans, “the ideal of the ‘Republican Revolution’ as promulgated in the 1990s proved to be a fantasy.” Mr. Podhoretz is, as they say, a tough crowd.

But, as we know, the state of the Republican party is far from what its recent electoral successes would suggest. Mr. Podhoretz checks off Republican problems without apology, as a sledgehammer reminder that “the right needs to take a good, long, hard look at itself in the mirror to understand where it has gone wrong and how to do a quick repair job.” Part of the solution, he says, is for Republicans to presume those enmeshed in the Abramoff scandal “guilty until proven innocent.”

However, it doesn’t mean that Republicans can afford what he calls a “Purification Ritual,” or the inclination to kick the bums out and start over. Such an ideological spasm, he argues, would only ensure another Clinton administration.

It’s good, Machiavellian advice, with one minor complaint. Mr. Podhoretz himself could go a long way in avoiding his dreaded “Purification Ritual” by resisting the temptation to label the Minutemen a “vigilante” group, which he does in a short section on immigration reform. Wall Street Elitism is not going to carry the Republican candidate to victory in 2008.

Otherwise, can she be stopped? Yes, she can, but Republicans have to start now.

Blake D. Dvorak is an editorial writer for the Washington Times.

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