- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2007

Panic attack

“It’s often said that Sen. Hillary Clinton is like a sphinx who gives away nothing about what’s going on inside her head. She can come across as so programmed that the cottage industry of Hillary watchers is often stumped about what she’s up to,” New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

“Not so last week, when we got a sudden peek behind the mask of computer-style control. Clinton, it turns out, suffers from political panic attacks. And she gets really nasty when she’s in the grips of one,” Mr. Goodwin said.

“Her broadside on Sen. Barack Obama was so over the top and foolish that it couldn’t have been planned in rational moments. Not only did Clinton’s snarling prolong a bad story for her, it also recalled past blowups. They reveal Clinton’s unappealing habit of turning fairly routine criticisms into life-or-death threats. Then she panics and goes ballistic.

“Obama basically kept his cool while she lost hers, so he gets an ‘A’ on his first big test of the 2008 presidential race. For one week at least, he stood head and shoulders above her.

“Yet he couldn’t have emerged as a bigger man without her help. The Illinois rookie senator didn’t so much as win the throwdown as she lost it. That dynamic, if it becomes a pattern, could boost his chances of taking the Democratic nomination from her.”

Worth watching

“Republicans and conservatives have been trying to sink Mrs. Clinton for years, but she keeps bob-bob-bobbing along. ‘Oh those Clinton haters, what’s wrong with them?’ ” Peggy Noonan writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“Only a Democrat could hurt her, and a Democrat just did. Hollywood titan David Geffen, who now supports Barack Obama, this [past] week famously retagged the Clintons as an Ivy League Bonnie and Clyde. Bill is ‘reckless,’ Hillary relentless — ‘God knows, is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary?’

“In an interview that seemed like an audience, with the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, Mr. Geffen said, ‘Everybody in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it’s troubling.’ In this he was, knowingly or unknowingly, echoing Bob Kerrey, the former Nebraska senator, who said in 1996 of the then-president, ‘Clinton’s an unusually good liar. Unusually good. Do you realize that?’ Mr. Kerrey suffered for the remark and was shunned within his party for a while, but didn’t retract,” Miss Noonan said.

“In her column Ms. Dowd labeled the campaign operation ‘Hillary Inc.,’ but Mr. Geffen got closer to the heart of it: It is the Clinton ‘machine’ and it ‘is going to be very unpleasant and unattractive and effective.’

“He’s probably about to find out how true that is. …

“But the outcome of the Geffen-Clinton episode is worthy of watching because it is going to determine whether it is remembered as the moment in the 2008 campaign when it became clear you are allowed to criticize Hillary — or as the moment it became clear you are not.”

Rewarding converts

“The current narrative about Mitt Romney’s political positioning — driven by both the media and conservative critics — has put in jeopardy the candidate’s plan to be a credible conservative alternative to the current front-runners,” the editors of National Review write at www.nationalreview.com.

“In staking out positions to the right of John McCain and Rudy Giuliani on issues important to conservative voters, the former Massachusetts governor is also to the right of his former self. Skeptics see more naked ambition than sincere conversion in Romney’s shifts on multiple issues, including abortion, gun control, gay rights and taxes. His campaign should make no mistake: His introduction to the public has gone badly, and a few early TV ads aren’t going to fix it,” the magazine said.

“Conservatives should hope Romney’s campaign does not fizzle. For three decades, candidates who have moved to the right in Republican presidential primaries have been rewarded rather than punished. Conservative openness to converts has made it possible for moderate Republicans who found themselves moving rightward to prosper, and given ideologically malleable Republicans an incentive to adopt conservative positions. In both cases, the effect was to facilitate the country’s rightward move.

“Conservatives should want to keep it that way. Thus, the gleeful pounding away at Romney’s changes from some on the right is counterproductive. Do any of these critics really wish that Romney had remained pro-choice? Pro-choicers didn’t object when Al Gore, Dick Gephardt, and Jesse Jackson moved their way on abortion — they welcomed the converts.”

Quite normal

“The sudden embrace of social conservatism by top Republican presidential candidates has been widely misunderstood,” Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard.

“It’s been portrayed, particularly in the media, as political pandering of the first order — and nothing more. True, there’s a large element of pandering when a candidate switches positions on abortion, gay marriage and other social issues with an eye to gaining votes. But for a Republican seeking his party’s nomination, shifting to the right on social issues is hardly shocking. Rather, it’s quite normal, it’s absolutely necessary, and it’s likely to work,” Mr. Barnes said.

He added: “For Democrats, switching is painless. They not only put themselves on the side of party activists and liberal interest groups, they get right with elite opinion and the media. For Republicans, it’s anything but easy. When they switch and endorse social conservatism, elite opinion is appalled, and the press plays up their supposed insincerity.”

An explanation

The New Republic’s Peter Beinart uses his last column to explain why he and the liberal magazine made a “disastrous decision” four years ago to support U.S. military intervention in Iraq.

Mr. Beinart cited, among other things, Kanan Makiya, “who has devoted his life to chronicling Saddam Hussein’s crimes.”

The columnist said he was willing to gamble on invasion, “partly, I suppose, because, in the era of the all-volunteer military, I wasn’t gambling with my own life. And partly because I didn’t think I was gambling many of my countrymen’s. I had come of age in that surreal period between Panama and Afghanistan, when the United States won wars easily and those wars benefited the people on whose soil they were fought.”

He added: “It’s a truism that American intellectuals have long been seduced by revolution. In the 1930s, some grew intoxicated with the revolutionary potential of the Soviet Union. In the 1960s, some felt the same way about Cuba. In the 1990s, I grew intoxicated with the revolutionary potential of the United States.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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