Friday, October 5, 2007

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has been criticized this past week for her evasiveness, dodginess, weasel words and shady connections — not only by her conservative critics but by liberal columnists and reporters.

In pointed political broadsides from some of the major liberal-leaning publications — including the New York Times and The Washington Post — the New York senator has been the target of surprisingly sharp criticism about her refusal to answer policy questions, investigative reporting about her husband’s business dealings and unsavory fundraisers, and even assertions that her candidacy was solely beholden to her husband’s political influence.

When asked by NBC’s Tim Russert in last week’s Democratic presidential debate about whether following in her husband Bill Clinton‘s presidential footsteps was creating a dynasty, Mrs. Clinton said, “I’m running on my own. I’m going to the people on my own.”

But that answer didn’t wash with Maureen Dowd, the liberal columnist for the New York Times.

“Without nepotism, Hillary would be running for the president of Vassar,” she said in her column Sunday. “Of course, Hillary is never on her own. From the beginning, her campaign has relied on her husband’s donors, network, strategies and strong-arming.”

Other columnists and reporters similarly piled on Mrs. Clinton in the aftermath of the Dartmouth College debate that was seen by them as a litany of evasive answers.

In a post-debate analysis of Mrs. Clinton’s “evasiveness on issues,” such as troop withdrawals in Iraq, saving Social Security and whether Israel has the right to attack Iran, Associated Press writer Beth Fouhy said she “adopted the time-honored, front-runner strategy of dodging tough questions, contradicting the image of a strong leader.”

“Examples of Clinton’s evasiveness were manifest Wednesday night,” she wrote.

In a Washington Post column titled “Clinton’s Game of Dodgeball,” political reporter David Broder also complained about her “dodginess.”

“Her posture during the debate was a classic front-runner pose: Don’t make waves. The question is whether she can go through the next three months saying little or nothing without jeopardizing her lead in the contest,” Mr. Broder said.

When Mr. Russert asked how she intended to save Social Security from future insolvency and whether higher payroll taxes would be on the negotiating table, Mrs. Clinton refused to say what options she would propose, saying she first wanted to “move toward fiscal responsibility.”

Writing in the New York Times, columnist Gail Collins said, “This is an excellent example of how to string together the maximum number of weasel words in one sentence. It was also pretty typical of Hillary’s entire evening.”

In a 1,558 word piece in the Times on Sunday, titled “Is Hillary Clinton the New Old Al Gore?,” after her TV appearances to defend her health care reform plan, Frank Rich said “she seemed especially evasive when dealing with questions requiring human reflection instead of wonkery.”

A Wall Street Journal story late last month raised questions about her husband’s business dealings with an Italian wheeler-dealer being sued by investors, who offered to help Mrs. Clinton’s campaign “win over Catholic voters.” Another story, first reported by, told of the Clintons’ strong-arm tactics to kill an article in GQ magazine about infighting in her campaign.

Blake Zeff, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign spokesman, yesterday dismissed the criticism of last week’s debate performance, pointing instead to “all the praise she got in the other debates.”

Veteran Democratic adviser Steve Elmendorf said he did not “put much stock in any of the criticism. When you are the front-runner, you get attacked from the right and the left.”

“Newspaper reporters and columnists are all interested in the candidate saying more and doing more and a good, disciplined candidate runs her own campaign, not the press’ campaign,” he said.

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