The latest news about Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency is that she has decided to run as an all-out, wild-eyed left-winger.
That will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed her leftist political career from first lady. She fought Bill Clinton’s decisions on welfare reform and capital gains, and compiled a liberal record throughout her years in the Senate. As secretary of state, she caved into President Obama’s delusional attempts to “reset” relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his rapid withdrawal from the war against terrorism that led to the resurgence of the Islamic State group, al Qaeda and their accomplices who bathed the Middle East in blood and carnage.
Mrs. Clinton has been a liberal activist all her life going back to her Wellesley College days in the 1960s when she was an activist in the left-wing, protest movement of the day.
So it certainly came as a shock to read this headline on the front page of the liberal Washington Post this week: “Sensing a voter shift, Clinton tacks to left.” Come again?
If anything, that headline demonstrated just how far to the left The Washington Post really is when it suggests that Mrs. Clinton was somewhere to the right of the Democratic Party’s left wing before her latest dodge to the far left.
And, supposedly, she not just shifted left, but much further to the left than anyone before her.
Here’s how the newspaper described Mrs. Clinton’s tactical shift:
“Hillary Rodham Clinton is running as the most liberal Democratic presidential front-runner in decades, with positions on issues from gay marriage to immigration that would put her at her party’s precarious left edge.”
More liberal than, say, Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale in 1984, who ran on a campaign platform to significantly raise taxes on a recovering economy that was coming out of a severe recession?
More liberal than Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis who vetoed a bill requiring Massachusetts teachers to lead their classes in the Pledge of Allegiance?
From the day the Clintons moved into the White House, Hillary was targeted as the archenemy of the Democratic Leadership Council, a well-funded center-left organization that Bill Clinton chaired and used as a steppingstone to the presidency in the 1990s.
The now-defunct DLC was pro-business, pro-free trade and pro-reform, policies that led President Clinton to sign the GOP’s welfare reform plan, enact the North American Free Trade Agreement under fast-track authority, and embrace a capital gains tax cut that unleashed a burst of economic growth and new job creation in the late 1990s.
Hillary fought all of these policies. “She opposed our agenda,” a DLC official told me at the time. “She was the enemy.”
So now Hillary is running for president — an outcome that diehard Democrats see as the closest they can come to a third Obama term. But her strategists have concluded that she needs to stiffen her message among liberal voters who doubt her leftist resolve.
Polls show that her party’s base has been responding to the fire-breathing agenda of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-declared socialist who is challenging her with his class-warfare attacks on the wealthy. And to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s fierce attacks on Wall Street and the banking industry, with calls for much harsher regulation of the economy and corporate power.
That concern drove this week’s story about Clinton’s so-called shift to the left. It was fed by a strategic decision among her advisers that beefing up her leftist rhetoric will not hurt her with independents or moderate Democrats in next year’s election.
Exactly how Mrs. Clinton intends to express this tactical shift isn’t clear right now.
If anything, she’s been sending signals of rank timidity, afraid to come out and say where she stands on the basic economic issues of the day — from Mr. Obama’s pending trade agreement to slower economic growth to wages that have remained largely flat under his policies.
She is also coming under increasing criticism in recent weeks for being afraid to tackle the big economic issues of our time.
In a blistering analysis of Mrs. Clinton’s refusal to say where she stands on the trade debate, Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the liberal Brookings Institution, doesn’t mince words.
Titled “Clinton’s cowardice on trade,” Mr. Kagan said, “It is generally the case that if you don’t have the courage to run on a particular platform, you will not have any more courage to govern on it once you are in office.
“Presidents usually only do what they say they are going to do. Ronald Reagan promised to rebuild American defenses and cut taxes. That is what he did. Obama promised to pull troops out of the Middle East, and that is what he did. If Clinton won’t run on a free-trade platform, she won’t govern on one,” Mr. Kagan said. “So much for Clinton’s much-vaunted ‘smart power.’
“For a candidate to cower in the face of possible criticism from the irresponsible wing of her party gives little assurance that she has what it takes to lead the nation in the very difficult years ahead,” he added.
What of the long-stalled Keystone XL pipeline that is critical to our nation’s future energy needs? Is she going to challenge one of the Democrats’ largest bloc of voters, the environmentalists? She isn’t saying.
Mrs. Clinton, who obviously isn’t taking her husband’s advice in these matters, is on the brink of making some strategic blunders.
First, she has yet to lay out a full agenda of her own to address the No. 1 issue confronting our country: growing the economy and jobs.
Second, she has bought into the myth that the voters have moved sharply to the left.
If that is the case, how do they explain the Republican gains in Congress in the last two elections when they also won 30 out of the 50 governorships and the vast majority of state legislatures?
• Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.