Dan Balz takes his turn at trying to define Hillary Clinton.
After three decades in public life, New York’s junior senator is one of the most recognized women in the world, her every move and utterance interpreted amid the assumption in Democratic circles and her own circle that her reelection campaign this fall will pivot into a run for president in 2008. Yet for all her fame, there are missing pieces to the Clinton puzzle: What does she stand for? And where would she try to take the country if elected?
Her detractors find much — and much different — to criticize. Liberal columnist Molly Ivins dismisses Clinton as the embodiment of “triangulation, calculation and equivocation.” Markos Moulitsas, whose Daily Kos Web site often attacks the Democratic establishment, ridicules her as a leader who is “afraid to offend.” The Rev. Jerry Falwell, echoing a view shared by many Republicans, calls her a liberal “ideologue” who is far more doctrinaire than her husband.
Some of the greatest leaders in our history have been enigmatic and hard to read; FDR infuriated members of both parties for seeming to agree with everybody, and the most reviled president of recent history, Richard Nixon, was completely unfathomable to friends and opponents alike — sometimes doing things that were unabashedly liberal such as creating the EPA and pushing for affirmative action. So Hillary Clinton is hard to pin down; after eight years of a simplistic, reactionary and arrogant president who’s only regret so far is that he quoted John Wayne out of context, a candidate who is willing to listen to both sides and at the same time piss them off would, at the least, be a refreshing change.