Jewish World Review March 16, 2005/ 5 Adar II 5765


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Condi vs. Hillary?: GOP Dream Race Won't Happen | Jose Canseco has a better chance of sitting in the Oval Office four years from now than Condoleezza Rice. A considerable number of Republican earlybirds, fretting about who'll run for president in 2008—and forget the absurd talk that Sen. Bill Frist, a wobbly Majority Leader at best, and about as exciting as a Three Dog Night reunion, is the putative front-runner—are talking up the Secretary of State, hawking Condi t-shirts and posters on the Internet. She ranks high in the polls for possible contenders, just as two other non-starters, Rudy Giuliani (way too socially liberal) and John McCain (too old, cranky and contradictory) do, all because of name recognition.

Rice, who said last Sunday on ABC's This Week that "I don't have any desire to run for president, I don't intend to, I won't do it," no doubt enjoys the attention, but she's too smart to wage a national campaign. That won't stop liberals from encouraging such talk: On March 13, The Washington Post ran Mike Allen's story—"'Mildly Pro-Choice' Rice Won't Rule Out Presidential Bid"—which claimed, based on an interview with The Washington Times, that she's "left a door open for a presidential race in 2008." (After Rice said she wouldn't run, the Post printed a brief Reuters story about it on March 14.)

Such speculation, which will continue despite Rice's protests, is useful for Democrats since it crowds out space for the most likely, at this point, contenders for the GOP nomination, elected officials like Sen. George Allen, Gov. Mark Sanford and, with the expected candidacy of Hillary Clinton, which nullifies the "dynasty" obstacle, Gov. Jeb Bush.

Realistically, Rice has five problems that her supporters refuse to recognize, any combination of which would, when people actually vote, erode the Republican electoral domination of the South and any other red state that has a sizable number of social conservatives. In no particular order: she's black, a female, single, ambiguous about abortion and has never run for office.

These aren't detriments in states like New York, Illinois or California, but no Republican will win there anyway. Conservatives in Georgia, the Carolinas, Alabama, just to name a few, won't admit it publicly, but there are plenty of enthusiastic supporters of President Bush who just won't be capable of pulling the lever for a black woman who's never been married and isn't categorically pro-life. Their defections will tip normally guaranteed states to the Democratic candidate.

The more rational choice for Rice, as she realizes, despite understandable fantasies of becoming the first female and black president, is to become successful in her current job, back the eventual Republican nominee and retain her position in a post-Bush administration.

Meanwhile, as blabbermouth Sen. Joe Biden, as always toying with a presidential run himself, says, Hillary Clinton is the "big elephant in the room." The continual stream of profiles of New York's junior senator, media attention that outpaces the trial of Michael Jackson right now, and will upstage subsequent celebrity scandals, must be giving heartburn to Democrats who are more likely to run in 2008, like Sen. Evan Bayh, Gov. Phil Bredesen and Gov. Bill Richardson.

Most of the stories have a common theme: Hillary is shrewdly making herself over into an international hawk and moderate social values Democrat. Newsweek's Eleanor Clift, who never got over her adolescent crush on Bill Clinton, wrote an online piece on March 11 that nearly predicted Hillary was a shoo-in and the only question was the makeup of her cabinet. Here's Clift in star-struck mode: "[A] consensus is emerging that Hillary Clinton is the Democrats' likely candidate and that Republicans are whistling Dixie if they think she'd be a pushover." Deflecting the deep dislike of Bill Clinton in conservative circles, Clift continues, "But Clinton himself has become more of a beloved figure. His role in tsunami relief combined with his illness allows the American people to see him in a different light."

There's some truth in that last assertion: As an ex-president, Bill Clinton is relatively harmless and it is sad to see how much he's aged recently, sometimes appearing as haggard as that old goat Jimmy Carter. But if his wife runs, Clinton, assuming he's healthy, will be back in campaign mode, which means Marc Rich, Monica, his inattention to Islamic terrorists in the 90s and the decline of the Democratic Party on his watch will overwhelm any goodwill tours abroad or sympathy about his ticker.

Hillary's been making noises, at the appropriate audiences, about the tragedy of abortion, but in the end there are only two positions on this contentious issue, pro-choice or pro-life. And Hillary is in the former camp. She also made headlines by appearing with conservative Sens. Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback to announce the introduction of a bill that will "study the impact of media on the development of young children." She, like other cultural gatekeepers (a bipartisan group of scolds, including Santorum, Brownback and Joe Lieberman), wants to further government intrusion into the private lives of citizens by imposing more strict "codes" on video games and television.

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I don't see how this gambit gains the Senator any points with those Americans who want to eviscerate a broad swath of the First Amendment; the likes of James Dobson, Brent Bozell, Sean Hannity, and any number of Republican members of Congress have already staked that ground. And while power-starved Democrats will overlook this stance of Hillary's as a necessary evil to get elected, the effect on independents is up in the air. I'm not sure it would make much of a difference, but if Hillary is sincere in imposing a censorious entertainment ratings system, ignoring the rights of parents to choose what may or may not be suitable for their children, a refusal to take campaign contributions from Hollywood actors and producers would be a gusty move.

Frank Rich, who's apparently enjoying a renaissance at The New York Times —his weekly op-ed is displayed all over the paper's website, in the "Washington," "Editorials and Opinions," "Arts" and "Business" sections last Sunday—lamented once again on March 13 about "a culture that is now caught in the vise of the government war against 'indecency.'" I don't usually agree with Rich, but his attack on GOP Sen. Ted Stevens' for blasting the prevalence of foul language on television was well deserved. However, if Rich were more honest, he'd have included Hillary Clinton in his roundup of Congressional arbiters of morality.

Taking a contrary view was The New York Observer's Tish Durkin, who wrote last week that the giddiness of New York Democrats of Hillary reclaiming the White House for the intellectually superior might be premature. Durkin writes, "Not to kill everyone's buzz or anything, but before we get any more stoned on speculation as to what might be true of [Hillary's] next historic run for office, it might be worth pointing out a few sobering—not disqualifying, but sobering—things that were true of her first run for office."

Durkin lists Hillary's lack of a primary opponent in 2000, the self-immolation of GOP challenger Rick Lazio, the perks that came from holding the dual roles as First Lady (with immense infrastructure at her disposal) and candidate, and sympathy for putting up with a skirt-chaser like Bill. Unlike Clift, Durkin strikes the correct tone: If Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination in 2008 it'll be another nail-biter of an election, with the distinct possibility, regardless of centrist window-dressing, that she'll lose.

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- was the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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