Jewish World Review Jan. 28, 2005/ 18 Shevat, 5765

Wesley Pruden

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The bright light amidst dim bulbs | Memo to the unwary: Hillary's comin,' and she's gonna get you if you don't watch out. (And maybe even if you do.)

The junior senator from New York not only has star power, but as strategist and tactician she's miles ahead of the neutered old Democratic bulls in Congress who think the return to power lies through potholed streets trashed by recrimination and reproach.

The old bulls (and a superannuated heifer or two) occupied themselves this week by ganging up on the uppity colored girl from Alabama who doesn't understand that her proper place is one of eternal supplication for the largesse of liberals. They called her a liar, an ingrate and a deceiver, making pluperfect fools of themselves, while Hillary Clinton was showing everyone how she intends to seize Republican bread and conservative butter, stealing the Republican mantra of family, faith and freedom, even finally putting an end to the endless abortion war by winning it.

Hillary, in fact, is emerging as the bright light in a party of dim bulbs, a fading galaxy of has-beens reeking of halitosis and stale underwear. But for the reinvention of Mrs. Clinton, it was a week of Democratic public-relations hell. Thirteen of her Democratic colleagues in the Senate, including some of the party's most brittle icons, spent their days putting a face on the party that could take decades to erase: a gnarled old Ku Klux Klansman stumbling through a litany of lamentation for a day dead and gone, a puffy cut-and-run lady killer (so to speak) drowning (you might say) in nostalgia for what might have been, and the long-in-the-tooth prom queen, green eyes flashing with envy and rage, throwing tomatoes and eggs at Condi Rice and managing only to leave themselves exposed as pathetic jokes smeared with rotten yolks.

Some Democrats tried to look away in embarrassment bordering on mortification. "If you feel Condoleezza Rice is not qualified to be secretary of state," Joe Lieberman told them in a voice burdened with rue and remorse, "then of course you must vote against her. But if you are — and I hate to use the word 'just' — but just upset about some of the things this administration has done in Iraq, but if you feel otherwise that what we are doing now is all we can do to make the situation better, then I appeal to you to vote for Dr. Rice." Most Democrats, including their leader, did just that, leaving the 13 soreheads seething in the shade of their own indifference to a very special moment in the nation's history.

It was hard for conservatives, remembering the years of abuse and accusation at the hands of these worthies when they were in their power and prime, to put aside the temptation to look and listen with glee and bask in the satisfaction that comes with watching old foes dig themselves narrow graves.

Nevertheless, they should try. Hillary was not content to reprise Bill's slick promise to make abortion "safe, legal and rare"; she told a feminist audience that a way must be found to make abortion safe, legal and never. She cleverly packaged her admonition in the language of the right. She would do it by preserving Roe v. Wade, and by encouraging abstinence, of all things, among the young, not because it's "just the smart thing to do, it is the right thing to do."

Not only that, she would make abortion "never" not by legislation or judicial fiat but by education, persuasion — and prevention: "Seven percent of American women who do not use birth control account for 53 percent of all unintended pregnancies." This frames the argument over condoms and abortions in a new and radical way: How many abortions would conservatives tolerate to avoid giving condoms, if necessary, to the irresponsible 7 percent?

"Teenage celibacy" heretofore has never been a Democratic cause; the very idea invites Democratic mockery and ridicule. "Research shows," she said, "that the primary reason that teenage girls abstain is because of their religious and moral values."

This is the language, bordering on dreaded "G-d talk," that makes hysterics of Democrats. But the Clintons, who know how to feel the public pulse as well as the public-opinion polls, have succeeded by staying far, far ahead of the dim bulbs. Hillary, a social-Gospel Methodist, knows the talk: "I, for one, respect those who believe with all their hearts and conscience that there are no circumstances under which any abortion should ever be available." This comes with breathtaking cynicism, of course; she wants to make abortion "never" but could not bring herself to ban partial-birth abortion, a procedure that gives Mafia hit men the willies. Hillary Clinton remains the most divisive figure in American politics. But she's also one of the smartest. We live in interesting times.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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