EVERY time she approaches a microphone, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton labors under the necessity of fudging on her program - offering, instead, an artificial personality and a variety of poll-tested bromides that let her duck key issues.She is just not as good as substituting empathy for substance as Slick Willy was. He could get away with saying I feel your pain knowing all the time he was not in position to do anything about it, but when she says she understands why Gov. Spitzer would want to license illegals people look at her and say "what did you just say?" That is because most people think what Gov. Spitzer thinks he needs to do is just a dumb bad idea. Now she has put herself in the position of endorsing his unpopular idea. That is not something the smartest woman in the world would do.
The resulting circumlocutions were evident in Tuesday night's Democratic debate. Her plans for Social Security? Clearly, she thinks she may need to raise Social Security taxes - but she can't say so. Instead, she repeats the poll-tested mantra of "fiscal responsibility" and a "bipartisan commission."
By "fiscal responsibility," she means ending Treasury borrowing from the Social Security Trust Fund, a policy already in place. By a "bipartisan commission," she means sharing the blame for unpopular policies with Republicans to minimize the deadly electoral impact. But she can't explain any of that, so she just repeats the mantra.
How about Iraq? Obviously, she doesn't plan to pull out. As she said in a newspaper interview before the presidential race really got under way, she recognizes that we need to keep troops there to train and support the Iraqi army, patrol the border with Iran and hunt al Qaeda in the provinces.
But she can't say that without getting chewed up by the Democratic left. So she speaks about the logistical impossibility of an immediate withdrawal and acts as if the force she would leave to pursue these missions would be minimal - even though she knows that Pentagon plans put the troops needed for even these limited missions at upward of 80,000.
Health-care reform? Her program of extending insurance to illegal immigrants and others who aren't now insured will trigger a massive increase in the demand for medical services. The result would be a steep price rise that would force rationing of health care, particularly for the elderly. But she mustn't say any of that - so she pretends that her health-care prescription is just a band-aid to cover the nagging little problem of 50 million uninsured and that her solution won't bother anybody else.
Driver's licenses for illegal immigrants? Certainly, she favors them. During her husband's administration, she helped kill proposals to ban them. In the Senate, she voted against prohibiting them. But she can't say so without seeming to be soft on terror, so she temporizes, expressing sympathy - but not support - for the plan.
Iran? Thinking ahead to the general election, she must show toughness on terrorism. To court Jewish voters, in particular, she needs to stand up to Iranian nuclear ambitions. But, in the primary, she can't be seen to be too far to the right on the issue, so she speaks of "diplomacy" and of opposing a "rush to war." As Frederick the Great said, "Diplomacy without military might is like music without instruments." She knows this full well, but she can't mention the word "military" without forfeiting liberal votes in the primaries.
On issue after issue, Hillary mustn't let voters know what she plans or what she wants to do. That's the difficulty in being Hillary.
BTW, no one is more familiar with how the Clintons slice and dice the facts to appease the electorate than Dick Morris who polled their vacation choices for them.