Two years from now, Hillary Clinton might be
pleased to hear the kind of boos and antiwar chants that greeted her days ago
when she spoke at the annual Take Back America conference of Democratic activists
and argued against a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. But so much of politics
is about timing. And right now, Clinton is facing a serious problem of premature
As long as she needs support from Democratic primary voters, Hillary
Clinton will want to defer the media rewards of an all-out "Sister Souljah
moment." Let's recall that in 1992, when Bill Clinton went out of his way
to denounce the then-little-known rap singer Sister Souljah at a Rainbow
Coalition conference, he'd already clinched the Democratic presidential
nomination and was looking toward the general election.
Bill Clinton's triangulation gambit, using Sister Souljah as a prop for his
calculated move to ingratiate himself with establishment pundits, had been foreshadowed
by a Washington Post article that reported the day before: "Some
top advisers to Clinton argue that … he must become involved in highly
publicized confrontations with one or more Democratic constituencies."
The constituency that Clinton chose to polarize with was African-American activists.
These days, and from here to the horizon, there's no larger or more
adamant Democratic constituency than the antiwar voters who want the U.S.
military out of Iraq pronto. At this point, Hillary Clinton's pro-war
position is far afield from the views of most grassroots Democrats.
Clinton's foreseeable game plan is to eventually confront antiwar
activists head-on as she portrays herself as a strong-on-defense
Newer-Than-New Democrat. Two years from now, if she has the nomination
cinched, she'll be eager to ratchet up her strategy of playing to the
gallery of corporate-media journalists by presenting herself as a centrist
alternative to both the Republican Party's right wing and the Democratic
Party's "special interests" (a.k.a., the party's base).
But first Hillary Clinton would need to win enough delegates to become
the party's presidential nominee. To that end, she'll try to finesse and
blur the war issue in hopes that her hawkish position won't rub too many
Democratic primary voters the wrong way.
It's not going to be easy. What happened at the Take Back America
conference the other day was mild compared to what Hillary Clinton has
coming in primary and caucus battleground states once the presidential
campaign begins in earnest. And she may encounter unexpected difficulties
as her pro-war reputation grows.
If Hillary Clinton thinks she can postpone an all-out confrontation
with the antiwar movement until a time and place of her tactical choosing,
she's going to be very disappointed. And at the end of her 2008 quest,
Clinton may discover that she has triangulated herself right out of the