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RUSH: Frank Rich of the New York Times is concerned about the future ‘electability’ of Hillary Rodham Clinton. He opened his piece in the New York Times today with this: ‘The Democrats can’t lose the White House in 2008, can they? … So nothing can go wrong for the Democrats. Can it? Of course it can, and not just because of the party’s perennial penchant for cutting off its nose to spite its face. (Witness the Democratic National Committee’s zeal in shutting down primary campaigning in Florida because the state moved up the primary’s date.)’ Let me talk about that for a second. I’ve had that on the list of things to explain. The dirty little secret about this is Florida moves up its primary date, and the Democrat Party says, ‘You can’t do that. We’re in charge of primary dates here, and you’re screwing up the system. If you do that we’re going to deny your delegates a convention and we’re not going to allow any campaigning in Florida.’ Well, guess who that benefits? I’ll give you one guess who that benefits, folks. Who is leading in Florida by 30 points? Mrs. Clinton. She doesn’t need to campaign here. She doesn’t need to spend any money here. It’s the other guys that do, the Barack Obamas and the Breck Girls and so forth. They are not permitted to campaign against her. She has a 30-point lead. So for all this talk about the DNC penalizing Florida, yip yip yip yip yahoo.

What they’re actually doing is cementing Florida for Mrs. Clinton, and this is crucial because she’s trailing by four points in Iowa right now to Barack Obama. Of course, this is still way, way early, but Rich says, ‘The biggest indicator of potential trouble ahead is that the already-codified Beltway narrative for the race so favors the Democrats. Given the track record of Washington’s conventional wisdom, that’s not good news,’ and he’s exactly right about that. ‘These are the same political pros who predicted that scandal would force an early end to the Clinton presidency and that ‘Mission Accomplished’ augured victory in Iraq and long-lasting Republican rule.’ Rich talks about how everybody praised Mrs. Clinton’s appearances last Sunday, a week ago, on all five Sunday morning shows. But, Frank Rich says, ‘What I saw on television was the incipient second coming of the can’t-miss 2000 campaign of Al Gore. That Gore, some may recall, was not the firebrand who emerged from defeat, speaking up early against the Iraq war and leading the international charge on global warming. It was instead the cautious Gore whose public persona changed from debate to debate and whose answers were often long-winded and equivocal… Incredibly, he minimized both his environmental passions and his own administration’s achievements throughout the campaign.’

Then he goes on to talk about Mrs. Clinton. ‘Then there was that laugh. The Clinton campaign’s method for heeding the perennial complaints that its candidate comes across as too calculating and controlled is to periodically toss in a smidgen of what it deems personality. But these touches of intimacy seem even more calculating: the ‘Let’s chat’ campaign rollout, the ostensibly freewheeling but tightly controlled Web ‘conversations,’ the supposed vox populi referendum to choose a campaign song (which yielded a plain-vanilla Celine Dion clunker). Now Clinton is erupting in a laugh with all the spontaneity of an alarm clock buzzer. Mocking this tic last week, ‘The Daily Show’ imagined a robotic voice inside the candidate’s head saying, ‘Humorous remark detected — prepare for laughter display.” But here’s the real kicker: ‘None of this would matter if the only issue were Clinton’s ability as a performer. Not every president can be Reagan or JFK or, for that matter, Bill Clinton. But in her case, as in Gore’s in 2000, the performance too often dovetails with the biggest question about her as a leader: Is she so eager to be all things to all people, so reluctant to offend anyone, that we never will learn what she really thinks or how she will really act as president?’

Hey, Frank, let me help you out on that, because I really want to. That’s a good question. It’s not that she’s afraid to offend anybody. She is afraid to specifically tell people what she wants to do because that would be the end of her, Frank. She is a hard-core liberal. Hard-core liberals do not win national elections. She knows this. She’s not going to be honest about what she really thinks. She’s not worried about offending anybody. Mrs. Clinton is worried about being offended by other people, or gets angry when she gets offended. She’s not worried about offending people here. She has no desire to ‘open up’ about what she really thinks or how she will really act as president because it would be the end of her. ‘So far her post-first-lady record suggests a follower rather than a leader,’ Frank Rich writes. ‘She still can’t offer a credible explanation of why she gave President George W. Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq (or why she voted against the Levin amendment that would have put on some diplomatic brakes). That’s because her votes had more to do with hedging her political bets than with principle.’ Yep, that’s probably exactly right. She figures she needs to be pro-war to win in the general election, Frank, and she can’t win the general election as an anti-war candidate. Ask George McGovern. It just isn’t going to happen, and so she has to hedge her bets on it. That’s why she won’t apologize for it. This primary season, it’s just something for her to endure and put up with and get through, and she’s not going to blow it in the way you want her to.

‘As was proved again in Wednesday night’s debate, her opponents have not yet figured out how to seriously challenge her.’ Yes, they know how to seriously challenge her, they’re just afraid to because she’s a woman, and so they’re sending their wives out to do it. ‘At the same time, her campaign works relentlessly to shut down legitimate journalistic vetting of her record.’ That’s not a good thing for Hillary to hear from the New York Times, because it’s true. ‘In the latest example, Politico.com reported last week on the murky backstage machinations by the Clinton camp before the magazine GQ killed an article by Joshua Green, whose 2006 Atlantic Monthly profile judged Clinton a practitioner of ‘systematic caution’ with ‘no big ideas.” Did you hear the Clinton campaign canceled the cover story, said if you run that story, Bill Clinton will not be granting access to GQ. But it’s not just GQ, because GQ is owned by Condé Nast, and Condé Nast owns what? Vanity Fair, the New Yorker. If Bill Clinton says, (doing Clinton impression) ‘Hey, hey, you run that story and I am not giving your publication any access, and you can forget it. You can write me off.’ They say, ‘I can’t put him on the cover. I can’t make any money.’ So that’s how they killed the story. The Politico.com has more worries on the same concerns that Frank Rich has. She’s so infused with ambition and artifice, she cannot connect to voters. She doesn’t dare try to connect to voters because it would be the end of her. She’s sitting here almost royalty-like just demanding to be coronated. That’s her attitude about this.

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