CAN SHE BE STOPPED? That’s the title of John Podhoretz’s new book. “She” is Hillary Clinton and she is on her way to the White House. For Republicans, John writes, Hillary’s election should be concentrating the minds of Republicans and conservatives wonderfully. But it isn’t yet. And if we’re not careful, the disappointment many of you feel with the state of your party will translate into an exhilarating but potentially suicidal journey as the primary season gets under way in earnest in 2007. The road you should travel, the path you should take, is the one marked “Danger: Hillary Approaching.”
Today is publication day for John, so he took some questions from NRO Editor Kathryn Lopez.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: How bad would a President Hillary be?
John Podhoretz: We should start from this simple fact: Despite all the talk of her emergence as a “moderate,” as a senator, Hillary has a 95-percent liberal voting record, according to National Journal. Let’s go down the domestic list. Tax cuts? In June 2004, she told an audience in San Francisco: “For America to get back on track, we’re probably going to cut that [tax cut] short and not give it to you. We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.” She will feed the bottomless the Democratic-liberal appetite for ever more regulations at the federal level. And I haven’t even mentioned foreign policy, where the Democratic party’s lesson from Iraq will be to act with a degree of caution approaching total paralysis.
Lopez: What will her husband do as First Gentleman?
Podhoretz: I have no idea. I do know that managing him–keeping him quiet and in the background–will be a key element of a successful presidential bid in 2008.
Lopez: Why is it harder for a liberal to win the presidency than a conservative?
Podhoretz: Two reasons: First, it’s still the case that twice as many Americans describe themselves as “conservative” rather than “liberal.” That’s why Democratic politicians don’t embrace the “liberal” label. Second, conservatives know what they stand for–in brief, a strong America, smaller government, lower taxes, less regulation, and traditional values. It’s much harder for liberals to describe their positive beliefs, since they no longer subscribe to the view that we are on a relentless march forward to a glorious future.
Lopez: Why won’t Clinton fatigue be a significant obstacle in keeping Hillary from returning 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?
Podhoretz: When she runs for office in 2008, it will have been a decade since the revelation of Monica Lewinsky’s name and almost 15 years since the word “Whitewater” entered the vocabulary. That’s a long, long, long time.
Lopez: Besides name recognition and cash, what’s Hillary Clinton’s greatest advantage on the road to the White House?
Podhoretz: A 25-point lead in every poll among Democratic voters about whom they want to be their nominee.
Lopez: And disadvantage?
Podhoretz: The need to stroke and becalm the party’s Deaniac wing, which can cause her a lot of unnecessary trouble almost solely due to her vote in favor of the Iraq war.
Lopez: Can we expect a pre-election announcement that Lindsey Graham will be in her Cabinet.
Podhoretz: Sen. Lindsey Graham is one of the authors of the cliché that Hillary is uncommonly hard-working as a senator, which is alternately patronizing–as though she might otherwise be spending time in the beauty parlor–and an example of grade inflation–because, let’s face it, what senator actually works hard?
Lopez: You call Hillary “cold,” “flat,” and “unwomanly.” Are you sexist?
Podhoretz: Considering that I say flatly Hillary will be the next president of the United States barring concerted Republican action to stop her and that she is an uncommonly intelligent and skilled political actor, I think “sexist” isn’t the right description of my view of her. I argue that these hard and unattractive qualities help make her a very plausible first woman president–because America has to believe she can plausibly stand up to Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong-Il and Osama Bin Laden. She needs to seem tough, and whatever Hillary’s weaknesses, tough is a pretty good word to describe her.
Lopez: Rudy? Does it have to be Rudy?
Podhoretz: It doesn’t have to be Rudy, but in my view he is the best candidate for the GOP. He remains wildly popular despite having made almost no public appearances in the past two years. His record as mayor of New York City–which one can plausibly argue is a job equal to being the governor of most states–remains the most extraordinary example of active conservative governance at the local level in the past 75 years. He is not a Washington candidate, which means he can separate himself from the congressional party’s excesses and hijinks. Most important, he spent eight years as a liberal-slayer in New York, taking on every major institution, refusing to kowtow to the New York Times and the liberal media, and getting so much done that the city is still reveling in the revival for which he was almost solely responsible.
Lopez: Why not John McCain? Why not an Allen or Romney?
Podhoretz: John McCain has too complicated a history with the social conservatives and activist groups, and is such a gadfly that it seems inevitable he will act in ways to divide the GOP coalition. Unlike Rudy, he seems to prefer making friends with liberals and attacking conservatives, and that’s not a good stance for a party leader. I guess George Allen is a plausible candidate, but why is he at three percent in polls of likely primary voters while McCain and Giuliani are nearly 30 points higher? As for Mitt Romney, I just don’t think the nation is ready for a Mormon president (and by the way, I say that as an observant Jew who doesn’t think the nation is ready for a Jewish president either).
Lopez: You’ve previously talked up Jeb Bush. But not in the book. Why no dynasty vs. dynasty fight?
Podhoretz: I take Jeb at his word. He’s not running.
Lopez: Why not woman vs. woman? Why wouldn’t Condi pull it off? Just more of your sexism?
Podhoretz: The presidency is not an entry-level electoral job. Condi Rice hasn’t ever been elected for anything. She should run for senator or governor of California and take it from there. I would be thrilled to vote for her in 2016.
Lopez: If you had to bet money today…do Republicans stop her?
Podhoretz: Yes–with this caveat. If the party fails to focus on the threat from Hillary and tears itself apart from within in pursuit of doctrinal purity, then those in pursuit of purity over practical politics will hand the country to Hillary in 2008.
Lopez: In the short term: If Republicans lose big in 2006, how will it reflect on 2008? Will it be a good kick-start to the GOP or just put Dems that much ahead?
Podhoretz: Here’s a very good rule of thumb in politics: Losing begets losing.
Lopez: How can blogs stop Hillary? Could the left-wing blogosphere wind up a thorn in her side?
Podhoretz: Blogs can and should keep the pressure on Hillary to speak, speak, speak. She prefers to remain silent for the most part, because that way she can limit any damage her words might cause. I offer some very practical tips for bloggers in the book, which is one of the many, many reasons they and hundreds of thousands of other people should buy it immediately!
Lopez: What’s your most important piece of advice on stopping Hillary?
Podhoretz: Conservatives must avoid the siren song of schism, or all is lost.