Politics & Policy

Dreaming about Hillary . . .

But maybe there's hope for Obama.

Last week Myrna Blyth wrote that Hillary Clinton is essentially facing the Second Coming of Bill Clinton in Barack Obama — it’s “Clinton vs. Clinton” in some sense. That hit home this week as I was flipping through Barack Obama’s #1 New York Times bestseller, The Audacity of Hope.

In one section, Senator Obama makes mention of a Time magazine essay he was commissioned to write in a special issue on Lincoln. In it — a speech he adapted quickly, he tells us — he wrote: “In Lincoln’s rise from poverty, his ultimate mastery of language and law, his capacity to overcome personal loss and remain determined in the face of repeated defeat — in all this, he reminded me not just of my own struggles.”

Obama then recalls that in the wake of the Lincoln issue, Peggy Noonan commented in her Wall Street Journal column: “This week comes the previously careful Sen. Barack Obama, flapping his wings in Time magazine and explaining that he’s a lot like Abraham Lincoln, only sort of better.” She continued, “There is nothing wrong with Barack Obama’s résumé, but it is a log-cabin-free zone. So far it also is a greatness-free zone. If he keeps talking about himself like this it always will be.”

“Ouch!” Obama replies.

He continues: “It’s hard to tell, of course, whether Ms. Noonan seriously thought I was comparing myself to Lincoln, or whether she just took pleasure in filleting me so elegantly. As potshots go, it was very mild — and not entirely undeserved.”

Damn! It’s hard not to like the guy. He’s humble, he compliments Peggy in her criticism.

The charm and attraction of Obama come out in a more serious way in a chapter on the family. Now, truth be told, here’s a guy who opposed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act — a no-brainer to vote for, pro-life or pro-choice — but, still, he’s the guy who could do “safe, legal, and rare” one better. His book is full of things normal people can nod their heads to in agreement. While saying, “I’m not willing to consign a teenage girl to a lifetime of struggle because of lack of access to birth control” (certainly reasonable), he also says, “I want to encourage young people to show more reverence toward sex and intimacy, and I applaud parents, congregations, and community programs that transmit that message” (right on!).

There’s more — including that, while paying just enough homage to Roe privacy talk, he manages to include a mention of people who “believe in the personhood of the fetus” without implying we are backward radicals who hate women.

You can (and should) poke holes in what he has to say and have at him for what he’s actually done, but the guy is a good talker.

I couldn’t help but think of my friend and NR colleague Ramesh Ponnuru’s Party of Death, when reading Obama’s latest. Ramesh opens his book with an imaginary speech by Hillary Clinton — if she were to deliver it, she’d be elected president, he contends.

In it, she says:

Like so many of you in this room, I have been an advocate for women and children for years. And while we have more work to do, we should be proud of what we have accomplished. (Applause.)

Because of our efforts, domestic violence is no longer hushed up, no longer seen as just a part of marriage. We treat it for what it is: a crime. We have raised awareness of rape, and made sure that the victims are no longer put on trial.

You know, I’m old enough to remember when they called business a ‘man’s world.’ Now almost everyone knows that a woman’s place is in the boardroom. I know we still have far to go. The pay gap has shrunk, but it hasn’t disappeared. The lack of child care still keeps our society from realizing its full potential. And there are still some glass ceilings out there. I think we’re going to break some of them soon! (Cheers, applause.)

And we’ve fought for something else, too. No woman should ever find herself in jail because an unplanned pregnancy has left her desperate. We don’t make criminals out of pregnant women in America. The Supreme Court guarantees that. If ideologues in the other party [try] to change that, we will fight them every step of the way. (HILL-A-RY! HILL-A-RY!)

Obama can’t do the I-am-woman-hear-me-roar schtick — but he can talk about his successful lawyer wife, who is also a mom. He can talk about his mother and grandmother who raised him without a father or any strong father figure. He can talk about all the liberal women who like him (for his People magazine swimsuit shot and for his politics, too).

So he’s covered. And, besides: With a little more Speaker Nancy time on the clock, people might need a little respite from this “liberal women run the house” bit . . .

Ramesh’s dream continues with Hillary making clear that her liberalism doesn’t mean that she — or anyone who supports her — is “for abortion.”

He ghostwrites some more:

Don’t let anyone pretend that’s what we stand for! Abortion is a tragic choice. We want to liberate women. Abortion is a sign that our society is pitting them against their children. (Scattered applauses, murmurs.)

We should all be able to agree that 1.3 million abortions a year is way too many, and we should work together to bring that number down. The most important thing we can do is to give women more options. We need to balance the federal budget. But let’s do it by ending giveaways to big corporations that don’t need the money — not by cutting programs that help women take care of their families.

I’ll admit that like many Americans, my thinking of this issue has changed over the years, and what I’m about to say may trouble some of my oldest friends and allies. I think maybe we’ve been so busy fighting the people who want to throw women in jail that we’ve somehow lost sight of the fact that abortion is a terrible act of violence against the young. If the law can discourage it—without, I want to repeat, making criminals out of women—then we ought to consider it. We ought to have laws that involve parents in their children’s decisions, for example.

I’m not saying that I have all the answers. I don’t. But I think states ought to be able to try different approaches to protect women and children. And I think the Supreme Court ought to let them. Because America deserves better than abortion, and America deserves better than this fight we’ve been having for over a generation.

Now imagine that Barack Obama makes a speech like that on January 22, 2008, the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Just before the first primary in the nation. While the media’s pictures of the alternative involve white guys vying for the Republican nomination — all of whom either have had questions raised about their sincerity or consistency — and marchers with placards displaying unborn fetuses (the more demure marching signs don’t, of course, attract much media attention).

Throw in a little testimony from a woman who can speak to the pain of abortion and … get ready for President Obama?


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