Is Clinton With the MoveOn Crowd?
Every weekday, members of the Washington Post political team take your questions on politics. Here are highlights from today's chat, where Peter Baker discussed, among many topics, Hillary Clinton's position on the war, President Bush's objections to the Children's Health Insurance Program and whether Newt Gingrich will be back.
Washington: Why is the president still threatening to veto the Children's Health Insurance Program reauthorization bill when the Congress has compromised and the public strongly supports it? Is the calculation that the far-right support for such a move counteracts even widespread public disapproval?
Peter Baker: The president says that he views it as an unjustified expansion of the program that would substitute government for private-sector insurance for many children. Here's how he explained it: "Their proposal would result in taking a program meant to help poor children and turning it into one that covers children in households with incomes of up to $83,000 a year. The proposal would move millions of American children who now have private health insurance into government-run health care. Our goal should be for children who have no health insurance to be able to get private coverage, not for children who already have private health insurance to be able to get government coverage." As a political matter, he's left himself on the minority end in Washington, with many of his Republican lawmakers bucking him on this. The program is popular among both Democrats and Republicans, so he's taking a risk on this. The president has been eager to demonstrate his bona fides on fiscal conservatism, this ends up being his first red line. It's probably not one many political strategists would have picked, since it's a program involving children.
Raleigh, N.C.: I found the actions and remarks of Hillary Clinton to Gen. Petraeus rude and not forthright. If we go back to 2003 and her then support of removing Saddam (and to 1998 when her husband attacked Iraq) she made a strong argument for the war. Has she totally shifted to the MoveOn crowd?
Peter Baker: She has shifted her position significantly, obviously. She did vote to authorize the use of military force
in 2002 but by last months, she said that vote was a "great regret" for her. Even in recent months, she has moved further toward the antiwar base of the party; it wasn't that long ago that she ruled out setting a firm timetable for withdrawal, now she has voted for legislation doing just that. Obviously, the politics of the war have changed over the years and even in the last few months as she tries to win Democratic primary voters. She would also say that her shifting views stem from shifting reality -- she believed there were weapons of mass destruction when she voted for the war and obviously none have been found, and like many others she believes the Bush administration has badly mismanaged the war and that the time has come to change policy.
Fort Hood, Texas: Serious question: By voting not to extend the troops' leaves, how can all those Republican senators claim they are "supporting the troops"? Exactly how does voting to keep the troops in the war zone longer "support" them? Maybe these senators "support the mission" but, in my view, they're sure not supporting the troops.
Peter Baker: That will certainly be the argument Democrats will make against them, and they're certainly happy to finally have a pointed rejoinder the next time they're accused of not supporting the troops by opposing the war. That's certainly one reason why the Webb amendment was embraced by the Democratic leadership.
Seattle: Broder writes an interesting column about Gingrich's resurgence among Republicans, or his attempts at a resurgence. I've discussed this with friends and one thinks that if the Democrats take back the White House and hold onto Congress, he'll end up as the de facto leader again. Is he out of line, or will Newt be back?
Peter Baker: Hmm, I'm not sure I see him becoming the de facto leader exactly. I think Newt Gingrich has evolved into a role that he enjoys where he can be a thinker and occasional bomb-thrower from the sidelines, influence the debate perhaps, but not actually lead it. If Democrats take the White House and keep Congress, I imagine there would be a strong move within the Republican Party to find the next generation of leaders who can rebuild the party.
Baltimore: Norman Hsu, Mark Rich ... the Clintons seem to have a lot of close friends who happen to be fugitive criminals. Is this the new normal? We just expect politicians to associate with slime balls? Was there ever a time when politicians would pay a price for this kind of dirty dealing? Or has it always been this way, like Kennedy and organized crime?
Peter Baker: Well, as you point out, in some ways, politics is cleaner than it used to be in the old days, when there wasn't disclosure, there weren't limits, there wasn't much transparency and . Having said that, with so much more money sloshing around the system than ever before, it's not surprising that candidates end up associating themselves with shady characters. It does seem like the Clintons have this happen with some regularity -- is that because they're different in that regard or do they attract more scrutiny because she's the front-runner now?
Washington Post editors
September 20, 2007; 12:48 PM ET
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