Thursday, May 3, 2007


"Hillary Clinton is the most conservative" Democrat running for president. So says columnist Bruce Bartlett, who argues that Hillary’s policies would resemble Bill’s: “Outstanding” on trade, “far better than George W. Bush” on the budget, and “no worse than” W on regulatory policy.

We should add, as Michael Crowley did recently in a cover story for the New Republic, that Hillary "has always been more comfortable with the military than many of her liberal boomer peers." She comes from the Truman-Kennedy foreign-policy wing of her party, and despite enormous pressure from her base, she refuses to recant her vote authorizing the Iraq war. She is also cosponsoring a bill to sanction U.S. companies that do business with Iran.

Equally to the ire of primary and caucus voters, Hillary deplores violent and sexual content in video games—though because she's not a knee-jerk leftist, she has proposed a voluntary ratings system rather than a mandatory one. Indeed, she talks more about our national morale and faith, which are far common from the mouths of Republicans than Democrats, than she does about gay marriage and abortion. A few months ago, she even declared that the latter is a "sad, even tragic choice."

In short, Hillary has left behind her HillaryCare days and embraced the political center. She focuses more on consensus than partisanship. And if you think I'm exaggerating, well, just ask such adversaries-turned-allies as Rick Santorum (on restricting graphic media for children); Sam Brownback (protecting refugees fleeing sexual abuse); Lindsay Graham (expanding health care services for the National Guard); and Newt Gingrich (reforming health care).

And yet, pace Bartlett, Hillary is not the most conservative Dem. That honor belongs to Bill Richardson, about whom Reason magazine sums up the case nicely (not yet online):

[As governor] Richardson cut New Mexico's income tax from 8.2 percent to 4.9 percent, halved the capital gains tax, and eliminated the gross receipts tax. He frequently and explicitly drew a link between lower taxes and economic growth. . . . [He] not only supports the right to carry a concealed weapons but holds a concealed-carry permit himself. He . . . endors[es] charter schools (but not vouchers) and medical marijuana (but not decriminalization).

And in case you think a presidential run has caused Richardson to revisit his views, as it has done to others, two things he said last week should quell your fears. First, on taxes: "Democrats, whenever we have a solution, we want to tax. I'm different. I'm a tax cutter." Second, on guns: "I'm a Westerner. . . . The Second Amendment is precious in the West." In fact, Richardson has the highest rating from the National Rifle Association of any candidate for president, Democrat or Republican.

Finally, Richardson’s resume stands heads and shoulders above those of all his Democratic challengers: Governor, U.N. ambassador, congressman, cabinet secretary. As Karen Tumulty of Time puts it, “He has rescued hostages and negotiated with some of the toughest characters on the planet."

Others have noted that Congress is now in the hands of Democrats largely because Democrats ran blue-dog candidates in November. A Clinton-Richardson ticket would entrench this conservative trend.

Update (5/4/07): Citing various quotes from Hillary, but no specific policies, the Club for Growth calls Bartlett "crazy." Comments Club President Pat Toomey:

Her distrust of individual freedom, her distaste for the capitalist system, and her faith in government control places her at the far left end of the political spectrum. A President Hillary Clinton would do everything in her power to make America look more like our neighbors across the Atlantic and less like the capitalistic free-market enterprise that has made this country great.

And in case Karen's quote about Richardson's diplomatic successes left you curious, the Las Vegas Review-Journal elaborates: He's pried free a journalist from Sudan, concessions out of Kim Jong Ill, prisoners from Castro and Americans from Saddam.

Update (11/10/07): Rich Lowry joins the conservatives-for-Hillary club:

It's a paradox of this election season that the most conservative candidate in the Democratic presidential field is the one most hated by conservatives. Hillary Clinton will not make extravagant promises about pulling American troops from Iraq, defends declaring elements of Iran's Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization and won't endorse massive new payroll taxes to fund Social Security.