Reporters like to think of themselves as brave truth-tellers who can cut through the rhetoric and evasive maneuvering of politicians. But sometimes, they sound like they're trying to assist politicians in their evasive manuevering. Exhibit A is Tuesday's front-page Hillary article in the Washington Post.
It's headlined "Clinton Is A Politician Not Easily Defined: Senator's Platform Remains Unclear." Reporter Dan Balz began by insisting that "Hillary Rodham Clinton has fashioned a political persona that generates intense passions but defies easy characerization." Take a Republican as conservative as Hillary is liberal -- say, Sen. Rick Santorum -- and imagine how liberals would fall down laughing if you characterized Santorum as "not easily defined."
Liberals would be right to suggest that such a portrayal would sound like a reporter in the tank, trying to make Santorum more appealing to moderate and independent voters. That would apply to Dan Balz. Notice how all Hillary's stands aren't real, but somehow just portrayals: "She is viewed as a hawk on Iraq and national security, stamped as a big-government Democrat for her work on health care in the 1990s, and depicted as seeking the middle ground on abortion." He claimed "she is still trying to demonstrate whether these [life experiences] have yielded a coherent government philosophy."
Come off it, Balz!
A look at her actual voting record unveils the reality. It's easily defined as liberal, even ultraliberal. Her American Conservative Union voting records for her first four years in the Senate were 12 percent conservative, 10 percent, 10 percent, and in 2004, zero percent. The same result came in the voting index used by the venerated liberal group Americans for Democratic Action, which gave Sen. Clinton a whopping 95 percent rating in each of her first four years. Despite a confusing speech or two, Hillary is especially hard-core on abortion and gay issues. In addition to Sen. Clinton’s perfect 100 from ultraliberal NARAL Pro-Choice America, she earned a 100 for the first two years and an 88 percent score for the second two years from the gay-left lobbyists at the Human Rights Campaign.
After lamely arguing that she's centrist because many of her bills have at least one Republican co-sponsor [!], Balz acknowledges she is not exactly a Bush supporter: "But a Congressional Quarterly analysis found that she has voted with a majority of Democrats 95 percent of the time and has consistently recorded one of the highest percentages for opposing Bush on legislation of any of her potential 2008 Democratic rivals."
Overall, Balz and the Post editors seem to channel Hillary's latest campaign message:
[S]he made clear in a telephone interview on Friday that her governing philosophy may never be easily reduced to a slogan. "I don't think like that," she said. "I approach each issue and problem from a perspective of combining my beliefs and ideals with a search for practical solutions. It doesn't perhaps fit in a preexisting box, but many of the problems we face as a nation don't either."
Balz also relayed more spin from Hillary's aides and promoters:
On balance, most of those around Clinton say her hard-to-pigeonhole profile is a political asset -- the product, they say, of a curious intellect, the absence of rigid ideology, an instinct for problem solving and a willingness to seek consensus even across party lines.
Why can't liberals be honest and just call themselves liberals? Easy. Because they lose when they do that. Balz cited one poll that underlined the political danger. Uh-oh:
Although she has drawn criticism from the left for supporting the Iraq war, Clinton remains more popular among liberal Democrats than among moderate Democrats. Overall, 37 percent of Americans said she is too liberal, which is less than the 45 percent recorded for Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) during the 2004 campaign and almost identical to perceptions of then-Vice President Al Gore in 2000.
So it would be politically advantageous to confuse voters about how liberal you are. That explains Hillary trying to make over her image like her 53rd hairdo. But The Washington Post looks like it's holding the blow dryer with this story.