Hillary’s Real Problem

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

The contretemps between Senators Clinton and Obama may be escalating, ignited by the comments of David Geffen, who seems to be enjoying the affair. But there are those who reckon the whole matter will prove to be a tempest in a teapot and that the real problem facing Mrs. Clinton is the threat by Ralph Nader to make another run for the presidency if Hillary Clinton secures the Democrats’ nomination.

Mr. Nader plays off the tension between the Clinton campaign and anti-war left-wing sentiment within the party. Casting the October 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force against the Saddam Hussein regime as the original sin, Mrs. Clinton’s rivals for the nomination, as well as her critics on the left, are demanding that she apologize for her vote as a condition of her redemption. Until Mr. Nader made his threat, Mrs. Clinton’s supporters might have assumed that apology or no, the party’s anti-war base would, if the senator secures the nomination, fall into line.

Now, however, there looms the prospect of Mr. Nader playing the role of spoiler he already assumed in the election of 2000. Mr. Nader’s slender vote in Florida was larger than the majority awarded to George W. Bush. Since it’s a safe assumption that in the absence of a Nader candidacy his voters would have switched to Vice President Gore, it can be said that but for Mr. Nader, the Gore-Lieberman ticket would have taken the White House.

To avoid a replay, party leaders have practiced a policy of “no enemies on the left,” focusing their fire on President Bush and the Republicans. This policy ends up hushing the articulation of those positions that might alienate the party left. On no set of issues does this play out more forcefully than in respect of Israel and Iran. These issues are often tucked away or exposed only to specific constituencies. Senator Kerry managed to give an acceptance speech at the 2004 nominating convention without saying a word about Israel.

Rather than stand up for the Jewish state, Senator Kerry preferred to leave it alone. A similar dynamic is now at play with regard to Iran. Senators Clinton and Biden may be conscious of what is at stake, but rather than address directly the need to maintain all America’s options, they are demanding that Mr. Bush seek congressional authorization before ordering any military action against the Islamic Republic, even though many of those now asserting that Mr. Bush lacks authority to order attacks on Iran had no difficulty accepting President Clinton’s unilateral decision to go to war against the Serbs.

If Mrs. Clinton is nominated, will she be prepared to cede the center to placate the left? Our David Twersky, who’s been studying this question, bets not. She will not make the mistake that Mr. Kerry made in the last election. Hence the door would be open for Mr. Nader to do more damage to the Democrats than he did in 2004. We’re a long way from there at the moment. By the time we get there, the contretemps over Mr. Geffen will be long forgotten.


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