Hillary#039;s playbook readies her for presidential run

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 11, 2005

As reliably as the calendar turns, Hillary’s attention moves to foreign affairs in a bid to shore up her credentials for a presidential run. Suddenly, she is the Democratic shadow Secretary of State.

There she is, visiting Iraq and India, blasting Syria and calling for its withdrawal from Lebanon, and speaking out forcefully in support of the War on Terror. In India, she even said that outsourcing of American business - and therefore U.S. jobs - would continue into the future.

And when the Israeli foreign minister came to the United States, Hillary was his first stop - and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was second.

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Hillary’s outspokenness on international issues is more than just the routine of a largely domestically-oriented senator preparing to run for president, burnishing her resume on overseas issues. It is the studied implementation of a playbook that dates back to the ’90s - when she and I wrote it together.

American attitudes toward female candidates, my wife’s and my polling found, tended to differ sharply from how they evaluated blacks who ran for office. When it comes to race, voters are either racist or not. If the former, they will never back an African-American. If the latter, then race hardly matters.

But when a woman runs, few Americans object viscerally to her candidacy. But most do stereotype her.

Interestingly, our polling - which we conducted for Hillary in the early ’90s - showed that men and women, sexist or not, all had the same gender-based stereotypes. Women were perceived as better on issues involving children, education, integrity, health care and the environment; men were seen as better on defense, foreign policy, holding down taxes and cutting spending.

So the Hillary playbook became: Use the stereotype.

Sometimes, she tried to exploit the positive aspects of the stereotype - as when she focused first on health care and then on education and children’s issues. Now she seeks to overcome the negative part of the stereotype - by posing as a hawk on foreign policy.

But she clearly understands that a female candidate has to use the acceleration the stereotype provides on certain issues and overcome the negative forces that impede her on other aspects of it.

One problem is that Hillary is not likely sincere in her hawkish views.

Back in the early years of her husband’s term, she was outspoken and aggressive in urging Bill to pull troops out of Somalia, calling the troop presence there, &uot;Bush’s parting gift to us.&uot; She was constantly warning against a heavy military involvement in Bosnia and was deeply concerned when it came time to send U.S. troops there as peacekeepers.

When I proposed that the attorney general issue a list of charitable organizations that give money to terror groups to warn off potential innocent donors, Hillary objected that it smacked of the &uot;Attorney General’s List&uot; of communist fronts published and made notorious in the ’50s.

She backed an independent Palestinian state while she was First Lady and only discovered an affinity for Israel when she decided to run in the state with the largest Jewish population.

The other problem is that Hillary really doesn’t know much about foreign policy, as witness her statement condemning Dr. Ibrahim Jafari, the likely new prime minister of Iraq, for his party’s &uot;connections with Iran&uot; and for his personal, &uot;family and religious ties&uot; to the terrorist state.

The senator warned that these were &uot;grounds both for concern and for vigilance.&uot; But, as Jafari pointedly noted, Hillary &uot;knows nothing about the Iraqi situation.&uot; Jafari has been lauded in these pages as an opponent of the Iranian brand of theocracy and, possibly, as a useful counterweight to Tehran’s ayatollahs.

But, in a broader sense, Hillary was wrong to attempt to influence the outcome of the Iraqi parliamentary process that must follow the nation’s first free election.

For a prominent American to try to determine who will be the prime minister, when we have 150,000 troops in the country, flies in the face of the spirit of the Bush Second Inaugural in which he warned: &uot;And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own.&uot; Hillary’s statements are hardly in that spirit.

But the fact is that Hillary is running for president and must use her pulpit to solidify her international credits. And she must show us all that she’s a hawk - because that’s what woman candidates for president have to do.

Dick Morris was an adviser to Bill Clinton for 20 years. E-mail Morris at dmredding@aol.com.