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Triangulating on the Political Fringes

August 20, 2007

Conventional wisdom in presidential politics says that candidates must pander to the base of their parties during primaries, and then run to the middle during general election campaigns. Richard Nixon was perhaps the first modern master at this, running for his party's nomination as an unabashed conservative and then appealing to the broader electorate by toning down his positions and by governing as a moderate.

Bill Clinton understood this better than perhaps any other politician of our time. His ability to make his political base cheer while convincing the rest of the electorate of his sincere moderation was legendary. For old professional political hacks like me it was nothing short of amazing. Disgusting, but amazing.

Of course, Clinton also was an undisciplined horn dog who couldn't rein in his own lusts and who, when caught, instinctively lied. He was, in fact, so good at it that he reminded me of a role played by Joey Bishop in the 1967 movie "Guide for the Married Man," wherein a philandering husband is caught by his wife in bed with another woman. As the wife shrieks at him and demands to know who the woman is and what he thinks he is doing, Bishop and the woman calmly get up, get dressed, make the bed and act like nothing out of the ordinary has happened. The husband responds to his wife's questions with answers like, "What woman? Where?" Finally, bewildered, the wife questions her own eyes and asks, "What do you want for dinner, Charlie?"

That's Bill Clinton. But I digress.

Make no mistake; the former felon-in-chief is his wife's shrewdest advisor in her current campaign for president. Utilizing political triangulation techniques perfected in collusion with former advisor Dick Morris, Bill Clinton apparently is guiding Hillary as she tiptoes through the minefield of left wing crazies and fringe special interest groups.

The Democrat base has become a collection of kookburgers, some of whom, just a generation or two ago, would have been institutionalized, either in mental hospitals or in prison. The list of venues where Democrat presidential candidates are forced to compete for primary election votes reads like a list of America's most vitriolic enemies.

The AFL-CIO is a collection of throwbacks to an era when labor unions had muscle and believed they had the right to cripple American capitalism. The Democrats always have to bow to these relics of a bygone political era.

The Daily Kos is a website dedicated to the hatred of anything remotely traditional in American society. These people are exceptionally venomous when it comes to anything done by George W. Bush on any issue. Of course, our war against Islamic jihadism is especially high on their list of things they despise about America. And every Democrat running for president, with the notable exception of Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., chose to go and genuflect at the feet of these hate mongers.

And finally, the Dems saw fit to "debate" on "Logo," a gay network viewed by about seven people, four of them in San Francisco and the other three in prison. They debated issues affecting the so-called GLBT communities. For all you unhip bumpkin bigots out there who aren't acquainted with what matters to liberal Democrats, that acronym stands for "gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender." (Sodom and Gomorrah were "communities" also, you know.)

Imagine if the Republican presidential candidates were to attend a forum sponsored by a website that advocates the murder of abortionists; or one that believes in rounding up homosexuals and interning them; or a forum sponsored by a group of gun enthusiasts calling for the open distribution of fully automatic firearms; or perhaps a forum about deporting illegal aliens. What would the reaction of the media be to such events? We all know the answer. And frankly, some of those are reasonable positions.

Returning to the campaign tactics of Hillary Clinton, media bias aside, her performance is the one to watch in each of these fringe debates. With Slick Willie's help and encouragement, she is skillfully triangulating before each of these groups. By positioning herself as the voice of reason in a field of wild-eyed liberals, she is attempting to be the gutsy candidate who stood up to the radical fringes of her own party. And it just might work.

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Copyright ©2007 Doug Patton

Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. His weekly columns are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Readers are encouraged to email him at dpatton@cagle.comand/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.