Saturday, May 14, 2005

For Better or Worse, Hillary & Newt Hitch Their Stars To Each Other

Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich are both expected to seek their parties' nomination for President in 2008. By working together (and thus validating the other's positions) on both domestic policy legislation (health care) and foreign policy (the war in Iraq), whatever one says on these subjects is reasonable to presume as the other's position. If the U.S. had a working, functioning media, they would automatically speed-dial Newt whenever Hillary speaks on one of these issues, and vice versa.

The NYT reports on the "New odd couple: Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich":
What do Newt Gingrich and Hillary Rodham Clinton want from each other?

In the 1990s, these two rivals stood on nearly opposite ends of the political spectrum, with him leading the assault on the Clinton presidency and helping derail the ambitious health care plan she championed.

But oddly enough, something has changed since then, and it has people talking.
Gingrich, the former Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, has been working alongside the wife of former President Bill Clinton, now a Democratic senator from New York, on a number of issues, and even appeared with her at a press conference on Wednesday to promote - of all things - health care legislation.

But more puzzling than that, Gingrich has been talking up Clinton's presidential prospects in 2008, to the chagrin of conservative loyalists who once regarded him as an iconic figure. Last month, he even suggested she might capture the presidency, saying "any Republican who thinks she's going to be easy to beat has a total amnesia about the history of the Clintons."

What gives? For Clinton, standing side-by-side with her husband's onetime nemesis gives her the chance to burnish her credentials among the moderates she has been courting during her time in the Senate.

But in recent comments, she portrayed the rapprochement as one born of shared policy interests, not calculated politics.

"I know it's a bit of an odd-fellow, or odd-woman, mix," she said. "But the speaker and I have been talking about health care and national security now for several years, and I find that he and I have a lot in common in the way we see the problem."

For his part, Gingrich, who helped lead the impeachment fight against the former president, called the senator "very practical" and "very smart and very hard-working," adding, "I have been very struck working with her."

Hillary Clinton has increasingly staked out moderate positions in several areas. On the health care front, she has recently promoted a more gradual approach to guaranteeing health care for more Americans, a departure from her efforts in the 1990s, when Republican critics like Gingrich accused her of advocating a big-government takeover of the health care system.

Her recent views on the subject struck a chord with Gingrich, she recalled. "Newt Gingrich called and said 'You're absolutely right,"' Clinton said.

As it turns out, Gingrich and Clinton have a lot more in common now that they have left behind the politics of the 1990s, when she was seen as a symbol of the liberal excesses of the Clinton White House and he was a fiery spokesman for a resurgent conservative movement in Washington.

Beyond the issue of health care, Clinton and Gingrich have forged a relatively close relationship working on a panel to come up with ways to improve military readiness, say people close to them.

Gingrich says he has been struck by how pro-defense Clinton has turned out to be at a time when other Democrats have criticized President George W. Bush's decision to go to war against Iraq. He chalked that up to her experience in the White House, where her husband had to deal with national security.

"Unlike most members of the legislature, she has been in the White House," Gingrich said. "She's been consistently solid on the need to do the right thing on national defense."

Hillary Clinton is foursquare behind the war in Iraq, and a pro-administration hawk.

Gingrich, a neocon, is a fellow at both the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institute, two bedrock think tanks of neoconservatism. Gingrich has been an influential and driving force for the war in Iraq. Although he resigned from Congress in disgrace, he remains in government on the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board (aka, Defense Advisory Board), which is the heart and soul behind every move that Donald Rumsfeld makes in conducting the war on terror.

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