Hillary, Fake Hawk

Senator Hillary Clinton, D-New York, has positioned herself as the most right-wing Democratic presidential candidate on foreign policy matters. Her transformation from dovish First Lady to hawkish frontrunner has earned her the respect of many conservatives. Richard Perle, a prominent "neoconservative" supporter of the war in Iraq, apparently feels that a President Hillary would consider invading Iran: "If President Clinton is informed in March 2009 that we’ve got ironclad intelligence that if we don’t act within the next 30 days it’s going to be too late, I wouldn’t begin to predict what she would do."

Center-right New York Times columnist David Brooks praises Hillary’s newfound moderation: "The fact is, many Democratic politicians privately detest the netroots’ self-righteousness and bullying. They also know their party has a historic opportunity to pick up disaffected Republicans and moderates, so long as they don’t blow it by drifting into cuckoo land. They also know that a Democratic president is going to face challenges from Iran and elsewhere that are going to require hard-line, hawkish responses."

As proof of Hillary’s "hard-line" tendencies, such conservatives cite Hillary’s anti-Iranian activities. In January 2006, she criticized President Bush for being too soft on Iran. In February 2007, Hillary told an American Israel Public Affairs Committee audience that "U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons. … In dealing with this threat … no option can be taken off the table." This month, Hillary was the only Democratic candidate to vote for the Lieberman-Kyl amendment, which declared Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.

There’s only one problem: Hillary has no intention of using force against Iran. She has repeatedly tempered her anti-Iran remarks with pro-negotiations, pro-sanctions bombast. When asked at the September 26 Democratic debate about her position on Iran, Hillary stated, "What I have said is that I will do everything I can to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, including the use of diplomacy, the use of economic sanctions, opening up direct talks."

When asked whether her vote for Lieberman-Kyl would open the door to war with Iran on Monday, Hillary chafed, suggesting that the questioner was a plant of another campaign. Then she explained her Lieberman-Kyl vote: "There was an earlier version that I opposed. It was dramatically changed. … I would never have voted for the first version. The second version ripped out what was considered very bellicose and very threatening language."

What, precisely, was that "bellicose and very threatening language"? The original bill had a section declaring that it was the policy of the United States to "combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran," utilizing "all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including … military instruments, with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Hillary rejected the bill because it explicitly allowed for the possibility of force against Iran. Her tough talk is just that — talk. Her sanctions are backed by no threat of force; her diplomacy is no more valuable than a "Sex and the City"-style lunch meeting. Hillary is, in short, all bark and no bite.

Which explains just why her far-left support has yet to desert her — she has not deserted them. Hillary is no stranger to manipulation; she speaks loudly (for the benefit of moderates and conservatives) and carries a small stick (for the benefit of the radical left). Rudy Giuliani has criticized Hillary for flip-flopping on Iran, but Hillary has never flip-flopped. She’s a gung-ho opponent of a nuclear Iran, unless it means actually stopping Iran.