I suppose, in the minds of most political reporters, the words “Clinton” and “triangulation” go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Bu
January 2, 2008

I suppose, in the minds of most political reporters, the words “Clinton” and “triangulation” go together like chocolate and peanut butter.

But Bob Novak’s hit-job on Hillary Clinton today is not just wrong, it doesn’t make any sense at all.

Sen. Hillary Clinton faces tonight’s Iowa caucuses not as the inevitable Democratic presidential nominee but seriously challenged by Sen. Barack Obama, thanks in no small part to committing a strategic error: premature triangulation. The problem is reflected in what happened to a proposal for a simplified, though far-reaching, health-care plan.

One longtime Democratic consultant, not involved in any campaign this time, suggested that Clinton propose a genuine universal health-care scheme. Everybody would be covered by Medicare, except people who chose to retain their private health insurance plans. The consultant gave the idea to somebody close to the senator, but the intermediary refused to pass it on to the candidate. He said it would never get beyond Mark Penn and his strategy of triangulation.

This is ridiculous. Clinton isn’t guilty of “premature triangulation”; Novak is guilty of premature references to triangulation.

It might be useful to talk about what “triangulation” actually means.

The word came into vogue after the 1994 election cycle, when Dick Morris urged President Clinton to run against congressional Republicans and congressional Democrats, embracing a pragmatic, centrist “third way.”

George W. Bush dabbled in triangulation during the 2000 election, castigating Tom DeLay and congressional Republicans for deferring payment of the Earned Income Tax Credit to low-income workers. “I don’t think they ought to balance their budget on the backs of the poor,” Bush said, adding that his party too often projects pessimism, indifference, and “disdain for government.”

That’s triangulation.

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign dismissed a Medicare-for-all proposal, but nevertheless unveiled a credible, passable, top-notch healthcare plan? If Novak thinks that constitutes triangulation, he’s a) forgotten what the word means; b) unconcerned with what it means and just wants to slam Hillary; or c) both.

As far as I can tell, Clinton hasn’t triangulated at all. Maybe you love her, maybe you hate her, but of all the complaints to raise against Hillary’s campaign, this is the most absurd.

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