Sen. Hillary Clinton an Artful Dodger

The Associated Press
Wednesday, June 20, 2007; 3:20 AM

WASHINGTON -- Slick Hillary? Former President Clinton earned the nickname "Slick Willy" for his mastery in the political arts of ducking and dodging. He had a knack for convincing people on both sides of an issue that he agreed with them.

His wife may not be as smooth, but Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is doing a passable impression of the ever-parsing former president.

Would she pardon Scooter Libby?

No comment.

Would she nominate a union leader to be secretary of labor?


Would she repeal the North American Free Trade Agreement?

Can't say.

The Democratic presidential candidate drew several rounds of applause for her appearance before the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union Tuesday. She flashed her sense of humor, displayed a deep knowledge of the issues and held her own in a forum that pitted her against other presidential rivals. But what stood out was her reluctance to address questions head-on.

This habit of hers begs a question: Will the Clintonian tactic help her in the crowded Democratic field _ or hurt her in the eyes of voters who have grown coarsened by the spin and obfuscation that marred both the Clinton and Bush administrations?

"It's obviously a skill that, in the long run, served Bill Clinton well, and there's something to say for a politician who doesn't alienate people by taking clear positions on issues," said Charles Franklin, political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "For Bill, it was certainly a useful skill for political success."

But he said the question for Hillary Clinton "is whether she can pull it off, because it's certainly not an easy thing to do successfully."

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