Princeton's Zelizer: Hillary Can Mend Rift With Left

Tuesday, 19 Aug 2014 02:57 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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Leftist Democrats have a problem with Hillary Clinton, but she'll be able to repair the rift and win their support if she runs for president, says Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

"The rifts between her and the left are in the forefront again as a result of her statements on foreign policy," Zelizer said, referring to the former secretary of state's hawkish remarks about U.S. policy in Iraq.

In addition, Zelizer said Tuesday on "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV, Clinton has been dogged by rumors that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will emerge as the candidate of the left.

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"At the end, liberals in the party will settle on Hillary Clinton, and some will feel very good about her as a candidate," he said.

"Of all the potential problems she faces, this is one that she can overcome because of her record and because of the state of the party right now."

Zelizer — author of "The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society,'' to be published by Penguin Press in January — also says Clinton can overcome the lackluster response to her recent book tour for the memoir "Hard Choices."

During her tour for the 656-page book, published by Simon & Schuster, Clinton was criticized for saying she and former President Bill Clinton were "dead broke" when they left the White House.

She was also seen as combative with NPR's Terry Gross over questions about her changed position on same-sex marriage.

"The problems with the book tour and the problems with this initial rollout of post-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton certainly were not good,'' Zelizer said.

"It was damaging to her and brought back some concerns that many Democrats have back from 2008 about how she would run this campaign.

"They're not debilitating — we're very far away from an election, and they're correctable — but there are matters she has to pay attention to."

Zelizer said Clinton must call on what she learned as first lady: that perceptions in the media matter.

"Your statements have to be made with great precision because they will become disastrous if you don't have that kind of caution and skill,'' he said.

"She'll have to refine her skills and get back into the political game quickly if she's going to run. On foreign policy, the rifts are OK. Overall, she and President Barack Obama are not that far apart on most major issues.

"In the end, Obama and his supporters will follow through with Hillary Clinton, and they're not going to vote for a Republican, and there's not many other Democrats right now in the field."

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