Sen. Clinton could be Triangulator-in-Chief

The public deserves clearer answers from presidentiol front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Bill Clinton gave the Democratic Party the hair-split. John Kerry gave them the flip-flop. If last week’s debate on MSNBC is any indication, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is going to give them the triangulation.

The criticism of Clinton throughout the 2008 campaign is that she refuses to answer questions directly on what she would do if elected president out of fear of saying something that opponents could use against her. While it may protect her from political attacks, it also deprives the American people of any useful knowledge about what specific proposals she has to fix what ails the country.

At the debate, this was nowhere more apparent than when she was asked by moderator Tim Russert about whether she supported New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to provide drivers licenses to undocumented workers in the state. Clinton initially said the plan made sense, in that it took initiative where the Bush administration has failed in providing comprehensive immigration reform. Certainly a good case could be made for her answer, but she backed away from it, saying she didn’t actually support the plan when rivals saw a chink in her armor and voiced disagreement.

This seems to be Clinton’s modus operandi, either talking a lot without really saying anything or alternately giving both answers and not really seeming committed to either one. Immigration isn’t the only case, as Clinton has refused to say how she would attempt to make social security solvent, what to do about our country’s increasingly confrontational stance with Iran, or how and when she would end the war in Iraq.

Obfuscating may be good politics, but it’s bad policy, and policy is what the American people need to hear right now so they can make an informed decision on who to support in November 2008. Because Clinton is the Democratic front-runner and according to most current polls the candidate most likely to capture the White House, she needs to give thorough answers more than anyone. Tangled responses are no way to build trust among the people you want to lead.