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Hillary at the Gate

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“The trade issue is crippling the Democrats,” says Jagdish Bhagwati, the Columbia economist who wrote In Defense of Globalization. “The unions are terrified by trade, and they’re still a major Democratic constituency. Hillary Clinton will be caught in this dilemma unless the party faces up to it and says, ‘Look, we really can’t be against trade with poor countries.’ ”

Bill Clinton had the rhetorical gifts to sell roiling change as our friend. Hillary won’t ever have that talent, and, thanks to 9/11, she’s operating in an America that’s far more anxious about the world than it was when she and Bill left the White House. It’s unlikely that she or any of the Democrats is going to concoct a reassuring solution for the mess in Iraq. But there are opportunities for reducing the stress created by other parts of the globe. If Hillary Clinton can find a coherent way to ease the social dislocations emanating from India, China, and Mexico—perhaps in part by reviving her old interest in universal health care—she’ll have done her country a great service. It probably wouldn’t hurt her presidential prospects, either. First, though, she needs to decide whether she cares more about economic security or economic freedom.

E-mail: Chris_Smith@nymag.com.


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