06/08/2005 05:55 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Ghosts of Hillary Past?

Here comes Hillary , which reminds me: what is it, honestly, about her that’s so deeply hateful to the conservative right? She is bright and articulate in a way that comes along rarely in a generation; she’s thoughtful, efficient, political, ambitious, confident, unapologetic, possibly ruthless. She believes in God. Of course her stands on the issues are of her party, but so were Dick Gephardt’s. I don’t believe he was often used to rally the conservative faithful.

Senator Clinton’s missteps of the Clinton White House years – and there were plenty, of course, driven by overreaching and a tin ear for public opinion – are well behind us. By all objective measures she’s been a superb senator. The hair and fashion issues are off the table. Her 2008 run will be about the country’s challenges and her fitness to tackle them. She’s in great shape.

So why can’t GOP operatives hide their excitement of her potential candidacy? The think tanks and conservative magazines that leverage Hillary hatred in their direct mail efforts must know what they’re doing too. For every (what I consider to be) old-fashioned Republican, such as my mother, that the party’s lost since going off the deep end they’ve obviously gained multiple others – formerly disenfranchised cultural conservatives who now hold the GOP hostage to their obsessions.

These people just love to hate Hillary Clinton. There’s something visceral in their response to her, as if she were some combination of she-devil incarnate and bohemian hussy. Is it her hubris? Tom DeLay owns it. Is she too smart and polished? They don’t hold it in the same way against Dianne Feinstein (or Elizabeth Dole). In either case, it’s not just unshared values.

Herewith my guesses:

1) She’s a threat to their world paradigm. Not only was she not going to stand by her man and bake cookies, in 1992 – and who’d blame her, particularly if she had any sense of some of the company her husband appeared to be keeping off-hours – she also wasn’t going to hide in shame or leave him when he made a laughingstock of himself over the pizza-carrying intern later. In fact, she’d run for senator.

2) She’s a feminist. She didn’t really become a Clinton until the role of first lady overwhelmed the outer Rodham. There must be something unforgivable about that kind of sturdy independence when your husband is leader of the free world.

3) They hate President Clinton so much that they still hate her too; in combination with the paradigm/feminist issues it’s a perfect target storm.

4) They’re not over the Clinton years. When she did more than the country, or Constitution – though not her husband – asked of her, for example on health care policy.

What's not to like?