Hillary Presses For Party Unity

Senator Hillary Clinton
New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a potential 2008 presidential candidate, on Monday pressed Democrats to adopt a tough stand on national security and urged the party to show a united front to counter "the hard-right ideology in Washington."

Speaking to the Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist group that helped her husband, Bill Clinton, secure the White House, the senator delivered a broad speech that touched on foreign policy, health care, education and fissures within her own party.

"It's high time for a ceasefire," Clinton said.

The speech was coupled with the announcement that Clinton had been chosen to head the DLC's "American Dream Initiative," described by the organization as a national conversation with business, political, labor, civic and intellectual leaders on an agenda for the country and party.

The chairmanship will allow Clinton to travel the country next year, when she is seeking another term in the Senate. The job will be an opportunity to burnish an already high-profile image that frequently energizes Democrats while also helping anti-Clinton Republicans raise campaign cash.

"Let's start by uniting against the hard-right ideology in Washington," Clinton said. "All too often we have allowed ourselves to be split between left, right and center."

Clinton made it clear in her speech that Democrats should take a tough stand on combating terrorism, calling for a "unified coherent strategy focused on eliminating terrorists wherever we find them."

A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, she echoed calls from the DLC to increase the size of the military, while calling for smarter decisions on deploying forces.

"There is a broader and stronger coalition against terror," she said.

She also spoke of a focus on health care, noting that during her husband's presidency she attempted to tackle that issue, but little progress has been made.

"Today, we spend more of our income on health care with no end in sight," she said.

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, another frequently mentioned 2008 candidate, called for a positive, progressive agenda.

"We can't afford to be anti-, against everything," Vilsack said. "We've got to be for something."

Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, also the subject of 2008 speculation, said Clinton "is a very strong front-runner" but told activists the party's future lies in the Midwest.