HALCYON DAYS

Remember When Republicans Loved Hillary Clinton?

Today they may be sketching out their best attacks on the Democrats’ leading potential candidate for 2016, but once Dick Cheney, Paul Ryan, et al. had plenty of nice things to say.

12.01.14 10:44 AM ET

For the better part of a quarter-century, Hillary Clinton has loomed over American politics as a hate figure for many on the right—and she seems poised to re-assert her dominant position in right-wing demonology in 2016. But there was a time, stretching roughly from her concession of the Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama in 2008 to the Benghazi attack in 2012, when conservatives changed their tune on Clinton. In fact, plenty of Republicans even said nice things about her. Here are seven she can look back on as she weathers the attacks of the next presidential cycle.

Dick Cheney

The former vice president is not known as a soft touch, but for a brief moment in 2011, he seemed to hold Clinton in high regard. During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Cheney told host Chris Wallace of Clinton: “I have a sense that she is one of the more competent members of the current administration, and it would be interesting to speculate about how she might perform were she to be president.” Cheney also suggested that, if elected, Clinton might be easier for Republicans to work with than Obama.

Paul Ryan

Republican superstar Paul Ryan is still mooted as potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate. But even if he doesn’t run, the Wisconsin congressman will be a major force in the GOP as the next chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Back in January 2013, though, he was fresh off a losing presidential ticket when he suggested that Hillary Clinton in the White House would have ensured a return to a balanced budget. “Look, if we had a Clinton presidency, if we had Erskine Bowles as chief of staff of the White House or president of the United States, I think we would have fixed this fiscal mess by now,” he said. “That’s not the kind of presidency we’re dealing with right now.”

Carly Fiorina

While Ryan is still on the fence about running for president, Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive and 2010 U.S. Senate candidate in California, seems to be going full steam ahead toward a bid for the White House in 2016. Yet Fiorina, who seems to be positioning herself as a GOP alternative to Hillary Clinton who could appeal to female voters if nominated, has her own history of complimenting the former secretary of state. In 2008, while campaigning for John McCain, Fiorina said: “Having started as a secretary and eventually become a chief executive officer, I not only have great admiration and respect for Hillary Clinton and her candidacy and her leadership, but I also have great empathy, I must tell you, for what she went through.”

Orrin Hatch

The most senior Republican in the U.S. Senate, Orrin Hatch will not only lead the Senate Finance Committee in 2015 but will become president pro tempore of the Senate, making him third in line in presidential succession. In 2010, when Clinton was being floated as a possible Supreme Court nominee and Hatch was the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Utah senator said of his former colleague: “I happen to like Hillary Clinton; I think she’s done a good job for the… secretary of state’s position, and I have high respect for her and think a great deal of her.”

John McCain

The 2008 Republican presidential nominee and longtime Arizona senator has long had a cordial relationship with Hillary Clinton. Indeed, Clinton once described McCain as “her favorite Republican.” The affinity goes both ways. In 2011, at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, McCain praised Clinton as “an international star” who has done “a tremendous job” as secretary of state. He also later told to CBS News, “I respect Secretary/Senator Clinton; I respect her views.”

Condoleezza Rice

Rice has praised Clinton, who succeeded her as secretary of state in 2009, on several occasions and said repeatedly that Clinton was “doing a fine job.” In 2010, she told Bill O’Reilly: “Hillary Clinton is someone I’ve known for a long, long time. She’s a patriot. I think she’s doing a lot of the right things.” Rice then added, “She’s very tough... and she’s got the right instincts.” George W. Bush’s top foreign-policy aide stood by those words two years later, when she described Clinton as “great” to Ohio Republicans.

Lindsey Graham

Perhaps no Republican has spoken more highly of Hillary Clinton than the South Carolina senator and prominent foreign-policy hawk, who went so far as to describe the then-secretary of state as “a good role model, one of the most effective secretary of states, greatest ambassadors for the American people that I have known in my lifetime” in May 2012. The Republican also went out of his way to praise Clinton to The New York Times three months later, saying, “She is extremely well-respected throughout the world, handles herself in a very classy way, and has a work ethic second to none.”