For 16 years, Republican political operatives demonized Bill and Hillary Clinton. From health care to Whitewater to Monica Lewinsky, the Clintons became the Republican political machine’s favorite punching bags.

So it’s more than a little weird to see Republicans now embracing the Clintons. In her first national appearance, Sarah Palin, John McCain’s choice for a vice presidential running mate, listed Sen. Hillary Clinton as a role model for women candidates. Then GOP conventioneers cheered when independent Sen. Joe Lieberman paid tribute to the “bipartisanship” achieved by a Republican Congress and President Bill Clinton. Maybe Lieberman was on vacation when the House voted to impeach Clinton.

The political calculation here is plain enough – McCain and his advisors hope to convince moderate Democrats that he will be a moderate president.

As he woos Democratic voters, McCain is trusting Republicans’ willingness to let him stray from GOP orthodoxy on such issues as immigration, global warming, campaign reform and the Clintons, too. And he is banking that some Democrats will have short memories when it comes to the Republicans’ new-found appreciation for the Clintons.