Jewish World Review July 18, 2003/ 18 Tamuz, 5763

Wesley Pruden

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Ready or not, here come Bill and Hillary | The seven Democratic dwarfs (nine if you count Carol Moseley-Braun and Dennis Kucinich) are finally making a racket, but it's muted sound and semi-fury, answering the question that has puzzled the savants for centuries, whether a tree falling in a forest makes a noise if nobody's there to hear it. (It turns out that it doesn't.)

Howard Dean's 15 minutes of pop celebrity is just about up, John Kerry's still trying to get the ketchup stains off his tie, Joe Lieberman can't remember whether he's supposed to be a shark or a chicken, John Edwards has lost sight of the ambulance, Bob Graham can't decide whether to write about the bacon or the eggs he had for breakfast, Al Sharpton has lost his rhyming dictionary, and nobody has seen Dick Gephardt since St. Louis quit making shoes.

But it doesn't matter. The real action begins early next year, when Bill and Hillary ride at last to the rescue, but only of their own fortunes. The signs, identical to the signs pointing to Bill's candidacy at this point in 1991, are clear to anyone who looks very hard.

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Hillary's ghostwriters produced her memoir right on schedule, and so far she has sold more than a million books. Bill's memoir will be out next year, just as the party's desperation over the dwarfs hits bottom. Who else but Hillary, with Bill pulling the strings? With nothing but time on his hands, Bill is conniving to do for the missus what Pa Ferguson did for Ma in Texas, what George Wallace did for Lurleen in Alabama.

The notion that Ma Clinton can wait until 2008 is nuts, as any pol who remembers his blue-back arithmetic book could tell you. It's in the numbers. If a year in politics is an epoch, four years is eternity. To make 2008 happen, the Clintons would first have to pretend, convincingly, to work for the Democratic nominee next year while employing every trick in the shadows to sabotage his chances. If (horrors!) the Democrat wins, anyway, that would put Hillary's race off until 2012, when she will be pulling down Social Security. The year 2012 is in that long run when a lot of us will be dead.

The usual Hollywood types who mistake scripts and daydreams for the real world are casting about furiously for alternatives to the dwarfs, whom they see as a collection of last season's re-runs. Barry Diller, the Hollywood mogul who looks into the mirror and thinks he sees Dick Morris, is pushing, of all unlikely people, Tom Brokaw, the NBC news reader. "He's simply the greatest draft choice you could ever possibly imagine," he says of Mr. Brokaw. Nora Ephron, the screenwriter sitting up sleepless, maybe in Seattle, with visions of Mr. Brokaw leaping into the race, says breathlessly: "$20 million would come pouring in about a week." Mr. Brokaw, who has actually seen politics up close, knows better: "I'm not running for anything, anywhere."

The one dark horse who is anything but dark is an attractive old soldier with visions of the White House Mess. Wesley Clark, the one-time commander of NATO and sometime military hero (Bosnia, et al.), is trying to organize his own draft. "When you are looking at moving into a field where you've never been before, when you see things like this forming," he tells the New York Observer, "it makes you seriously consider your options." (When you move into a field where you've never been before, you often see things that aren't there.)

The landscape of history is littered with the corpses of generals who thought they were destined for civilian glory, and Dwight D. Eisenhower was the only general of his century to actually make it to the bigs.

But Wesley Clark, in addition to his distinguished Christian name, has other things going for him. He's from Arkansas (he would just as soon you not notice), and he speaks well, looks terrific, and brings just what Hillary needs to her candidacy, which certain Little Rock folk say is exactly what's in the works. They see Bill Clinton's hand, barely hidden, making Wesley Clark happen.

Such an attractive general would give the Clintons the cover they've never had to soften public outrage over their well-known contempt for the military, their utter lack of understanding of why someone would sacrifice himself merely for God and country.

Mr. Clark is hardly a stranger to the Clintons, having been at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar with the ex-prez. He has all the right credentials: first in his class at West Point, a term as Alexander Haig's aide-de-camp, a well-greased route to the top in the military superstructure. There's nothing in his record to indicate that he's what one colleague calls the "thump-the-sumbitch in the head with a 2 by 4 on the first hit so he's seeing stars," ordinarily who you have to be to succeed in presidential politics.

That won't matter this time. The lady from New York (via Little Rock) is that. Wesley Clark only has to sit there and look pretty.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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