Jewish World Review Nov. 19, 2004/ 6 Kislev, 5765

Wesley Pruden

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Presidential dreamin' down on the river

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The shortest verse in the Bible is the favorite of Sunday-school boys everywhere, to satisfy the requirement to memorize a verse for recitation: "Jesus wept."


The skies, if not Somebody who lives above the skies, wept yesterday over Little Rock. The downpour drenched everyone at the dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, including Elvis himself, the only speaker who didn't cut short his remarks. Even the celebrities — including the likes of Barbra Streisand (who did not sit next to Hillary), Chevy Chase, Robin Williams, Peter Jennings, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt and just about everybody who ever voted for, shook hands with, envied or lusted after the man who made the White House pantry infamous and the "little blue dress" an icon of hilarity — hit the exits early to find a dry martini to slip into. (Apologies to Robert Benchley, who was not there.)


Every camera was aimed at the podium and the four presidents, Jimmy Carter and the man who became infamous as sex between the Bushes, and the Bushes. Some of the people behind the Brownies imagined they might be snapping a photograph of a fifth president as well, but the results of Nov. 2 have rendered the Hillary odds a little longer than a lot of us imagined only a fortnight ago. A Hillary candidacy, if not necessarily a Hillary presidency, is a newspaperman's dream, but the Great Mentioner (he who is endlessly quoted as "mentioning" prospective candidates) is now selling northeastern liberal senators at greatly discounted prices. You can buy one and get one free, you might say.


And not just the Great Mentioner. Dale Bumpers, a loyal Democrat and one of the state's most popular ex-governors who came home to see whether there was life after a quarter of a century in the U.S. Senate, thinks the Hillary fever will subside as the obsessive anger in the party dissipates and cooler heads plot an attempt at a restoration.


"She will think long and hard about it," he told Robert McCord, a columnist for the countercultural weekly Arkansas Times. "Most people think it's a given, but I don't. She's a very cerebral, realistic person, and I don't think she has ambition to be president bad enough to fly in the face of reality. Senators don't get elected president, and don't think Hillary won't give that a long thought."

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Mzz Hillary told a television interviewer yesterday that she would run for re-election in '06, as she must if she keeps presidential hopes alive, but in the new world of American politics, that won't be enough. John F. Kennedy was the last senator who made it to the White House and 1960 was actually a part of the '50s, and that was seven presidents and a long time ago in a land now far away. Since then, we've had mostly a succession of governors from places like Georgia, Arkansas, Texas and California — except for California, red states all, and all a long way from Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York and other places where the elites can dwell oblivious to the cares and concerns of the rest of us.


She could run for governor of New York, of course; a governor, even of a state as blue as New York, is very different from a senator. But getting elected governor is very different from getting elected senator. The New York pols who stepped aside to let Mzz Hillary have Daniel Patrick Moynihan's seat in the U.S. Senate would not be so easy to push aside next time. Being in the Senate is nice, but a governor is a major leaguer and Albany is not an expansion club.


If she stays in the Senate, she and Bill could have a nice life, she with a sinecure with a platform and Bill with a penthouse looming over the river with a guest bedroom for an occasional visitor from New York, all of it on the taxpayer's dime. Bill will be a celebrity for a few more years, but as he gets a little long in the tooth so will the Hollywood stars who fantasize about him.


He still tells stretchers and tall tales — he boasted to Peter Jennings yesterday that he learned to swim in the Arkansas River, but if he did he was the only boy in Arkansas black or white who did, and the river doesn't run within 50 miles of where he grew up. The rest of us knew better. But he shows signs of mellowing, or at least adjusting. Dale Bumpers remarked, wistfully, that "when I was a kid, I'm now 79, you couldn't find a Republican in Arkansas with a search warrant."


That's all changed now. The South is a Democratic wasteland everywhere between Richmond and El Paso, and Bill Clinton yesterday described himself as a "blend" of red and blue America. Such a blend renders ol' Bill purple. I couldn't have said it better myself.

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

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