Jewish World Review March 15, 2004/ 22 Adar, 5764

Wesley Pruden

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Here comes Hillary, but not to rescue | You never can tell what Bill Clinton is up to, since little boys in Hot Springs learn early to mark the cards. When the ex-prez sounds honest, forthright and statesmanlike, a cautious man consults his darkest suspicions.

Mr. Clinton told his fellow Democrats the other day to give George W. Bush a break. He doesn't think the Bush administration will meet its June 30 deadline for transferring political control of Iraq to a native government, but he warns that throwing rocks at George W. isn't helpful.

"If this political campaign is about what we were told about weapons of mass destruction," he told a business breakfast in Manhattan, "that's a legitimate political issue, but we are where we are. And if the president cannot keep to the timetable he said, I don't think we ought to give him any grief about it. I think we ought to say, 'Let's just follow through.' "

We've learned not to read Bill Clinton's lips, but to diagram his sentences. You're never in doubt about the subject of the sentence, which is always a familiar proper noun, but you never know where the predicate will lead. George and Laura might want to hold off on inviting Bill to sleep over in the Lincoln Bedroom the next time he's in town. The kind words were not meant for George W. (or even the national interest), but for the interests of the Clintons.

His remarks only appear to have been a warning to the Democratic partisans to ease up. The remarks, high-minded though they sound, even undiagrammed, were actually a warning to John Kerry: "Just to remind you that it's a long way to November. Hillary and I have knives for every occasion, and they're all sharp."

The 2004 election is pivotal in the ambitions of the Clintons, who have successfully embedded sleeper agents across the party landscape. If Hillary has ambitions to recover the White House for the fun couple, it's necessary to make sure there is no Kerry presidency — unless she is a part of it. If she is a part of it, as the putative vice president, she will allow Monsieur Kerry only a share of the limelight. If she is not a part of the "Love-bug ticket" — emulating the tiny Gulf coastal marshflies (Plecia nearctica) who fly locked in permanent embrace, the smaller male backward with the larger, stronger female in control of the flight plan — there probably won't be a Kerry presidency. There might not be one even with her help. Life can be unfair, flying backward.

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The controlling arithmetic is simple and cast in iron. Hillary is 57 now. Four years hence she will be 61, moving swiftly past the shady side of prime for Hollywood leading ladies, high-fashion consultants and female presidential candidates.

If Monsieur Kerry runs without her, and wins, that leaves her on the sidelines cruising toward 65 and becoming eligible for Social Security in 2012, when the second Kerry term ends. She would probably have to contend then with the vice president to succeed Monsieur Kerry. Who might that be? Dick Gephardt? Bill Richardson? Bob Graham? Dennis Kucinich? The good news is that by 2012 the Clinton years will have long since faded in the public mind. Bill will have achieved rogue status as good ol' Bill, the rascal uncle in the nation's attic, Monica Lewinsky will be nothing but a name for Trivial Pursuit and Hillary might no longer have the highest negatives in American politics. The bad news is that by 2012, she would be just another senator getting a little long in the tooth, trying to hang on to the congressional perks for one more term.

September is lovebug season along the Gulf Coast, when the not-so-lovable little flies splatter by the billions against windshields, clog radiator grills and ruin picnics, and the picnic they would damage most this year would be the Kerry picnic. Not all 57 of the Heinz sauces could save it. The correspondents of press and tube salivate at the prospect of Hillary as Monsieur Kerry's running mate, and why not? The monsieur would be the also-ran of the campaign, more compelling than only Ralph Nader, foreshadowing a Kerry administration when political celebrities all over the world would be dying to attract Hillary to the funeral.

Monsieur Kerry finds himself in a true dilemma, with every alternative (to use the word loosely) worse than the others. Bill and Hillary, who hold all those marked cards, are determined to make the choice for him.

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

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