Jewish World Review July 16, 2004/ 27 Tamuz, 5764

Wesley Pruden

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It's payback time, but who's paying? | Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party, but that doesn't necessarily include all good women. You could ask Hillary Clinton.

Better yet, you could ask the mister. Whether you should necessarily believe him is a topic for another day. He's not under oath, after all.

Miss Hillary, no slouch as a pol in her own right, insists that she's not at all upset that John Kerry sent word that if she wants to attend the Democratic National Convention, opening in just over a week's time in Boston, she'll have to buy her own ticket. She will be relegated to a police line-up with several other prominent Democratic women, allowed to sit on the stage as long as she keeps quiet. (But no chador required.)

This is the kind of buzz Washington can't get enough of. The snub buzz emerged on a day when the Federal Marriage Amendment was derailed by the Senate, when an official but semi-hostile investigating panel cleared Tony Blair of misleading his government and his public about the reasons for going to war, and, to console the sleazy leftmost critics of George W. Bush, there was news of more blood and mayhem in Iraq. The implications of Monsieur Kerry's snubbing of Miss Hillary was nevertheless the buzz that drowned the tinkle of the ice cubes at the cool, dark places where Capitol Hill practices the rites of campaign summer.

When a radio interviewer in Binghampton asked Miss Hillary whether she was disappointed that Howard Dean and Teddy Kennedy were getting top billing and she wasn't getting any, she laughed the laugh that sounded a lot like the laugh when the boss tells a joke. "No," she said, of course she wasn't disappointed, not at all. "I've had many opportunities in the past."

Nevertheless, various toadies were soon put hard at work in her behalf, determined to squeeze another flop from Monsieur Kerry before he flips somewhere else. James Carville, the most reliable of the Clinton liege men, sounded confident that Monsieur Kerry would cave like a regiment of Iraq's Republican Guard. "You want your convention to be about why John Kerry should be president, not why Hillary Clinton is not speaking," he said. "This will get fixed."

Maybe, but the fixin' could be worse than the breakin'. If Monsieur Kerry caves he'll look like the errant schoolboy kept after class, to be taken into the cloakroom to bend over for the angry schoolmarm. If he doesn't, he'll tempt the Clintons to wish the Democratic campaign something less than the best of luck, not that they'll need any encouragement to be discouraging.

The snub has all the marks of cunning calculation. Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico who was once on Monsieur Kerry's short list from which to choose a running mate, said earlier in the week that Miss Hillary would be invited to speak at a prominent time in Boston because "she's a major star in the party." But she wasn't invited, and as if to rub it in a little the monsieur named as a speaker Christie Vilsack, who is not even a governor but a wife of, who endorsed Monsieur Kerry early in Iowa when her husband had to stand aside as "neutral."

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"To include the wife of the governor of Iowa, who I'm sure is a wonderful woman," says Judith Hope, a former chairman of the New York Democratic Party and now a major party fund-raiser, "and not include Hillary Clinton is just such a glaring injustice. It is, frankly, very stupid."

The buzz suggests two reasons for the snub, both credible and neither very reassuring for the Kerry prospects. The first is that Monsieur Kerry has a long memory, and recalls that neither of the Clintons wanted to have anything to do with him when his candidacy was on the ropes just before the Iowa caucuses, and this is payback time. The other explanation is that snubbing Hillary is part of the strategy of keeping John Edwards "viable within the system" for 2008 if George W. Bush prevails in November.

Keeping Miss Hillary herself viable within the system, preferably for '08 but surely for '12, is the only goal of the Clintons, and prudent rivals can expect them to do whatever it takes. The former president, in an interview with Financial Times, the British newspaper, said all the right things about how two Johns are necessary for the comfort and relief of the party, but to really mean it would require that the Clintons sacrifice their own interests, to put selfish concerns aside, to deny themselves, to think only of others. Hmmmmm. Yes, that's it. That must be what they're up to.

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

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