Jewish World Review Sept. 4, 2003/ 7 Elul, 5763

Wesley Pruden

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The Hillary wagon begins to roll | We're moving past Labor Day, and the Hillary for President campaign is beginning to bubble and soon there may be a little steam.

Her denial that there's anything to the speculation that she's running next year and not in '08 — a denial far short of a Sherman — hews carefully to a script carefully worked out by the fun couple.

She is "absolutely ruling it out," the former first lady told reporters in New York. Well, of course she is. Ruling it in comes later. She didn't say, as the infamous Tecumseh Sherman famously did, that she wouldn't run if nominated and wouldn't serve if elected.

Clintonspeak is not difficult to parse. Bill was similarly coy, back in Arkansas in that other century, making a solemn promise to his constituents that if they would elect him governor one more time he would absolutely, positively serve the full term and not even think about the White House. The dust had hardly settled on the Bible on which he made his oath before he was on his way to New Hampshire.

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Organizing a spontaneous draft is not easy, but this one will be easier than most. There's even a secondary "draft" under way, to get Wesley Clark in place to be her running mate, as cover in a time of war for that well-known Clinton loathing of the men and women of the military.

Desperate is as desperate does, and panic is the only way the Democrats can keep their wits about them. Who but a nanny can burp and diaper a party with a terminal case of the colic? If the early polls mean anything, New Hampshire voters regard Howard Dean, who is trying to give George McGovern a bad name, as the best of a bad lot, but nobody anywhere else has ever heard of the Democrats who would be president.

Two-thirds of a national sample polled for CBS-TV couldn't name even one of the seven Democratic dwarfs (or Carol Moseley Braun and Dennis Kucinich, who only aspire to dwarfhood). John Kerry, who was only yesterday the great white hope of the party, has made ketchup of his race and according to the CBS poll is fighting it out now with the Rev. Al Sharpton for fifth place in the affections of Democrats from coast to coast. Mr. Kerry is so bereft of traction that in desperation he's trying to make himself over as Howard Dean Lite, renouncing, sort of, his earlier support of the war in Iraq. He doesn't regret his vote authorizing the use of force to depose Saddam Hussein, but regrets that the war didn't turn out the way he thought it would although he can't seem to remember what he thought that would be.

"You can't vote for the war and then come out and criticize it in a way that seems to say that you weren't actually for it," Joe Lieberman told him Sunday on "Meet the Press."

Well, of course you can, but if you're going to do that, you have to do it with a little more style — with Úlan and panache, as the French-looking Mr. Kerry might say. You have to do it the way Bill Clinton did it on the eve of the first Gulf war a decade ago, when he said he would have voted for the war but he agreed with those who voted against it.

But if you're going to turn to clintonspeak, you might as well turn to a Clinton. A growing number of Democrats already do. "I would support her in a flash if she comes into the race, absolutely," Mario Cuomo, the former governor of New York who was the party's earlier great white hope, said over the weekend. "I believe she would have an excellent chance to defeat President Bush, and yes, I believe she would win." He, like everyone else, dismisses the current Democratic field as merely "babble."

Hillary threw out a choice cut of red meat, just to make sure that none of her fans takes her denial seriously. She climbed the steps of Manhattan's City Hall to denounce the president for giving "false assurances" that the air was safe to breathe in lower Manhattan in the wake of September 11. That big cloud of choking dust and toxic debris from the collapsing World Trade Center towers was the fault of George W. Bush, not of Osama bin Laden.

The false assurances were part of a White House "cover-up at the highest level," she said. "What transpired at the White House? I know a little bit about how White Houses work."

Indeed, she wrote the book on cover-ups, but irony that would humiliate the rest of us does not register on the Clintons, nor does it trouble Democratic true believers and Bush-haters in the blue states. So the dance begins. Nobody could mistake Hillary Clinton for a ballerina, but she and Bill know about choreography.

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

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