Washington — My sympathies go out to those unfortunate political reporters whose beat is Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her toing and froing on pest removal in Baghdad must be maddening. Last October she voted for the resolution authorizing war with Iraq. In a January press conference she was telling reporters that the President “still has to make his case to the American people with respect to any action that might be taken.” At the same time she said “I also believe that we should give the inspections time to work.” In February she told Irish TV she opposed imminent war with Iraq. This week she supports war but would hope inspections disarm Saddam. On the other hand, an aide said Senator Clinton “fully supports the steps the president has taken to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.” The aide’s name is Philippe Reines, which sounds French to me.
So what is the cause of the New York senator’s oscillations? Is it attention deficit disorder? Is she lying, again? Has she become forgetful? Truth be known, she is running for president. In 2004 she plans to be the Democratic presidential nominee. Sure Dr. Howard Dean has the momentum right now, but she thinks she can snatch the nomination from him, and I am afraid I agree. This is one of the few times I have ever agreed with Mrs. Clinton. Yes, we have agreed on the moral qualities of her husband, but that and her chances to snatch the nomination from Dr. Howard Dean are about it.
Frankly I have relished the thought of Dr. Howard Dean campaigning against President George W. Bush in 2004. The President would be flying hither and yon in Air Force One, boasting of how one of his generals has done for Iraq what General Douglas MacArthur once did for Japan. Dr. Howard Dean would be traversing the country in some clever populist mode, perhaps on a Greyhound bus, possibly bicycling. He would be holding town meetings and hosting brown bag lunches to summon his core constituency: the Really Forgotten American or the Uninsured and the Angry or Americans So Poor They Eat Dog Food, or whatever down-and-out constituency his delusional mind decides will carry him into the White House as President Dr. Howard Dean.
Well, Hillary is going to deny me the fun of witnessing his candidacy. She recognizes that — win or lose — she has got to go for the nomination in 2004. She might win, but if she loses against this very popular president she will be able to claim that she came to the Democrats’ defense in a dark hour, when only nebbishes sought the party’s nomination, nebbishes that could disgrace it for years to come. She will have gained control of the party for four more years. Then in 2008 the nomination will be hers and after eight years of a Republican president and twelve years of the Bush Dynasty the country will welcome her.
Polls say that even with the charismatic John Kerry and Al Sharpton in the race Hillary remains the Democratic front-runner. Take my word for it; at the proper moment she will announce. In fact she almost has to. If she waits to run in 2008 her name recognition will have gone stale and other winsome candidates might have come to the fore among Democrats. Dr. Howard Dean is not the only prodigy in the party. What is more, unless she establishes her presidential bona fides now, Bill could get in some disgraceful scrape damaging to the Clinton name. There could be paternity suits or some unspeakable scandal with a cleric — they are available in both sexes now. He is, after all, reputed to be very spiritual and ecumenical. .
Hence we shall see the junior senator from New York State making many contradictory statements over the next months. That will keep her name in the headlines. It will also keep the different voting blocs in the Democratic Party hopeful that she favors them. There will be clever positions taken for the ethnics, the environmentalists, the people with eating disorders, the mothers against drunk driving, the drivers against drunk mothers. The thing to remember is that she does not have to win in 2004. All she has to do is acquit herself well and that will not take much. Standards for her are not very high. The press accepts her and Democrats vote for her despite the fact that she has been repeatedly caught lying in public. She has been caught associating with crooks. Subpoenaed materials show up in her home years after the subpoenas are issued. For Hillary the bar is forever low. Perhaps the 2004 Democratic ticket will be Clinton and Dr. Howard Dean. He would add a touch of whimsy.
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