Jewish World Review May 5, 2004 / 14 Iyar, 5764
Clinton steals the show
Bill Clinton has now been out of office for 39 months. There are but six months to go until the election. Why must he choose June to publish his memoirs?
Why bring them out during the election campaign? Couldn't the $10 million payday wait a few more weeks until the election was over? Obviously, John Kerry would rather that Clinton wait until after the election to publish.
Clinton used to flinch whenever Jimmy Carter spoke in public during his 1992 campaign. Constantly fearful of identification with Carter's presidency, Clinton went out of his way to distance himself from his predecessor.
Al Gore needed to give Clinton a wide berth in 2000, not just because of Monica Lewinsky, but in order to establish his own identity as an "alpha male."
Hillary, too, needed her own space during her Senate race and Clinton cooperated staying on the sidelines, discreetly quiet - and busily raising money - while Gore and Hillary ran their campaigns. So why is Clinton jumping in now?
The impact of Clinton's memoirs on the Kerry campaign cannot have escaped so astute a political observer as our 42nd president. He knows full well what he is doing and what its effect on the Kerry campaign will be.
When Clinton's book hits the shelves, Kerry will not be able to get a word in edgewise. All the stories will be about Clinton, just as the Democratic candidate for president is trying to define his themes and get out his message.
Clinton will, of course, use the book tour to campaign for Kerry. He will knock President Bush and praise the Massachusetts Democrat extravagantly. But nothing will deflect from the attention Clinton will get and Kerry will not. There is only so much oxygen in the room and the president will suck it all up.
Clinton is deciding to publish now because he wants to deprive Kerry of momentum. He realizes that if Kerry wins, Hillary will probably never be president. He knows that she won't be able to run in 2008 because a victorious Kerry would undoubtedly seek re-election. Even in 2012, it is Kerry's vice president who would be the likely nominee. And, if he or she wins, he'll run for a second term in 2016. By 2020, Hillary will be 73.
Or is Clinton publishing in June to generate momentum to force Kerry to put his wife on the ticket?
Either way, Clinton must know the impact his publication is likely to have. Kerry did not have a very good introduction to the American people. His post-primary period has been, thus far, a disaster, with his own flubs emphasizing Bush's accusation that he is unready to lead America during wartime.
The Democratic National Convention, in early August, is his chance to re-introduce himself. He needs all of June and July to build momentum. But instead, he will face all Clinton all the time.
After the Democratic Convention, Kerry faces two events that will leave him gasping for breath - the Republican Convention at the end of August and the third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. He desperately needs a good summer to prepare and fortify his vote against these shocks.
But now Clinton is robbing him of the chance. And that is not by chance.
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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, most recently, "Rewriting History", a rebuttal of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) memoir, Living History. (ClickHERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) Comment by clicking here.
© 2004, Dick Morris