Jewish World Review June 9, 2004 / 20 Sivan, 5764
A Hillary-Kerry, oops, Kerry-Hillary ticket?
Why is Bill Clinton bringing out his memoirs five weeks before the Democratic National Convention? Why is Harry Thomasson Clinton loyalist and media person releasing his film The Hunting of the President at the same time? And why has the former president chosen to schedule a book-signing in Boston during the Democratic conclave?
Coincidence? If you think so, you don't know Bill and Hillary.
Mr. Clinton could easily have delayed his book until after the election. Christmas books sell very well, and he'll still be an ex-president then. Why the rush? Three theories suggest themselves:
o Mr. Clinton has a unique form of attention deficit disorder: He's disordered when he doesn't get enough attention. So perhaps he just can't hold it in anymore, and has to release his book to gratify his ego and assuage his boredom.
Don't believe that theory. Mr. Clinton will get plenty of attention at the convention and can grab the headlines anytime he wants.
o The second possibility is that he wants to defeat John Kerry so that Hillary can run in 2008 for president without either having to cope with an incumbent Democratic president or waiting until 2012 for her shot.
Mr. Kerry desperately needs the run-up to the Democratic Convention to reintroduce himself to the voters. His disastrous post-primary performance, in which he whiled away the time on the slopes of Aspen and had elective shoulder surgery as George W. Bush savaged him and defined him with tens of millions of unanswered negative ads, has left a sour taste in voters' mouths.
Even as Mr. Bush stumbles and falls over Iraq and loses 10 points in eight weeks, Mr. Kerry seems unable to pick up the ground the president has lost. Mr. Bush's support is down, but Mr. Kerry's is not up. The ranks of the undecided have swelled.
By sucking up the oxygen in the room during July, Mr. Clinton cripples Mr. Kerry and forces him to compete for attention with a charismatic former president. The Massachusetts senator will look a decided second best to Bill Clinton, and will find it very difficult to get traction for a relaunch at the convention.
o But the third possibility is the most interesting. Mr. Clinton could be building the perfect storm to nominate Hillary for vice president. He could be creating an all-Clinton, all-the-time environment, giving himself platforms around the country to praise his wife and hype her prospects for the nomination. He could be using the book as an excuse to campaign for Hillary's nomination in a way she could never do for herself.
Or it could be a combination of all three explanations.
Mr. Clinton doubtless craves the attention. He is the ultimate narcissist; deprived of a mirror, he can't function. Without the adoring masses, he hasn't the inner self-image to carry him through the day.
But he may also be sending Mr. Kerry a message: "I own the oxygen in this room. This is my party and you are the guest. If you nominate my wife for VP, fine. If not, be prepared for more of same. You'll be pulling knives out of your back throughout the fall."
Does Hillary want the VP slot? No. Who would? As Nelson Rockefeller said, "I never wanted to be vice president of anything."
But if Mr. Kerry wins, somebody will get the vice presidency. And since 1960, all five vice presidents who sought their party's nomination for president got it Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, Gerald Ford, George Bush and Al Gore. If Mr. Kerry nominates a Wesley Clark, a John Edwards or a Bill Richardson for the No. 2 position, Hillary will have just acquired a rival for the 2012 presidential nomination. But if Hillary takes the job herself, she has the nomination sewn up, likely without a primary.
Will Mr. Kerry bite? Can he avoid biting? Will Mr. Clinton create such a firestorm that Hillary has an irresistible momentum for the nomination? The Clintons are betting it will work out. And don't sell them short. Ever.
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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