New York

Eyes Right on Hillary


While the D.C. political pros who started the Let’s Smear Dean campaign probably hoped that Wes Clark would be like a Delta Force ops guy taking out the feisty doctor quietly and fast, they apparently didn’t figure on Clark waking up and deciding he actually wanted to be president.

Everyone knows Clark is kiss-ass to Clinton, and quite naturally now he’s being touted as Hillary’s best bet as a veep. Hillary says she’s not running this time, but tell that to the conservatives. The Washington Times on Monday quoted Frank J. Donatelli, a former Reagan White House political director, as saying, “In getting Clark to run, Bill Clinton could have had in mind creating an acceptable vice president to run with Hillary.”

He added, “Whether Clark will have that in mind is something else. Even more pointed an indicator is the new Gallup poll, which for the first time shows signs of some vulnerability for President Bush. And if she gets into the race, they have concluded she has a real chance to win in 2004—though I still think Bush has the edge.”

Of course, conservatives have another motive here. Just as they are trying to energize their Christian base with Bush talking like he wants a constitutional amendment against gays getting married, they can hit all their bases with Hillary as a foe. Every conservative Republican will vote if she runs. Right now, Republicans figure they can beat any of the Democrat doofs, but if Bush’s figures continue to fall—and the Gallup poll suggests that’s the case—and Hillary appears, then they will need to turn out their base across the country. Like nothing else, Hillary will get right-wingers to the polls.

Charley Black, the noted Republican campaign adviser, thinks it’s almost too late for Hillary to get into the race. However, Joe Cerrell, a California Democratic campaign consultant, told The Washington Times, “Clark would make the perfect running mate for Hillary—he has all the national security credentials she doesn’t have.” But Cerrell thought Clark might rebel, conceivably arguing, “Why are you telling me I should get out? I’m the one leading in the polls.”

Additional reporting: Ashley Glacel and Phoebe St John

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