Smile—That’s the Ticket!


Rudolph Giuliani, no friend of Hillary Clinton, lampooned her at a public appearance not long ago, saying, “I fully expect that come this November, when all is said and done, behind the sanctity of the voting-booth curtain, I and Mrs. Clinton will be voting for the same person: George W. Bush.”

This was, of course, a sarcastic reference to the political bind Senator Clinton presently finds herself in: having to smile and support a Democratic ticket that could, if victorious against President Bush, impair her own chances for the Oval Office. It needs to be said that Republican Giuliani—who has of late been suffering from a major case of hubris—is himself in search of the presidency. (Giuliani and his new wife, Judith, have likened their life together to that of Winston Churchill and his beloved Clementine.)

Even if the Kerry-Edwards ticket loses to Bush, North Carolina senator John Edwards, who, like Hillary Clinton, is a formidable campaigner and fundraiser, could be a serious threat to her in the 2008 Democratic primaries.

I don’t think Clinton will actually cast her vote for Bush, but I do think that a reasonable person, drawing on human history, can validly opine that both Clintons are very conflicted souls these days. They know they must issue flowery boilerplate declarations of support for the Democratic ticket—and both have already done so—and they will probably make campaign appearances for Kerry and Edwards. But they have left little doubt that they want back in the White House, this time with roles reversed—would his title be First Gentleman?—and they cannot be happy in their present uncomfortable fix.

The television talk shows are already salivating over this issue, easily finding the necessary gassers to wag their partisan tongues. Sunday night on Fox, Susan Turnbull, deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, said Hillary was whole-hearted in her support of her ticket. “She’s part of our team,” said Turnbull. “She’s already been front-row and center.” Brad Blakeman, a former Bush assistant and apparently a mixer of metaphors, responded by calling the New York senator a grinning “Cheshire cat” who had no choice but to “drink the Kool-Aid.”

Our presidential campaigns keep moving deeper and deeper into the surreal. Bill Clinton says the timing of the release of his autobiography, My Life, was purely coincidental, swearing on his Boy Scout’s oath that he has no intention of drawing attention away from the Kerry campaign. Sure. So why didn’t he wait and release the book after the election? The Republicans, meanwhile, keep saying that Edwards doesn’t have the experience to be vice president, but that Dick Cheney, who is being investigated for everything from corporate sleaze at Halliburton to cronyism on energy policy, definitely has the gravitas for the job. And if you disagree with that, Cheney will use his favorite F-word on you. Some gravitas.

We may find that after all the early hugging and air kisses between them and the Clintons, Kerry and Edwards won’t be calling on Hillary and Bill too often to join hands with them at campaign rallies—even though Hillary did say in her congratulatory press release last week that “Democrats and independent-minded Americans have reason to be electrified about the Kerry-Edwards team.” Was “electrocuted” the word she had in her heart?

Ever since her election to the Senate in November 2000, Americans of all political stripes have assumed that she was seeking to become the first woman president in U.S. history. She had already spent eight years in the White House; why wouldn’t she want to be Eleanor Roosevelt with tangible power?

Though she has always sidestepped questions about the presidency, she has never come close to ruling out a run for the office. Her own husband openly touted her for the vice presidential slot on the Kerry ticket, even though she said she wasn’t interested. In fact, two women’s groups—American Women Presidents and Ms. President PAC—endorsed her as the vice presidential nominee this year. She has not directed them, or any other supporters of a White House ascendancy, to discontinue their activities. The last woman picked by a major party as a vice presidential candidate was Representative Geraldine Ferraro of New York on the Walter Mondale ticket in 1984. They were whomped by Ronald Reagan and his VP, the first George Bush.

During presidential campaigns especially, political advisers, pundits, and tea-leaf readers are forever making predictions. None will be made here, since to predict the future is to have to be ready at all times to admit you were wrong. The lives of the Clintons or the Edwardses may have changed drastically by 2008 or 2012. And for those who think age might be a factor, Hillary will not turn 65 until just before the 2012 election, which would not make her too old to run for president even then.

The only flat prediction I’ve seen about Hillary is from a psychic to the stars (Hollywood and Washington). Carmen Harra, a Romanian-born seer who says she has advised Candice Bergen and Jennifer Lopez, issued a forecast that Hillary would make a bid for the presidency in 2008. Harra had earlier predicted that Hillary would be elected to the Senate. As for 2008, Harra added that Hillary would be opposed by a female Republican candidate from the South. “There’s someone younger than Hillary, 10 years younger, 12 years younger, that is not so well-known at this point,” the clairvoyant was quoted as saying.

In the meantime, Hillary will have to play pretend, wear a Kerry-Edwards campaign button, and grin and bear it. She seems to be doing all right at this. The only problem is that if she has to smile all the time, while her heart is breaking, her face might crack.