- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Introducing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, 53, of New York and probable Democratic candidate for president in 2004 if, that is, Al Gore gracefully withdraws from the Florida mess which many of his backers are urging him to do. Mrs. Clinton's nomination would come by acclamation at the 2004 Democratic Party convention to be held in a new stadium in Little Rock, Ark. That, I believe, is the Clinton dream.

From the standpoint of the Clintons, nothing would suit them better than for George W. Bush to become president under what Democrats could describe as clouded circumstances. A Republican White House incumbency with Hillary as leader of the opposition would be four years of high political drama. And as Maureen Dowd wrote in the New York Times Nov. 22: "The Democrats would prefer if Mr. Bush got the White House, so they could win Congress in two years."

It has been little noticed that the vice president is being nudged by Democrats like the influential Harlem congressman, Charles Rangel, a close adviser to Mrs. Clinton, please to get off the stage and let's get on with our business: to make George W. Bush's life miserable if he should enter the White House.

"I think Gore got pretty lucky picking the districts where he did pretty well for the recounts," Mr. Rangel said. "I think he ought to take that and accept whatever comes out of it."

Another black Democrat with national ambitions is San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who along with Mr. Rangel was quoted Nov. 21 by the London Independent as saying: "It's over, finished. That wasn't the case four days ago. Back then he was winning the public relations battle, but no more."

Peter Buttenwieser, heir to a banking fortune, whose $1.3 million in donations made him the top-ranking donor to the Democratic campaign, told the Los Angeles Times: "My own feeling is that Gore had a really terrific chance to win, and I think he squandered that chance. We ran a bad campaign at virtually every level." That doesn't sound like someone who wants to see Mr. Gore in the Oval Office.

Another wealthy Gore backer, Marvin Lender, was quoted in the British daily that he did not want the vice president to fight for the last vote or the last judge. "I am supportive of what's happened so far in the process," said Mr. Lender. "But I think at some point it has to come to an end, and it needs to be relatively soon."

The pro-Hillary forces in the Democratic Party see in a Gore "victory" a burdensome four years of having to defend a maimed presidency and a tainted president. How much better to have a George W. Bush to kick around for four years and then present him with a mature, remade Mrs. Clinton, as spokesperson for left liberalism.

As the leading New York Democrat, Mrs. Clinton starts with a big 33 electoral votes for a convention, and the strong backing of women, blacks and Jews, the big voting blocs that elected her to the Senate. And there will no New York "favorite son" to compete with her in 2004.

I would go so far as to predict that if Mr. Gore is successful in stealing the election, he will either retire after one term or more probably face a primary challenge from Mrs. Clinton.

And there is one other asset in Mrs. Clinton's favor: Whereas it would be absurd for an American male candidate to claim American manpower as his constituency, such is the state of the culture today that it would be within reason for Mrs. Clinton to claim the gender loyalty of American womanhood to her cause.

Mrs. Clinton, like her husband, has shown an extraordinary Teflon talent. No accusation, documented as it might be, sticks to them for very long. The Clintons are a unique couple, both maritally and politically. It was said during Mr. Clinton's first term with Mrs. Clinton as his Capitol Hill emissary that the American people were getting a bargain two for the price of one. We may again hear this repeated in 2004.

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