- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Gail Sheehy's recent book "Hillary's Choice" received a good deal of attention for controversial disclosures. But the following passage, which I came across while doing research for my own book on Mrs. Clinton, has gone largely unnoticed:

"Eight years of Bill, eight years of Hill. That was the dream. It was Hillary's private slogan. Early in his 1992 presidential campaign, I asked then Governor Clinton if he was concerned about being upstaged by his wife. He was unfazed. 'I've always liked strong women. It doesn't bother me for people to see her and get excited and say she could be president too.' 'So, after eight years of Bill Clinton?' I teased. 'Eight years of Hillary Clinton,' he said. 'Why not?' "

Recent events have made it crystal clear to even the most casual Clinton observer that he wasn't kidding. Hillary Rodham Clinton has every intention of seeking the Democratic nomination for president of these United States in 2004, and outgoing President Clinton is setting the stage and leading the charge. Sure, Mrs. Clinton made a solemn pledge to New Yorkers that she would serve a full six-year term in the Senate. But let us recall that Mr. Clinton made a similar pledge to Arkansans when he sought re-election as governor in 1990.

After winning that contest, he "heard the call" of America and the Democratic Party to seek the presidency. So he embarked on you guessed it his own type of "listening tour" to let his constituents help decide whether he should break his promise and seek the nomination in 1992. Shortly thereafter, Clinton flacks declared something to the effect that Arkansans overwhelmingly agreed that considering the dire straits of the nation under George Bush, it would be selfish to keep this great man to themselves. The trick worked brilliantly, the media bought it hook, line and sinker.

Eventually, we got the "eight years of Bill." As for the "eight years of Hill," despite her vehement current denials, Mrs. Clinton will soon hear the call, (which has already come from New York Democratic Chairwoman Judith Hope and others). She will eventually hesitantly, of course tour New York and once again listen. And shortly thereafter, Clinton flacks will obediently declare something along the lines of: "New Yorkers agree, George W. Bush has been so bad for America, that we simply must offer up our beloved senator to the nation." And she'll be off to the races. Unlike Mr. Clinton in 1992, however, her nomination will be assured.

Behind the scenes, right now, that assurance is being locked in. As phase one of the "eight years of Bill, eight years of Hill" deal winds down, unusually brazen measures even by Clinton standards are underway to seal the deal for Mrs. Clinton and send a clear signal to any other Democrat who may have designs on the nomination that they need not apply.

Take the appointment of Clinton financier-fixer Terry McAuliffe as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Mr. McAuliffe, architect of Lincoln bedroom sleep overs and other campaign finance chicanery, comes with significant baggage, and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mr. and Mrs. Clinton. Hardly the fresh start that most Democrats now seek. Despite strong objections from key party factions such as members of the Congressional Black Caucus and, reportedly, Vice President Gore himself, it looks as though there will be no room for discussion. Mr. McAuliffe is in, and arm-in-arm with Mr. Clinton, he will rule the minority party with an iron fist. The duo will focus solely on attacking the Bush administration, pumping up Hillary, and raising enough money to keep wanna-bes at bay and potential dissidents in check.

Ghosts from the past who may have a bone to pick or an incriminating item to share with America are being handled too. Individuals who really have the goods on the Clintons (and who are not dead), have all been indicted, convicted of crimes, or probably face such problems in the near future. Alas, they're being pardoned at this very moment by the outgoing president. And if anyone happens to slip through the cracks, they can likely be taken care of, because the machine will still be going at full steam. Mrs. Clinton will take the high road, comfortable in her position as de-facto Senate Democratic leader, and leave the slash-and-burn to Mr. Clinton and Mrs. McAuliffe.

The as-yet-unwritten book for which she will immediately be paid the second highest cash advance in history (just under the $8.5 million that went to Catholic charities as an advance for Pope John Paul II's "Crossing the Threshold of Hope") will look forward, not backward. Such a work would take six months at best to write, but for some reason, Mrs. Clinton has ordered that it not be released until early 2003 exactly when anyone running for president in 2004 would release a book. She will use it, and the "buzz" which is sure to ensue, as a vehicle with which to help justify her candidacy to New Yorkers and America.

But what about Mr. Gore? As far as the Clintons and their handpicked new party leaders are concerned, he had his shot a good, clear shot at that and he blew it. As a result, Mr. Gore is on a turbo-track to join Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis in the irrelevant ash heap to which failed Democratic presidential nominees are brutally banished by their own as if it were a party by-law. This will be confirmed when his losing campaign strategists are soon more in demand for media and other appearances than he is (what I call the Susan Estrich Bob Beckel phenomenon).

Let's not kid ourselves, the Clinton era is not dead yet. Bush vs. Clinton, the sequel, is coming to a town near you in 2004. And on their side, at least, the campaign is already in full swing.

Christian Josi is executive director of the American Conservative Union.

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