- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 31, 2001

It occurs to me that if an English-speaking Martian were to visit our nation for a short while, he might reasonably conclude that Hillary Clinton and John McCain were engaging in a bipartisan contest to become President Bushs chief nemesis and general thorn in the side.

At the risk of irritating some McCainiacs and liberals, I should point out that a couple of other things the two senatorial irritants have in common are that they both aspire to the presidency and neither has a very realistic prospect of attaining it.

Don´t get me wrong; I don´t underestimate Hillary or her capacity for self-advancement. But I just happen to believe that when she occupies various roles of power, as opposed to that of a victimized spouse, she makes herself transparently and abundantly unlikable. It happened with her health-care scheme and will probably happen for the next six years as New York´s senior Junior Senator. She is an irrepressible ideologue whose liberalism is unpalatable to the electorate at large.

Hillary is already stumping as if she were minority leader of the Senate, and George Bush is in her opportunistic sights. Last week Hillary blasted Mr. Bush for proposing cuts in children´s health programs to help finance his $1.6 trillion tax cut. She called the "cuts" unacceptable. Never mind that Mr. Bush´s recommended reductions in the rate of increase on spending for these items are not cuts. Also never mind that Mr. Bush is actually recommending real increases in education spending, Medicare and for the National Institutes of Health.

The more important point, though, is that Hillary doesn´t bother to explain how she and her cohorts can criticize Mr. Bush for fiscal irresponsibility when they refuse to restrain their own limitless governmental spending. But the facts don´t matter; grandstanding is what is important, especially when you are aiming for the White House.

Hillary stepped up her attacks on Mr. Bush over the weekend. In pure Clinton-speak, she charged that he was trying "to turn back the clock 50 or 60 years." Mr. Bush doesn´t just want to turn the clock back on the sainted Clinton administration, Hillary complained, but "back on the Roosevelt administration." (If I were Mr. Bush, I would take that as a compliment, even though that´s not the spirit in which Hillary delivered it.)

Hillary castigated Mr. Bush for his "flip-flop" on his campaign pledge to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions and for blocking oppressive ergonomic standards forced through by Mr. Clinton in his final days. I say kudos to Mr. Bush for both, even if the first involved a change of mind since the campaign. At least when this Mr. Bush changes his mind, it is in a more conservative direction; and trust me, he will never get in much trouble that way.

These two incidents of Hillary assuming center stage to attack Mr. Bush are just a foreshadowing of what we can expect over the coming months and years. She is on a mission; a mission that has been in the offing for years and is just now coming into full bloom.

Sen. McCain, Arizona Republican, is flanking Mr. Bush from the other side of the aisle, but no less effectively and systematically. While Mr. Bush is trying to get his tax package through, Mr. McCain is obsessing (and trying to force every other senator to obsess) on campaign-finance "reform." Putting aside the fact that McCain-Feingold is flagrantly unconstitutional and political suicide for Mr. McCain´s fellow Republicans, it is not an urgent matter like the tax-cut package, unless you define urgency as Mr. McCain´s desire to steal the limelight from Mr. Bush.

Beyond his pet issue, Mr. McCain is undermining Mr. Bush´s agenda in other areas as well, all while professing to be his good friend. Whether or not Mr. McCain ends up running for the presidency in 2004, he is otherwise doing his best to reduce Mr. Bush´s chances at re-election. McCain has criticized Mr. Bush´s tax package as too large, and he is at odds with the administration on gun control and legislation concerning a patients´ bill of rights.

Hillary and the Democrats are trying to steal Mr. Bush´s momentum, and Mr. McCain and other liberal Republican senators are providing an assist. While Mr. Bush is being attacked from all sides, it is important that conservatives stick with him, lest his entire agenda be diluted beyond recognition.

Meanwhile Mr. Bush remains focused and is not allowing those without a mandate (Democrats or Mr. McCain) to divert his attention from his agenda. Though Mr. Bush faces many obstacles, he is developing a lasting relationship with his conservative base. That is exactly as it ought to be. Hang in there, Dubya.

David Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated columnist.

David Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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