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Joe Mariani

Clinton Backing Bush? Don't Bet On It!
July 24, 2003

There's something creepily fascinating about watching Bill Clinton work his verbal magic. Knowing that what he's saying has nothing to do with what he's trying to accomplish gives everything he says the air of a mystery, a game with rules that may change from time to time. It's akin to watching a very good stage magician, knowing that he's fooling you, but unable to resist trying to figure out how. Bill Clinton is a man who plans everything he says in public with the urgency of Patton preparing to take on Rommel.

During a phone call Clinton made to the Larry King show this past Tuesday, he made some statements which caused a little "shock and awe" among those who have been ceaselessly attacking the President of late. In fact, not one of the nine Democratic Presidential hopefuls has had a word to say in the two days since.

...Let me tell you what I know. When I left office, there was a substantial amount of biological and chemical material unaccounted for. That is, at the end of the first Gulf War, we knew what he had. We knew what was destroyed in all the inspection processes and that was a lot. And then we bombed with the British for four days in 1998. We might have gotten it all; we might have gotten half of it; we might have gotten none of it. But we didn't know. So I thought it was prudent for the president to go to the U.N. and for the U.N. to say you got to let these inspectors in, and this time if you don't cooperate the penalty could be regime change, not just continued sanctions.
I mean, we're all more sensitive to any possible stocks of chemical and biological weapons. So there's a difference between British -- British intelligence still maintains that they think the nuclear story was true. I don't know what was true, what was false. I thought the White House did the right thing in just saying, Well, we probably shouldn't have said that. And I think we ought to focus on where we are and what the right thing to do for Iraq is now. That's what I think.
...
We should be pulling for America on this. We should be pulling for the people of Iraq. We can have honest disagreements about where we go from here, and we have space now to discuss that in what I hope will be a nonpartisan and open way. But this State of the Union deal they decided to use the British intelligence. The president said it was British intelligence. Then they said on balance they shouldn't have done it. You know, everybody makes mistakes when they are president. I mean, you can't make as many calls as you have to make without messing up once in awhile. The thing we ought to be focused on is what is the right thing to do now. That's what I think.
Now, some people might think that Bill Clinton did a nice thing to stand behind the President like that. If you think so, you're wrong. Don't ever go into politics, for your own sake and mine. Bill Clinton was thinking mainly about two things when he planned the remarks he would use on the air: the past and the future. His.

The Past
Clinton knows how the far Left have lately been loudly doubting the very existence of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Whether that doubt's been false (from the players) or real (from their dupes), Clinton knows as much as anyone that those weapons were there in 1998 (see my article, "Whining of Mass Distraction: How To Discredit A President"). After all, when Clinton ordered the bombing of Iraq in '98, he said in part, "Their mission is to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbours... Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbours or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons." He knows that whether they've been buried in unmarked areas, or under some of those mass graves, or tucked safely away in the Beka'a Valley in Lebanon, those weapons exist. (Yes, I would dig below some of those mass graves if I were there -- Saddam's people seem to have had a penchant for hiding things where no sane person would want to look.) If you check out his recent speeches and walk-on appearances, Clinton has been bashing Bush with the best of them -- but has never said Saddam's WMDs weren't there. Apparently, unlike most Democrats and Liberals, Clinton paid attention to the recent Tom Brokaw interview with David Kay, head weapons inspector in Iraq. When asked about the documentary evidence he's uncovered, Kay said, "[E]very WMD program in this country has always had large elements of foreign procurement. So we’re finding purchasing records that tells us what they imported. They also - they were assiduous as record-keepers. So we’re finding progress reports. They also got financial rewards from Saddam Hussein by indicating breakthroughs. They actually went to Saddam and said we have made this progress. Their records, their audio tapes of those interviews give us that. There’s just - it’s a variety of things that are here."

The Future
As I've opined before (see my article, "How Can We Miss The Clintons If They Won't Go Away?"), the Clintons are aiming for a return to the White House, with Hillary as President and Bill as the first First, um, Gentleman. Key to this strategy is keeping the Nine Nobodies seeking Democratic candidacy looking as weak as possible, cutting them off at the knees when their vicious attacks on President Bush -- their only platform -- start gaining traction. If it begins to look as if they might weaken Bush enough to lose the election, then Hillary will step in and announce her candidacy for '04. That's not terribly likely, so their plan is for Hillary to run in '08. Any other Democrat winning the '04 election would ruin that plan, as he (or she, if anyone wants to pretend Carol Moseley Braun has a snowball's chance) would run for re-election in '08. Hillary doesn't want to wait until 2012 to make her run at the White House; she'll be 65 by the time she'd take office (and she plans for two terms). So the strategy is to weaken the Democratic hopefuls enough to keep them from winning under any circumstances, while weakening President Bush enough to allow Hillary to win if possible. That's why the book with Hillary's name on it (written by three ghost-writers) came out just when the Democratic wannabes started their contest to see who gets to lose to Bush in 2004. That's why Bill's book is scheduled for release in the fall of 2004. Whoever gets the Democratic nomination for 2004 is doomed to political obscurity by the cold ambition of the Clintons.

Clinton's apparent backing of Bush was a shrewdly calculated political ploy. As much as Clinton's remarks strengthened the President, they weakened the Democratic Party far more. With Democratic Leadership Council chairman Terry McAuliffe running anti-Bush attack ads on TV (with Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech carefully edited to pretend he didn't attribute the uranium intelligence given us by the British TO the British), Clinton's support of the President has severely damaged the Democratic attack strategy. It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Most importantly, the Republicans had better start thinking about who to run for President in 2008. If they'd take my advice, it would be to replace Dick Cheney with Colin Powell, and give him four years of on-the-job training before putting him up against Hillary in '08. Now that would be a race to remember.

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