There's a powerful political movement afoot to draft Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., for president in 2004. Its partisans are committed almost to the point of fanaticism, and their number is growing by the hour. This thing is an absolute juggernaut. Even so, the Draft Hillary '04 forces probably won't secure their candidate's Democratic nomination. Why not? Because they're all Republicans!
All right, that's a slight exaggeration. After considerable investigative effort, Chatterbox was able to identify five Democrats who think Hillary Clinton should enter the nomination race. The only one you've likely heard of is Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York, who earlier this month told the New York Post, "I would support her in a flash if she came into the race." But Clinton isn't Cuomo's first draft choice; last month he was touting Al Gore. And even Cuomo says he doesn't expect Clinton to run.
Who are the other "Draft Hillary" Democrats? Well, there's Randy S. Howington, who set up this Web site, apparently as a sideline to his main interest, which is honoring the memory of John Denver. A "Vote Democratic" button on the Hillary site indicates Howington's party allegiance. A Miami-based gay rights activist named Robert Kunst is taking time away from his presidency of the Oral Majority (slogan: "No More Bushit!") to circulate a "Draft Hillary" petition online. Kunst is a Democrat, too (though in 2000 he ran for Florida governor as an independent). Kunst is allied with Adam Parkhomenko, a freshman at Northern Virginia Community College who earlier this month registered his "Draft Hillary 2004 for President Committee" with the Federal Election Commission. Parkhomenko is a Democrat. Finally, Esme Taylor of Sausalito, Calif., has a Web site, the Hillary Clinton Forum, that advocates a presidential run. Taylor runs the Yellow Pages Superhighway, a search engine for Yellow Pages listings around the country, and, yes, she's a Democrat.
These scattered grass-roots efforts hardly add up to a significant movement within the Democratic Party. Conceivably, they may someday; many great political campaigns had small beginnings. But the halting progress of the Draft Hillary movement on the left is a joke when compared to the rapid snowballing of the Draft Hillary movement on the right. To conservatives, it's a mainstream article of faith that Bill Clinton, who in the end could be stopped only by the constitutional limit on presidential terms, will come back to haunt Republicans by installing his wife in the White House. Booga-booga!
Who are the "Draft Hillary" conservatives? You'd do better to ask who isn't. Here's a very incomplete sampling:
William Safire wrote about the Clintons' plan for a 2004 Restoration in the Sept. 22 New York Times. According to Safire, Bill Clinton encouraged Wesley Clark's entry into the race in order to leach support from Howard Dean, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and Dick Gephardt:
If Bush stumbles and the Democratic nomination becomes highly valuable, the Clintons probably think they would be able to get Clark to step aside without splintering the party, rewarding his loyalty with second place on the ticket.
In his online column of Sept. 18, Wall Street Journal editorialist John Fund floated the "stalking horse" theory more cautiously before concluding that even if Clark won, the result would be another Clinton presidency:
Should Mr. Clark be elected president, the Clintons would have a strong ally in the Oval Office. If he does well but doesn't get the nomination, he may be viewed as a suitable running mate for Mrs. Clinton or some other Democratic nominee in the future. … Mr. Clark no doubt is his own man, but with so many old Clinton hands surrounding him, don't be surprised if Mr. Clinton is occasionally tempted to act as if he were still Mr. Clark's commander-in-chief.
President Bush's cousin, John Ellis, envisions a variation on this theme in which Hillary Clinton becomes Clark's running mate.
Former Clinton wunderkind Dick Morris, who has long made clear his loathing for Hillary Clinton, claimed in a Sept. 21 interview with Monica Crowley on New York's WABC radio that Hillary and Bill told 150 Democratic Party fat cats dining at their Chappaqua home "not to give money to anybody else." For some reason, Morris had left this detail out of an earlier (Sept. 8) telling of this story on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor.
Conservative columnist Mark Steyn urged Clinton to run in an Aug. 31 column, describing her in worthy-adversary tones ("The Clintons didn't get where they are without being bold").
The conservative Washington Times couldn't contain its excitement in a Sept. 18 story reporting that Bill Clinton had said in a California appearance, in response to a question about whether Hillary would run, "That's really a decision for her to make." Further down in the story was Hillary's unambiguous recent statement, "I am absolutely ruling it out."
Carl Limbacher, a right-wing investigative reporter, has published an entire book, titled Hillary's Scheme, about how Hillary Clinton plans to run in 2004. Its findings have been endorsed by Rush Limbaugh ("There's no question Hillary Clinton wants to be president") and Sean Hannity ("Of all the books that have been written about [Hillary Clinton], this one is the definitive book that probably the Clintons will fear the most").
Why are all these conservatives desperately committed to the idea that Hillary Clinton will run for president, when most liberals of Chatterbox's acquaintance either have little interest in this prospect or actively oppose it? Chatterbox will explain this puzzling phenomenon in his next column.
Click here for part two.