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The Comeback Kid


It's likely that Clinton will take advantage of what will surely be W.'s inclination to seize the day as infrequently as possible, and just go on being president. Or just go on being Bill Clinton.

Could it be, for instance, that his efforts in the Middle East were something more substantial than a last-minute grandstand? Rather, that this was Bill Clinton claiming turf, his eleventh-hour bid to bond with everyone in sight. He might not have been able to make peace in the Middle East in three months (or, for that matter, in eight years), but that doesn't mean he won't gamely spend the rest of his life trying.

I mean, you've got Bush having to overcome a vast learning curve, not to mention an obvious bit of antipathy for the Jews, and you have Clinton, who has his hooks into everybody in the Middle East, and who now lives in New York, and whose greatest talent is to look people deeply in the eyes and get everyone crying. He'll mollify the Palestinians with the Ronald O. Perelman Pavilion at a new West Bank medical center, a series of Miramax-backed Palestinian films, and the Marc Rich Memorial Palestine National Orchestra.

True, we can be sure he'll be out there making oodles of cash (if Colin Powell made $25 million out of office, what might Clinton make -- $100 million?), but it needn't look at all grubby if he's also making peace.

Both of them, Clinton and Bush, have two years.

Clinton, who we know is only half alive when he is not campaigning, is the Democrats' biggest weapon, and he will certainly make the midterm elections not just a W. referendum but a Clinton celebration. He has two years without any competition. After the elections, there are potential new party leaders who'll require deference. But if Clinton sweeps the Democrats back into majorities in both houses, then he earns the deference.

As much as Clinton is going to be a confounding problem for George Bush, he isn't going to be such an easy matter for the Democrats. Even with the Twenty-second Amendment (to clarify: Constitutionally, one man can spend only up to ten years as president. Repeal? Anyone?), Clinton is potentially Rooseveltian in duration.

The New York move is a good one. He has to be independent of Washington. He has to be outside Washington to be bigger than Washington. Besides, the
Senator from Bill Clinton already represents him there. He has his eye, I believe, on something else. Something that he could not have helped learning over these past few years: that Washington does not in any significant way lead the country anymore.

And that you are a larger threat to people there by not being there -- although the people there might not know it yet.



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