Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, on the Sunday morning talk shows, startled her conservative detractors by emerging as a hawk.
When Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" gave her the opening to say she had been misled when she voted for the Senate resolution authorizing war, Clinton countered with a hard line: "There was certainly adequate intelligence without it being gilded and exaggerated by the administration to raise questions about chemical and biological programs and a continuing effort to obtain nuclear power."
Would she support an increase of U.S. troops in Iraq? Clinton associated herself with the views of Republican Sen. John McCain, who disagrees with Bush and the generals who say they have adequate strength there. She cited McCain's conviction that "we need more troops, and we need a different mix of troops." And she added: "Whether you agreed or not that we should be in Iraq, failure is not an option."
Now for a moment's mischief. If President Bush wins reelection, Hillary would likely gain the Democratic nomination in 2008, and would run as the favorite against, say, Republican Bill Frist or Jeb Bush. But if Howard Dean wins nomination and election in 2004, he would surely be the Democratic candidate again in 2008, and by the time 2012 rolls around Hillary would be a wizened, doddering Medicare recipient facing a tide of voter resentment after eight years of Dean's executive-privilege arrogance in power (I exaggerate for effect).
Thus, envision this GOP whispering campaign soon directed to women, liberals and the legions of centrist Democrats: If you want the Clinton Restoration to the White House in '08, the only way is to stay the course with Bush in '04.
A dirty trick? Undoubtedly. I disavow any connection to it.