Humor me for a moment,
If Bill Clinton wanted to elect his wife in 2004, wouldn't he promote exactly what has transpired so far?
That is, attack each front-runner in turn, wounding them severely (but just short of mortally)?
Kerry got beaten to a pulp in the early part of the campaign. From the original front-runner he went to almost written off, before the first primary was held.
Then it was Dean's turn. From almost-presumptive nominee, to almost toast. In two weeks!
Now it's Clark who's in trouble. The effect of boosting Kerry and Edwards (to stop Dean) has been to eliminate the possibility of Clark emerging as number two in a two man race. Suddenly he's looking at third or fourth in NH.
All this is perfectly consistent with the Hillary theory. Clark was always a proxy candidate, from the day Bill created him with that remark about "two Democratic party superstars, my wife and Wes Clark". He was put out there to slow the front-runner. But he was certainly never intended to win, and had he continued his trajectory toward number one status he would be under attack now.
Why would Clark allow himself to be used this way? He's been promised he'll be Hillary's Veep, obviously. How else will a woman, even a hawk, get elected in wartime? I'd be surprised if Clark doesn't continue after NH no matter how poorly he does there -- he has too much money not to, and he's too useful to Bill. But as future Veep he has to retire to conserve his dignity if his campaign becomes too obviously unviable, but meanwhile he'll stay in play, and get built up again when it's time to tear down another front-runner.
The idea is to prove each candidate in turn is "unelectable". No one who stays in the race will be spared his turn. Kerry will get a second turn if he stays strong for long! Because the plan is this: present a field of guys who can't even beat each other; make them all look too flawed to win; and open the way for a Hillary draft: the perfect, untouched, "non-negative" candidate who is above it all, emerging at exactly the point where the voters are finally desperate enough to shut up about the candidate's flaws and get behind someone.
This is an ABB strategy, on steroids. It has to be. Because many Democratic voters today would say, "anybody but Bush, except Hillary". They just aren't ready for another Clinton, or a woman. The only way to elect Hillary in 2004 is to pump up the desperation to an all-time high, and hope Bush really gives people an urge to vomit.
So we can infer that's exactly what Bill is trying to do.
Plan B, if Bush manages to finesse Iraq and the economy or pull off some stunningly evil ploy that makes his reelection chances look good, is for Hillary to wait for 2008. In that case the Democratic nominee must lose to Bush. Disaster for the Clintons would be to for another Democrat to win the election. They have to get that call right, and the nominee has to be weak. It won't be Clark, because he may still be useful as Veep in 2008. Any of the others are expendable, but some will be easier to put out of their misery than others.
The means to all this is easy to describe. You need massive, silent, insider influence over the Democratic-leaning media establishment. You need direct control over at least one candidate (Clark), and indirect king-maker influence over the field. And you need to keep your head down. You can never show your hand. But then, that's the beauty of it: your wife isn't even a candidate yet.
Never mind Fox and the National Review, who will do the predictible thing and boost Bush idiotically, attacking everyone else scattershot. What really counts is all the media whores in the "center". Time, Newsweek, the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, etc. etc.: the whole gamut of them that respond to the big insider and corporate influences of both parties. They were the forces that tore down each of the front-runners, and built up the next one, were they not? Just ask yourself honestly why Kerry got so ripped for so long, while they built up Clark the unknown. Then ask yourself why we saw Kerry hugging some guy in Iowa he saved thirty years ago, while Time and Newsweek ran "doubts about Dean" covers and TV ran snippets of four year old Dean appearances on Canadian TV.
To a certain extent it is natural for media to tear down the leader, and promote the underdog. They love a horse race, because their function is to make boring stuff sensational. They are in the entertainment business, after all, not the news business, these days.
But this year it's really been taken to an extreme. Why is the Democratic party not pulling levers to tone it down, when it all plays into the hands of the Republicans? Why do calls to McAuliffe to shush the kids go unanswered?
Because Clinton is encouraging a free-for-all, or what looks like one, but isn't. And he's still the second most influential politician on earth.
Remember the 1980 primary season? Kennedy against Carter, an unpopular incumbent with control of the party apparatus but little hope of re-election against Reagan? That year Kennedy won the late primaries, as voter sentiment turned toward him and against Carter. But he lost at the convention, because Carter had the delegates locked up under strict rules which made it impossible for most of them to change their minds.
After that debacle, the rules were eased to prevent a recurrence. And it's a given that the last Democratic president made the current delegate rules, and controls how the convention works. This time, that man is Bill Clinton. The 2004 Democratic convention could indeed be the opposite of 1980 -- a last-minute steal that works.
Take for example, Howard Dean. Should he win the primary season, wanna bet they'll be a huge "unelectable" campaign and a draft Hillary movement? Wanna bet the delegates will be soft? Those naive Deaniacs know squat about convention politics, and Clinton made up the current rules. And if the media could steal Iowa and NH from Dean, they can do the same at the convention.
Now imagine how he'll do it to Kerry. Think Dukakis.
How can anyone run for the Democratic nomination while Bill Clinton is the Democratic party? Except his wife?
I think Bush is gonna melt. I honestly believe any man who can beat Bill Clinton will beat Bush this year, easy. Deibold machine fraud notwithstanding. Just my guess, but I think Bush's in deep trouble, hanged himself on his own rope.
But it may not matter, because there's another president you have to beat first.