In its new cover story on Hillary Clinton's "presidential ambitions," Time magazine reports that on top of 32 full-time employees and 10 Senate staffers partially assigned to it, Clinton's "political operation" now includes 13 political consultants. That seems like quite a bit of input for someone the article describes as "genuinely undecided" about running for president.
But it is very much in keeping with the political profile that has emerged since Hillary transformed herself from First Lady to Presumptive Presidential Frontrunner. And that profile is unmistakably of a politician more comfortable following than leading.
There are politicians with great instincts as leaders -- those who recognize not just the crises directly in front of them, but those around the corner as well. (And these leadership instincts come from the gut, not from a multitude of consultants, strategists, and pollsters.)
And there are politicians with great instincts as followers -- those who are the first to stick their fingers in the air and notice even the slightest shift in the wind of popular opinion. (And these followership instincts are a political consultant's wet dream.)
In this second group, no one is as attuned to the zephyrs of change as Hillary Clinton. She is the quintessential political weather vane.
I wonder, did all 13 of her consultants recommend that she co-sponsor that bill banning flag burning?
And is it her baker's Dirty Dozen of consultants that has developed Hillary's strategy of refusing to debate Jonathan Tasini, her opponent in the upcoming New York primary? Of course, given Tasini's anti-Iraq war campaign, Hillary's vulnerability on the issue, and the fact that 62 percent of New Yorkers say they are more likely to vote for an anti-war candidate, this "run-and-hide" plan may be highly politically expedient -- but it doesn't say much for Hillary's leadership skills or her ability to deal with this thorny issue come 2008.
And was the Gang of 13 the driving force behind Hillary's decision earlier this month to call on Don Rumsfeld to resign? Or did she feel the antiwar wind blowing in her face and unilaterally make her bold stand -- which came only two years and nine months after Charlie Rangel called for Rummy's resignation.
. . . and only two years and three months after John Kerry, Tom Harkin, Dick Durbin, Nancy Pelosi, George Miller, Al Gore, George Will, Tom Friedman, Bob Novak, Max Boot, and the Congressional Black Caucus.
. . . and only one year and eight months after Joe Biden and Jon Corzine.
. . . and only one year and two months after Ted Kennedy.
. . . and only five months after Jack Murtha and Diane Feinstein.
. . . and only four months after Wes Clark, Mark Warner, and Bill Richardson.
She even trailed Trent Lott, who in December 2004 said, "I would like to see a change in that slot in the next year or so."
The only one she beat to the punch was Mrs. Rumsfeld.
With the latest poll showing 61 percent of Americans now oppose the war, who wants to make a wager on how many months after Jack Murtha called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq will it be before Hillary, acting on the advice of her throng of consultants, courageously stakes her political future on the call for our troops to come home?
Before she wins her primary in September or after?
Before she retains her Senate seat in November or after?
Before she announces that she's running for president in 2008 or after?
Before the 2008 Iowa caucus or after?
Before the 2008 Democratic Convention or after?
Before Election Day 2008 or after?
Before all-out civil war engulfs Iraq or after?
Before the last U.S. soldier turns off the lights on his way out of Baghdad or after?
Place your bets now.
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