Given her husband's insatiable ego and unquenchable quest for public affection, presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton will face some hard choices during her campaign, which has already begun.
I'm not talking about her predicament of always being cast in Bill's shadow and thus having a difficult time establishing her own identity. I think she's already done that, even if it is somewhat of a moving target, depending on what persona she believes is expedient at the time.
Indeed Bill wants Hillary to be president, if for no other reason than in his mind it will validate him, not to mention that it will vicariously extend his tenure. He would not consciously do things to make her ascension more difficult because he does not intentionally hurt himself -- except when overcome by an irresistible impulse, such as Monica Lewinsky, or perhaps, his unrelenting gravitation toward the limelight.
So it's not surprising that just when Hillary is attempting to submit herself as the Democrats' preeminent national security hawk by simulating outrage at the Dubai Ports deal as an "unacceptable risk," the avuncular ex-president is advising UAE leaders on how to convince American officials the deal poses no security risk.
Clearly unembarrassed by this contradiction, Hillary told the New York Post she was unaware her husband had given Dubai officials advice on the matter a few weeks ago.
Once Bill's conflict of interest surfaced, Bill and Hillary scrambled to restore that familiar harmonious patina to their marital union. They both denied any conflict and insisted he stands behind her on the issue.
How can this two-for-one, ubiquitous presidential duo say no conflict exists when he is advising foreign leaders how to circumvent U.S. politicians such as his loving wife and has accepted between $500,000 and $1 million of donations from UAE for his presidential library?
I mean, shouldn't reasonable people question their sincerity? Does anyone believe for a New York second that the loquacious Bill Clinton, advice dispenser to any and all within reach, hasn't meticulously coached his power wife on how best to position herself on the ports deal?
Only the most oblivious among us could believe Bill is not insinuating himself into every aspect of her political odyssey. Even if you can't swallow that he would do it for her, you have to know he would do it for himself -- so that they can be presidents again.
Even Bill Clinton's enemies concede he is nothing if not politically astute. Do you think it's even conceivable the acquisitive Hillary isn't going to imbibe wisdom from the best political strategist available?
So let's not fool ourselves. They both have grotesque conflicts of interest. But this is nothing new. This is just another episode in the Clintons' theater of the absurd. Since they got away with similarly unseemly conflicts for years, there is no reason they should fear accountability now.
In my book "Absolute Power," I described how the Clintons had played this game before. Seeking to ingratiate herself to Puerto Rican voters during her New York Senate campaign, Hillary first said she supported clemency for the FALN terrorists, provided they renounced violence.
But when a public backlash ensued against Bill's clemency offer, Hillary publicly called upon him to "immediately withdraw" his offer. They were orchestrating this public charade, pretending to be isolated from each other's decision-making processes, while spending the weekend together at Camp David.
The enormity of their public deception manifested itself when ABC News revealed the White House knew the clemency offer had been accepted a full two days before Mrs. Clinton publicly demanded that her husband rescind it. Hillary's blithe response to being caught red-handed was, "There's one thing I'm not going to talk about and that's my private conversations with the president."
These conflicts aren't that significant in themselves, except to expose the depth of Hillary's (and Bill's) arrogance and duplicity. It is nothing short of amazing that this congenitally antiwar woman is permitted to masquerade as a hawk.
But it's doubtful that even Hillary knows whether she'll be campaigning as a hawk or dove as 2008 draws nearer. There are too many unpredictable variables, including the situation in Iraq and the limits of tolerance of her already frustrated antiwar base.
The best she can hope for -- along with the rest of her party -- is that Iraq truly degenerates in a civil war, so that she can comfortably revert to her anti-military self without sabotaging her quest for the White House. In the meantime, she'll doubtless be wrestling with her incorrigible husband, with whom she can't live, but even more cannot live without.