Paul Greenberg

It happens every six years. Blanche Lincoln already has begun to appear in cameos on Fox News. Look for her as the featured speaker at a Lincoln Day banquet near you any time now. It's going to be awfully interesting -- more awful than interesting -- to hear the senator explain how her vote to have government micro-manage your health care was actually a conservative stance.

At last report, Sen. Lincoln was headed for the political middle so fast she'll soon find herself a right-winger, or at least sounding like one. Much like many another species that has mastered the art of survival, she's learned the art of protective coloration.

Here's what she told Secretary Geithner when he appeared before the Senate Finance Committee last week in his usual role as punching bag: "I think most Arkansans don't understand the vision of the administration when it comes to putting in place an economic policy that works for our nation in today's economy and the economic climate today, to create the jobs that Arkansans need now in our economy." The words may be Blanche Lincoln's, but the tune is the Republicans' this election year.

Senator Lincoln has even started to talk about the need to push back against her party's left-leaning establishment, "and look for the common ground that's going to get us the success we need...." What a difference an election year can make in a politician's attitude.

Those who chase the bubble Popularity, rather than steer by the fixed star called Principle, have to do a lot of tacking to keep up with every shift in the political winds. They come to resemble cars in this respect: There's a new model out every year. This year's (Blanche) Lincoln comes with conservative lines.

After the election is over, and if she's still senior senator from Arkansas, there'll be plenty of time for her to return to her role as another Democratic backbencher who goes along to get along. In the meantime, Arkansas voters are catching on to her hexennial routine, and starting to wonder not just if the real Blanche Lincoln will stand up, but if there is one.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.