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Hillary Clinton is back in spotlight but nowhere to be seen

By Kathleen Parker
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON No matter what Barack Obama does, he cannot escape the shadow of his former political opponent.

Hillary Clinton, back from her global travels visiting places and peoples hardly heard of on this continent, is stealing the spotlight without even touching the stage. President Obama visits the Middle East, makes history as he speaks war to Syria and Iran, and peace to Israelis and Palestinians, and the talk back home circles The Big Question: Will Hillary run?

The former first lady, the former senator and now the former secretary of state is everywhere – and nowhere to be seen. Few people have attracted so much attention as Hillary Clinton. She carries the unique burden of being something to everyone: Loved, despised, admired, feared, a role model, a terrifying omen, politician, mother, wife, nemesis, scold, muse.

And she is running for president. Isn’t she?

No sooner did Obama raise his right hand to begin his second term than the whispers began. Whether to run again for the highest office is surely on Hillary’s mind – searing and torturous. It was always the question. Her inevitability is legend. The erstwhile valedictorian who became the wife of Bill Clinton was bound for her own glory, in her own time, eventually.

Then came the most unexpected thing of all – this man Obama, this deus ex machina who descended from some distant star to blind the masses with his light. His destiny, alas, was greater than hers and so Hillary had to wait.

Will she go for it again? Or is it her fate to fade into the pages of missed opportunities, bad timing and broken promises?

I’ve asked a half-dozen close Clinton associates if she’s running and they all say the same thing: “I have no idea.” I suspect this is true and that Hillary doesn’t really know. Except that she does know, and all her colleagues really do know, and we all know. Really, don’t we? How does Hillary Clinton walk away from the job that was meant to be hers? Forget fate. What about duty? Doesn’t the first woman who has a real shot at becoming president of the United States have a duty to run? And win?

It would be exhausting. Hillary would be 69 in 2016. The past four years have been brutal and she shows the effects of constant travel, immense pressure and a rather noble lack of attention to her vanities. A presidential campaign, though more familiar, would be worse.

But the timing, finally, is right. Her popularity is at its highest level ever. She is admired around the world. She has earned her chops not by inheritance (married to Bill) but through her own sweat and, yes, tears. She has managed through hard work and quiet rectitude to erase most memories of her earlier years as first lady and of the woman who did, indeed, stand by her man when most wouldn’t.

Not incidentally, the women’s vote is hers. Even Republican women would find it hard not to cast a ballot for Hillary. And the Republican bench may be full, but, with the exception of Jeb Bush, it seems full of vice presidents rather than presidents. A Bush-Clinton contest might drive the country into dynastic delirium, but there would be a certain poetic symmetry: Finally the right Bush and the right Clinton.

Clearly, the Hillary Clinton for president proposition poses more questions than answers. But the calculus comes down to this: She has been working toward this moment essentially all her life. The zeitgeist is ready for a woman president. Most important, she can win – and few think the country would be worse for it.

Email: kathleenparker@washpost.com.
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