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Can Hillary Get Her Groove Back?

When Hillary Clinton visitedwhile I was running the paper, she always put on a dazzling show.
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When Hillary Clinton visited The New York Daily News while I was running the paper, she always put on a dazzling show: Seated at the head of the table, she'd fold her hands primly before her and effortlessly answer every question for the next hour and a half. Every fifteen minutes or so, she'd take a dainty sip of Poland Spring water, but otherwise she never fiddled with her fingers or jiggled her leg under the table. She was a fixed point.

Her gaze--and her attention--never wandered. Whether the question was about Presidential politics or the economic prospects of upstate Otsego County, she spoke in perfect sentences and paragraphs full of factoids. And she looked like she could keep it up until the editors' heads thudded on the table in stupefaction.

Brains and focus aren't Hillary problem. For all her fervent admirers, there's so much twitchy calculation in her run for the Presidency that many, many people feel she simply can't be trusted. Even those willing to forget her healthcare fiasco as First Lady or her implausible public performance after Bill's philandering, can't be comfortable with her tactical ingenuity these days.

One moment, she's backing ridiculous legislation to ban non-existent flag-burning -- a Bush lollypop for conservatives. The next, she's hiring a lefty blogger. And the next, she volunteers that she's such an orthodox Democrat that she couldn't possibly support Joe Lieberman -- a fellow supporter of the Iraq war -- in November unless he manages to win the Connecticut Senate primary from his anti-war opponent.

Triangulation or cognitive dissonance? It hardly matters. George Bush is consistent, and Americans trust him -- if only to do the wrong thing almost all the time. To succeed him, Hillary Clinton will have to stop being a dervish, find a groove -- and stay in it.