The St. Patrick's Day Solution

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WASHINGTON: There seem to be two White Houses -- the embattled, embarrassed, scandal-prone one we see on TV, and one that exists in a parallel universe of international statesmanship. Back in January, one was suffering under the weight of the Lewinsky scandal while the other planned a manic attack on Iraq. In the light of the Willey scandal, the alternate White House has decided to quell the 30-year-old troubles in Northern Ireland -- in a mere 30 hours.

“Right before I came over here, I began -- true to my dear ancestors -- what will be about a 30-hour marathon effort to close as many gaps as I can in the Irish peace process,” President Clinton told a DNC dinner Monday night. To this end, St. Patrick’s Day is fully booked: Bertie Ahern, Gerry Adams and David Trimble will all get the Clinton treatment.

Which should make for some nice photo opportunities. But the May deadline for an all-party agreement on the shape of a Belfast legislature is fast approaching. Trimble’s Ulster Unionists still refuse to accept Sinn Fein back into the talks. And Adams, even after meeting Clinton, would not completely renounce violence. Whether a pint of Guinness at the White House tonight will change their minds remains to be seen.