JERUSALEM -- Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has more free time on his hands than he did at the height of his power and there are signs he and his staff are using it to fashion a new image for a political comeback.
Just yesterday, Sharon's aides summoned an exorcist to advise his recovery team.
Meanwhile, the General himself demonstrated in a two hour exclusive interview how he has matured as he faces the challenges inherent in a deep irreversible coma, much as Franklin D. Roosevelt was tempered by polio.
The Old Sharon was pugilistic, the New Sharon does not go looking for fights.
The Old Sharon was bold, at times reckless. The New Sharon makes no quick moves.
The Old Sharon was voluble, the New Sharon is terse, even Delphic -- not one to hobble himself with hasty commitments.
After trying to break the ice -- with a traveling salesman joke that Sharon did not find funny and small talk ("How's your health?") that proved one-sided -- this reporter slipped in the key question. "Mr. Sharon, am I off base in speculating that you are considering, or even considering considering, a return to politics?"
Sharon said nothing. But this time his silence seemed pregnant with possibility. It was certainly not a denial -- closer to what Watergate reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein called a "non-denial denial." There was a hint of affirmation in it -- in fact, more than a hint.
So hang on, Israel; hang on, Middle East; hang on, world. Ariel Sharon is tossing his helment back into the ring.
Update: Several hundred pro-Sharon demonstrators clashed with picketers who oppose his return to politics outside his hospital in Jersalem last night and 27 perished. Sharon had no comment. His exorcist chanted in an ancient tongue.
Nude Paris Hilton, Naked Britney Spears and Bare-Breasted Madonna Ciccone had no immediate comment.
Chris Hanson recently conducted exclusive interviews with Walt Disney and Ted Williams. His latest book is "Co-Mas: How a Head-on Collision Changed the Lives of Heather's Two Mommies."