(FORTUNE Magazine) – His opponents say he's two-faced. Or too fresh-faced. Or too obsessed with saving face. But there's one thing even they can't contest: Bill Clinton is no new face.

After three years in office, the man has become so visible, so unavoidable on television and radio, that he's the last public figure about whom the American people will ever say: Bill, we hardly knew ye. The real problem is that on any given day we don't know which Bill Clinton we'll get.

He's the guy who had to argue that he was "relevant" in the new Washington...and who then surged in the polls because voters didn't hold him responsible for what was happening in his own city. He's the domestic policy President...whose most memorable successes are in foreign policy. He's the President who constantly argues that the economy is stacked against the average guy...and whose opponents point to his failure to fix that very problem as one of the best arguments against giving him a second term.

John Kennedy once said that to govern was to choose, but that is one Kennedy maxim that Clinton clearly doesn't feel compelled to honor. Clinton doesn't choose--not among policies, not among advisers, not among the various personas he has.

Granted, you've heard this complaint before; Clinton is the President with the Sybil syndrome. But keep it in mind in days to come when you hear the experts and analysts sound another familiar refrain: that some particular Clinton action--a line in the State of the Union address, the tapping of a new adviser, the latest tactic in the battle of the budget--will finally indicate which of his faces he has decided to present to voters this year.

Don't believe it. The truth is, there have been so many new Clintons that the notion of a new Clinton itself is old. So here's my prediction: This President isn't going to choose between being a New Democrat (his 1992 campaign posture) and being a New Dealer (his 1996 budget strategy). He's not going to choose between being a liberal (the Republicans' complaint about him) and being a conservative (the Democrats' frustration with him).

Will that be a handicap? Not necessarily. Clinton's most compelling political rhetoric is on how to unite the country; his most compelling political strategy is on how to divide it--and win the election. To his critics (and that includes just about everybody), he's the classic President for the 1990s--in touch with his own feelings, out of touch with the country. To his supporters (enough people, remarkably enough, to make him the pollsters' favorite if the vote were held now), he's the classic President for the fin de siecle--cynical, perhaps, but, unlike the GOP herd, not sour.

Consider also that even though congressional Democrats challenge Clinton's budget priorities, his tax proposals, his vision, his judgment, his commitment, his honesty, and his understanding of the issues the country faces, no Democrat has stepped forward to challenge his reelection. That's a remarkable advantage, one that neither Lyndon Johnson, who knew what he stood for, nor Jimmy Carter, who didn't, enjoyed.

It means Clinton doesn't have to waste time in New Hampshire, which is about as likely to support him in November as Iraq. It means he doesn't have to get involved in internal Democratic debates, which in the past two decades have served only to divide the party into more factions than Bosnia and Herzegovina. It means he doesn't have to spend the winter and spring debating nobodies--except, of course, the House freshmen. It also means he has $26 million to spend to fortify his own position, whatever he decides it is. "We can do all our planning and strategy working backwards from November," says Ann Lewis, Clinton's deputy campaign manager. "There's going to be a very long general-election campaign."

Clinton specializes in near-death experiences--and in comebacks. In truth, the presidency is a hand grenade, and he's pulled the pin. It could explode over Bosnia, where American troops are at risk in a mission hardly anyone supports. It could explode over Whitewater, where Americans are skeptical about a scandal hardly anyone understands. It could explode over the economy, where Americans are worried about a recovery whose existence hardly anyone believes. Over lunch not long ago a Democratic Senator, a known Clinton loyalist, was presented with the notion that the President is a work in progress. Not quite right, the Senator laughed. Clinton, he said, was a piece of work in progress.

"He zigs and he zags," former governor Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said the other day in Iowa. "He gets up on both sides of the bed every morning." It's a good line, and Alexander knew it. But, like everything else about Bill Clinton, it expresses only half the truth. The line lingered there in the stale air of an insurance company cafeteria in Des Moines, and some force of nature pressed Alexander to go on. "But," admitted this Republican who would be President, "he's the best Democratic campaigner in 25 years." He is, and the campaign is on. You'll have to choose--even if Clinton won't.

David Shribman is Washington bureau chief for the Boston Globe and a Pulitzer Prize--winning political reporter.