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Jewish World Review Feb. 10, 2000 /4 Adar I, 5760

Mona Charen

Mona Charen
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Hillary Clinton: New Yorker? --
THOSE WHO BELIEVE that Hillary Rodham Clinton stands no chance of winning a Senate seat from New York should glance at the existing congressional delegation, which includes Charlie Rangel, Nita Lowey, Jerry Nadler and Chuck Schumer. New York is the place that forced one of the nation's most brilliant neo-conservative thinkers, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, to check his convictions at the door as the price of representing the state in the Senate.

So it's far from impossible for Mrs. Clinton to succeed there.

Still, it was hard not to notice that flat Midwestern "a" in her speech as she intoned "Thaaat's why I want to be your senator" -- a trope in her announcement speech. That accent is a reminder that Hillary Clinton is no ordinary candidate. In this first post-Bill Clinton election, the presidential race and the New York race are both really about him. The Gore/Bradley contest has no content except character. Gore is the true Clinton acolyte: deceptive, brazen and slippery as an eel. He told a black audience that his dad had been defeated for supporting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when in reality Gore Sr. had voted against it -- just one of a dozen whoppers Gore has told lately. Bill Bradley is running as an anti-Clinton Democrat -- more liberal, but also honest and sincere.

On the Republican side, John McCain is surging because he seems to be the perfect antithesis of Bill Clinton in every way (personal history, forthrightness, integrity). And while the Republican candidates disagree on a number of substantive issues, the voters seem not to be focused on those. They seem instead to be making an aesthetic judgment about who should occupy -- and purify -- the Oval Office. If Gore wins the nomination and the election, and if Hillary Clinton is also elected to the United States Senate, the year 2000 will be recalled as the vindication of Clintonism.

Those are the stakes.

From the first paragraphs of her announcement speech, Hillary Clinton showed the same capacity to cause listeners to roll their eyes that her husband has. What else are we to make of her fulsome thanks to "Bill and Chelsea" for standing by her? How can she lump them together like that? Are we to pretend now that this is one, small, happy family?

It has always been a bit of a mystery why Mrs. Clinton is such a figure of veneration among liberals. The long-suffering wife would not seem to be the obvious choice for feminists seeking a heroine. But perhaps her appeal is like Nixon's to conservatives. Nixon wasn't particularly conservative himself, but he hated and was hated by the left, and that was enough to endear him. Mrs. Clinton is a liberal, but more than that, she hates the right and demonizes it whenever trouble erupts, and that is the source of her appeal to the left.

She told her hand-picked crowd at the State University of New York in Purchase that this was the largest crowd she'd addressed since her college graduation, and that in the interim she'd become "a little blonder" and "a lot humbler." The latter didn't show. Describing her tour of the state, she reminisced about "all the work I did, first in Arkansas and then as first lady, throughout America and in developing countries, to improve training for workers and provide credit for entrepreneurs and bring jobs to areas with high unemployment." If she did all of that, she should be considered for sainthood, not senatorhood. But of course this claim is absurd -- as was so much of her announcement speech.

Perhaps most politicians mouth boilerplate like "more police on the beat and fewer guns on the street," but her discussion of the negative influence of the popular culture was so one-sided it was a caricature of liberalism. She decried the glorification of "guns and violence" but said not a word about vulgarity or sex. Perhaps her Bel Air contributors would have rebelled if she had.

Hillary Clinton obtained public approval as her husband's victim. She is campaigning as his legatee. She speaks of "responsibility," but with every proposal signals just how contemptuous she is about actual citizens. Mrs. Clinton thinks she has governed when she has only watched.

Now it gets interesting.

JWR contributor Mona Charen reads all of her mail. Let her know what you think by clicking here. Please bear in mind, though, that while all letters are read, due to the heavy amount of traffic, not all letters can be answered.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate