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Jewish World Review Jan. 10, 2000/ 3 Shevat, 5760

Suzanne Fields

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Reaching for the Big Golden Apple -- WELL, THERE GOES the neighborhood.

The first lady is unpacking in Chappaqua. The new neighbors are ambivalent: The police security detail, the limited parking, the reporters, photographers and gawkers will make daily life difficult.

The dominating women in the president's scandal are hard at work on earthly reincarnations. Monica is slimming down and getting paid for showing the work in progress. Linda is tripping on nips and tucks and a new nose. And the wife moves away.

Here are the post-modern temptresses of Bill Clinton, carrying out the vengeance of Eris, the Greek goddess of discord, who tempted Paris to award a golden apple to the fairest. Hera offered Paris wealth and power, Athena offered military glory, and Aphrodite offered herself as the most beautiful woman in the world.

In the upside-down world of Bill Clinton, parallels are furiously deconstructed to fit the moment. Hillary promised political power, Monica offered sexual pleasure and Linda threatened exposure. Unlike Paris, the president couldn't choose one without taking the baggage of all three. His choices were downscale and domesticated.

Like most things post-modern, the joke is personal. The Goddess of Discord doesn't start a Trojan War, with disastrous consequences for the nation, but merely competes for attention with the Middle East peace talks. Discord weaves a web of trivia, diminishment, gossip and impeachment. Hey, it's no big deal.

Hillary, the wife, is married to neither Zeus nor Menelaus. She is seduced by her own political ambitions not the handsome Paris. Monica, the mistress, goes commercial with her body, an allegorical justice, selling herself in behalf of Jenny Craig. Linda, the betrayer, who was farthest from the Oval Office, is the fury, making the most painful mischief. She is the most in need of a make-over, but it's too late for a pretty nose to shape a pretty personality. Things still smell just as bad as they did through the old one.

Neither Bill Clinton nor his temptresses are the stuff of epic tragedy. They belong to comedy, examples of foibles, not fatal flaws. Tragedy offers insight into the human condition; comedy offers laughs about love, sex, stamina and continuity. Tragedy is about heroes and heroines; comedy is about hypocrites, sexpots, squealers and fools.

New York magazine interviewed several smart, educated, hip New York liberal women and learned that lots of women who are like Hillary don't like Hillary. On the spectrum of left to liberal, there's a visceral negative reaction to her reaction to Monica.

Typical is the woman who resents her never correcting the record about a vast right-wing conspiracy: "Hillary has never acknowledged that her characterization was self-serving and dishonest.'' On the "left'' coast, Annette Benning, wife of Warren Beatty, tells Vanity Fair that `(Hillary) always appears to be doing what's politically expedient in the most transparent way.''

In her biography of the first lady, Gail Sheehy shows Hillary seeking a fashion and cosmetic make-over every bit as vain as Monica and Linda, coupled with "menopausal zest.''

"Gone were the dark dominatrix eyebrows and the barrel-bottomed suit jackets and treacly pastels,'' she writes. "She was 51 before she found her personal style for the first time.''

All the president's women and the president as well are getting up and getting on with it, a little rough for wear but not mortally wounded. In the therapeutic society we call it the Achilles "heal.''

When Bill Clinton learned that Hillary needed him more to unpack the boxes and put the furniture in place in the new house than Israel and Syria needed him at the peace table, he began his new life as a sidekick. How very Clintonesque.

It's difficult to ascribe heroic dimensions to men in the public eye; the psychological and photographic close-ups overwhelm political judgment with superficial information. There's some truth to that. But ultimately, American voters are a savvy lot -- maybe even in New York.

Hillary keeps saying her run for the Senate is less about her and Rudy Guiliani than about the people of New York. That's certainly who she has to fear most. But the goddess of discord will not make it easy as she reaches for that big golden apple.


01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink

©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate