Jewish World Review Feb. 10, 2000/ 4 Adar I, 5760
The early speculation that the first lady wouldn't run still looks wise in hindsight. She may think so yet. After leaving the White House she would, we assumed, want to relax, enjoying a little time with Chelsea. Two homes and a frantic commute are complicated and expensive. Living the life as a first lady is fun and it doesn't last long. She could make lots of money lecturing and advocating the causes she cares about without the weight of grubbing for votes.
Besides, who needs the New York press? Why run as a carpetbagger when in two years she could run from one of her home states of Illinois or Arkansas?
None of the above turned out to be persuasive. Her reasons, no doubt, are both personal and political. She gets perks bequeathed to few mortals who run for office. This mixes the good with the bad.
She has already spent millions of tax dollars for White House transportation to finance her jaunts to New York, which was easy on her pocketbook but not so popular with taxpayers. The first lady's limousines create traffic jams that make her travel through busy streets easier, but they provoke resentment in her new neighborhood.
By escaping her role as first wife, she leaves her jealous rage behind, puts Bill in his place (behind her on the podium). Instead of staying mad, she aims to get even. If she wins, she shows him. If she loses, she can blame him. Not a bad place for a wronged wife.
In the 18-minute video directed by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, Hillary was portrayed as a rising star, with her mother (not her husband) the supporting one. Nice touch. She was once again pretty in pink, exuding a light-hearted femininity that some feminists find cloying but which is thought to broaden her appeal to other women.
It's been widely observed that women who are like Hillary don't like Hillary. She's gone from being "one of them'' to being perceived as an opportunist, who will do and say anything to get elected, someone better at waffles than omelets.
Pro-choice women, for example, can't get a straight answer about whether she thinks "parental consent'' should be mandatory for a child's abortion. Once she thought it should be. Now she equivocates. The New York Observer calls this "Wellesley mash.''
Asked how she would vote on the Defense of Marriage Act, which would prohibit homosexual marriage, she replied that she would have voted for it, but not because she was for it, but because it was going to succeed.
This is classic "clintonspeak'' -- a form of rhetoric perfected by her husband. In fact, it's a knock-off of Bill's `approval` of the Gulf War: He would have voted for it, he said, although he agreed with those who voted against it.
But Hillary isn't quite as good at this as Bill. Some feminists choked on the first lady's sentimental musings when she and Bill unwrapped their "tchotchkes,'' old wedding gifts in the new house in Chappaqua. Said Hillary with no hint of irony: "It's a great personal experience for both of us.''
Hillary Clinton, noted for a tin ear, will need her husband's perfect pitch to engage voters on a personal level. She looks a voter straight in the eye while extending a firm handshake, suggesting deep empathy, as if she's in touch with his pain. But she'll need more than empathy to run in New York.
The race is a rare opportunity to watch her on her own. No one doubts her intelligence and charm in familiar circumstances. The test comes in confronting the unexpected, as in her pre-campaign flip-flops in the Middle East, on clemency for Puerto Rican terrorists, her judging of the cops in the Diallo shooting as already guilty.
"Wherever I go as first lady, I am always reminded of one thing: that Eleanor Roosevelt had been there before,'' Hillary Clinton said in 1998.
But Mrs. Roosevelt never ran for office. After FDR's death Democrats asked her to run in
New York, but she said she could do more for her causes as a former first lady. She was
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers