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Jewish World Review Dec. 13, 2000/ 15 Kislev, 5761

Suzanne Fields

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Hillary in the lion's den -- HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON looks like she's been through a "creative divorce.'' When New York's new senator-elect visited Capitol Hill for freshman orientation the other day, her smile was as broad as the Cheshire cat's.

She wore bright pink, but only to accent her collars and cuffs, a flash of femininity to relieve the heaviness of her signature black pants suits. She's learned a lot about lot of things, including fashion, since she wore that awful hat on inauguration day in January 1993.

Gone is the clenched jaw and tight frown of failure she wore for months after her health care plan bombed. Gone is the unpolished blend of humiliation and aggressiveness on the day she blamed the "vast right wing conspiracy'' for her husband's adulterous dalliance with a White House intern. Gone also is the passive listener who toured upstate New York in the early days of her campaign.

She most resembles Richard Nixon, who had been kicked around and returned in triumph to win the presidency. She has been reincarnated with the bloom of success. Like Nixon, she's smart and carries a lot of baggage, ruthless in her reach for power, and she has made a lot of enemies and mistakes. But she never lost the hearts and minds of her partisans. It's too early to know whether the Nixon comparison will be sustained and how it may be extended.

More than her husband ever was, Hillary's the "Comeback Kid.'' She did it the hard way with neither his sunny personality nor his social ease. Anyone who has ever been in Hillary's public presence gets the impression that she's working all the time. Unlike Bill, Hillary doesn't enjoy politics for the sheer fun of the game. Her hugs are arch, her smile studied, her body language self-conscious.

The Hillary haters, as her critics are invariably called, were overcome with ambivalence on election night. With the Clinton administration in its waning days, and Al Gore (as I write) looking as though he's high on Percocet, a miraculous drug that kills pain but does not touch the cause of it, Hillary is the easiest target in town. But she looks so emotionally liberated that it will take a little time to create a new satirical image for her. Hillary doormats are out.

When, in fact, she was asked about the rumor that her husband might consider running for the mayor of New York, she quickly squelched the idea as "ridiculous,'' something that would "never happen.'' She sounded like she knew what she was talking about, because this time she's calling the shots.

As Al Gore's star continues to fall, Hillary's is clearly ascendant. She's a marvelous actress, too, giving a wonderful performance as a disappointed Gore partisan. But it's a long, long way from November 2000 to November 2004. No one will be scrutinized more than Hillary in everything she says and does, whether she adapts to her new assignment as a Senate grunt or a party comandante.

Eleanor Roosevelt has been left far behind. Hillary may continue with the seances, but Eleanor has no on-the-job experience tips to pass along for work in the Senate, or a road map back to the White House. Eleanor Roosevelt hated to be called a feminist. Hillary reflects the triumph of modern feminism, even if many feminists occasionally hated the way she did it. Like an opportunistic man, she used everything that came her way to get where she is.

She has always been a quick study. When her health care plan crashed and she was blamed for the election of a Republican Congress in 1994, she went into hibernation and waited for the right time to emerge again, and when she did it was in a fashion shoot in Vogue magazine.

When her billing records from the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock turned up in the White House living quarters, she got away with pretending innocent surprise. The $100,000 killing she made in cattle futures was as fishy as a Cajun gumbo, but she got to keep the money (and probably had to use it to pay for Bill's sexual harassment of Paula Jones). If she lied about Whitewater, as the independent counsel insists she did, she was shrewd enough not to let him prove it. She showed she could take a wifely mortification and emerge more "virtuous'' for it. Feminists who despised her victim's role didn't understand that she was only calculating how to turn Bill's humiliation into her own redemption.

As she heads into the lion's den of the Senate, Hillary's a proven gladiator. But as any gladiator (or lion) could tell her, there are a lot more lions than Christians in Washington, and they're all hungry.


12/08/00: Return of the 'second sex' on campus
12/04/00: Politics as entertainment today
11/30/00: Winner vs. whiner
11/27/00: Measuring against history
11/23/00: Memories of Thanksgiving past
11/17/00: In defense of the Electoral College
11/16/00: More than one way to win an election
11/13/00: Sexual politics squared
11/09/00: A Middle East legacy
11/06/00: Filling in the dots at campaign's end
11/02/00: His own man in full
10/30/00: The Oval Office, through a glass brightly
10/23/00: There'll always be an England. Maybe.
10/19/00: The celebrity candidate
10/16/00: 'Ladies night' at the second debate
10/12/00: Gore vs. Bush: Volvo vs. Maserati
10/10/00: We weep for Rami for he is dead
10/05/00: Looking at Lieberman from inside the 'ghetto'
10/02/00: Campaigns, candidates, and kissy-face
09/28/00: Laughing and crying over Joe Lieberman
09/21/00: Targeting teenagers for money
09/21/00: Sexual politics in New York
09/18/00: Surviving the stereotypes and debates
09/14/00: Gloria Steinem runs cheerfully into captivity
09/12/00: Sex in the eye of the partisan
09/07/00: 'Sex and death' on the college campus
09/05/00: Joe Lieberman as a 'Menorah Man'
08/31/00: Rising suns of the conventions
08/17/00: Changing icons: From Loretta Young to Hillary Clinton
08/14/00: The Creator returns to the public square
08/10/00: Bursting with pride, but caution too
08/07/00: Brains, beauty and beastly politics
08/03/00: A candidate with a superego
07/31/00: The sizzling Lynne Cheney
07/27/00: The party of the aging Playboys
07/24/00 Hillary drives the Jewish wagon into a ditch
07/20/00 Conservatives gone fishin'
07/17/00: Snoop Doggy Dogg was a founding father, wasn't he?
07/13/00: When a teenager doesn't need a prime minister
07/10/00: Abortion as cruel and unusual punishment
07/06/00: Surviving 'survivor' TV
07/03/00: Independence Day with Norman Rockwell
06/29/00: Here comes 'something old'
06/26/00: Waiting too long for the baby
06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the 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