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Jewish World Review June 29, 1999 /15 Tamuz, 5759

Paul Greenberg

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What makes Hillary run? --
HAROLD ICKES, who's long been in the know, now has explained why a nice girl from Chicago would want to run for the Senate from New York: She's not about to settle for the curious life of a former First Lady, which is even more awkward than that of a former president.

It seems the Founding Fathers were so short-sighted that they never envisioned a formal role for ex-presidents in the Constitution. And they were so ignorant of the role First Ladies would play in the Republic that they even outlawed titles of nobility. So much for the founders' celebrated foresight. They never did understand box office.

In those pre-Hollywood days circa 1787, it was assumed that on leaving office presidents would leave office. You know, like Washington going back to Mount Vernon. The founders had no concept at all of stardom, of PR, of the difficulties of being a former immortal, of the impossibility of being a private citizen after having been a public one, of striking while the image was still hot . . . .

Harold Ickes does. He's always had an instinct for these things. And so, now, does Miss Hillary. To quote Mr. Ickes: "She understands how short the half-life of a 'former' is."

Oh, yes, anything would be better than melding into that indiscriminate blur of Betty Fords, Nancy Reagans, and Rosalynn Carters . . . . It would be a fate worse than obscurity. It would be a constant Is-that-all- there-is? experience. Better never to have been than endure that. Can you imagine anything so plebeian? It's no life for the anointed.

Think of the horror of this, as Harold Ickes put it so well, half-life. One might be reduced to writing memoirs, or at least superintending a ghostwriter. Or baking cookies. And it's not clear which occupation is more bo-ring.

It's almost impossible to hold onto one's dignity as a former first; the last to do it may have been Bess Truman. Unless you count Barbara Bush, who may be about to become First Mom, what with George W. doing so well in the polls.

So why not run for the Senate, where a former first lady would fit in perfectly with the likes of Barbara Boxer (an in-law from California) and any number of other solons who wouldn't know an impeachable offense if it came up and gave 'em a Bronx cheer? Which is essentially what our current First Husband did--to the whole country. Contumacious conduct, a judge in Arkansas not gifted with New Yorkese called it. But now he can make up for it by standing by his woman.

First Husband told CNN's Wolf Blitzer over the weekend that he, too, was getting ready to take up residence in New York. It figures. HRC may need every vote she can get.

And besides, Bill Clinton would make as genuine a New Yorker as he did an Arkansan. The great thing about New Yorkers--that is, residents of The City--is that they may be attached to their neighborhood or borough, but their state tends to be only an abstraction and income-tax gatherer. Whoever heard of New Yorkers congregating every fall to cheer on the state university's football team? (Do they even have one?)

Instead, Hillary Clinton announces that she's always been a Yankee fan, just as she was always a Cubbie in another life. If a real baseball fan could combine those two allegiances--to the ultimate losers in the Cubs, though followers of the Bosox would dispute that honor, and the ultimate winner in the Yankees--it would of course be Hillary Rodham/Hillary Clinton.

Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium go together like Muncie and Las Vegas. But our first lady has always been into makeovers. A new constituency, a new team. A new audience, a new routine.

As for Bill Clinton of Hope, Hot Springs, Little Rock, Washington and soon enough New York, well, sure. Didn't you always know that the first Arkansan to become president of the United States would reside in New York? Isn't that the way it always goes in Arkansas? You rear 'em, you invest in their education, and then they go out-of-state. Maybe with some of 'em, it's just as well.

Nobody would ever confuse William Jefferson Clinton with an Arkie; he's always been the ultimate Arkansan--upscale, on the make, cosmopolitan. In short, a New Yorker.

Our president's Southern sense of place seems about as genuine as those checkered shirts J. William Fulbright used to don every six years when he came home to run for re-election. Didn't the late senator settle in Washington after leaving politics, or was it the United Arab Emirates? He would have been equally at home in either exotic principality; it was just Arkansas he lost touch with--in about 1974. Hell hath no indifference like a small wonderful state scorned.

But the Clintons should fit in just fine in New York. And if that doesn't work out, there's California. They can break up the trip between coasts by dropping in at the presidential library in Little Rock to sign autographs, conduct tours, and preside over seminars in networking.

Mobile bunch, these New Yorkers. The only difficulty ahead for First Couple is mastering a New Yawk accent, especially the vowels. Brooklyn, Bronx, or Staten Island, each variety takes practice, dedication, identity. Maybe they could pass for a couple from Yonkers.

Or from the Finger Lakes district. Isn't that where Scott Fitzgerald's Dick Diver settled after he got in trouble in Tender Is the Night? That's the thing with the Clintons--if they don't remind you of one Fitzgerald character, like Tom or Daisy Buchanan in Gatsby, it's another.

And now they're going to habla New York? On the whole, they might have an easier time picking up Esperanto, a lingo without any particular national character.

No, it won't be easy learning N.Y. It's an accent that has a certain authenticity about it, and stamps its user as someone with a sense of place. The Clintons could wind up sounding like out-of-towners.



06/24/99: A Cafe Called Time: A Play In Three Acts
06/22/99: Amazing stories from D.C. Comix
06/17/99: George W.'s first mistake
06/08/99: Hail to the chief?
06/02/99: In praise of failure
05/26/99: Betrayal in the making: let's not make a deal
05/20/99: Israel's big switch: new era or just a mood swing?
05/18/99: Free our kids: revive the land of opportunity
05/13/99: This war will end --- or spread
05/11/99: South Sider comes through
05/07/99: There is no substitute for victory
05/05/99: A Tale of two colonels
05/03/99: It's the culture, stupid
04/30/99: Bumpers' 'B.S.'
04/27/99: An American tragedy: the fall of Kenneth Starr
04/23/99: Presidents and the press
04/14/99: A revealing moment
04/14/99: War Day by day
04/12/99: Just a few questions
04/06/99: The problem with the Left
04/05/99: The problem with the Right
03/30/99: But can he convince himself?
03/26/99: Short bursts
03/24/99: Once more into the quagmire
03/17/99: Big time in Little Rock
03/15/99: Our own Roger Taney
03/09/99: A different ‘Waterfront’
03/05/99: Law and disorder
2/26/99: King Richard's revenge
2/25/99: Open season on the fetus, and a good word for the pagans
2/23/99: It never ends: Here comes the judge
2/19/99: After the storm: Going through the debris
2/17/99: Where's the closure?
2/12/99: Hussein the Hashemite: The wiliest player on the board
2/09/99: The social security game
2/04/99: Our own Inspector Clouseau
2/01/99: Night scene, night thoughts
1/28/99: The decay of the art of lying
1/26/99: Impeachment: Short subjects
1/22/99: Bounce, glitz and tedium: The State of the Disunion
1/20/99: Destructive engagement: How to encourage tyranny
1/18/99: Martin Luther King: The radical as conservative?
1/11/99: Why America is apathetic about Bill's date with destiny
1/06/99:The year of Moronica
1/04/99: Clinton’s janitorial crew of two
12/29/98:The Senate will be on trial, too
12/29/98:A look down the avenue
12/22/98: The surreal impeachment
12/17/98: Another moment of truth approaches
12/15/98: The President's defenders: witnesses for the prosecution
12/10/98:The latest miracle cure: CensurePlus
12/03/98: Sentences at an airport Sentences at an airport
12/03/98: Games lawyers play
12/01/98: Ms. Magoo strikes again, or: Janet Reno and the law
11/26/98: The most American holiday
11/23/98: Same game, another round
11/18/98: Guide to the perplexed
11/09/98: A vote for apathy
11/03/98: Global village goes Clintonesque
11/02/98: Farewell to all that
10/30/98: New budget, same swollen government
10/26/98: Of life on the old plantation -- and death in the Middle East
10/22/98: Starr Wars (CONT'D)
10/19/98:Another retreat: weakness invites aggression
10/16/98: Profile in courage
10/14/98: A new voice out of Arkansas
10/09/98: Gerald Ford, Mr. Fix-It?
10/07/98: Impeachment Journal: Dept. of Doublespeak
10/01/98: The new tradition
9/25/98: Mr. President, PLEASE don't resign
9/23/98: The demolition of meaning
9/18/98: So help us G-d; The nature of the crisis
9/17/98: First impressions: on reading the Starr Report
9/15/98: George Wallace: All the South in one man
9/10/98: Here comes the judge
9/07/98: Toward impeachment
9/03/98: The politics of impeachment
9/01/98: The eagle can still soar
8/28/98: Boris Yeltsin's mind: a riddle pickled in an enigma
8/26/98: Clinton agonistes, or: Twisting in the wind
8/25/98: The rise of the English murder
8/24/98: Confess and attack: Slick comes semi-clean
8/19/98: Little Rock perspectives
8/14/98: Department of deja vu
8/12/98: The French would understand
8/10/98: A fable: The Rat in the Corner
8/07/98: Welcome to the roaring 90s
8/06/98: No surprises dept. -- promotion denied
8/03/98: Quotes of and for the week: take your pick
7/29/98: A subpoena for the president:
so what else is new?
7/27/98: Forget about Bubba, it's time to investigate Reno
7/23/98: Ghosts on the roof, 1998
7/21/98: The new elegance
7/16/98: In defense of manners
7/13/98: Another day, another delay: what's missing from the scandal news
7/9/98:The language-wars continue
7/7/98:The new Detente
7/2/98: Bubba in Beijing: history does occur twice
6/30/98: Hurry back, Mr. President -- to freedom
6/24/98: When Clinton follows Quayle's lead
6/22/98: Independence Day, 2002
6/18/98: Adventures in poli-speke

©1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate