Jewish World Review June 9, 1999/ 25 Sivan 5759
Hillary Clinton Loves New York
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Since many readers keep track of my political wagers—I’ve been on a losing streak since ’94—let me assure them that I’ve already mailed a check for $100 to Chris Caldwell at The Weekly Standard, a deserved comeuppance for predicting just weeks ago that Hillary’s gambit was an elaborate tease, a salve for the manifold wounds inflicted upon her by President Clinton. Apparently, what started out as a lark—thanks a lot, Charlie Rangel—has mushroomed into a near-reality.
Not that I think Hillary will ultimately represent a state she knows little about in Washington, DC; it’s just that in the next 18 months New Yorkers are going to see so damned much of her. Rallies that will clog traffic, given her First Lady Secret Service protection; shrill debates between Hillary and Rudy Giuliani (the presumptive GOP challenger) that I’ll be forced to watch; Bill Clinton himself coming to New York City and fouling the air.
Before getting into specifics, let me reiterate what I’ve said for two years now: Al Gore has the unfortunate fate of being the Clintons’ final victim. Hillary’s Senate race will siphon away money, organization skill and media attention from Gore’s presidential campaign, not only in New York but the entire country. Hillary Clinton was very effective on the stump for Democratic candidates in the midterm elections of ’98, milking the sympathy that so many suckers felt for her during the President’s impeachment/Monica woes, and was probably responsible for Barbara Boxer’s reelection in California. She’d be a key asset to Gore and other candidates in 2000 if she put aside her own ambitions temporarily, deferring a Senate run till 2004 in her native Illinois.
But she’s learned dirty politics at the knee of the master. Was there a more despicable spectacle this spring than watching Hillary toy with Congresswoman Nita Lowey—a Democrat whose liberal bleatings I abhor—letting her dangle as she made up her mind about running? Why, even as Hillary shuttled from destinations abroad, schmoozing with foreign dignitaries about the human condition—and of course, with an emphasis on the plight of children—back to New York for Lowey’s fundraisers, there was an evil glow about her. The message? Hillary to Nita: You’re finished. If Clinton put her own claim to “destiny” on hold, she’d be a powerful Lowey ally; in addition, she’d be a draw in New Jersey to assist whatever dimwit the Democrats put up against Christie Whitman.
(As an aside, I still think Steve Forbes is wasting a ton of money on his vanity presidential campaign; he’d be of greater help to the Republicans if he ran for the open New Jersey Senate seat instead of Whitman, a race he’d win in a landslide.)
Sure, Gov. Pataki and Al D’Amato are ramping up Lazio’s chances against their foe Giuliani, but they’re doing that to get under the Mayor’s skin, which isn’t hard to do. When push comes to shove, I’ll bet the Republican National Committee, and George W. Bush in particular, will exert pressure on Lazio not to bloody Giuliani in a bitter campaign and weaken Bush’s chances for winning New York in the general election, as well as losing an open seat for the Senate.
I don’t particularly care about the carpetbagger liability that Hillary Clinton has: New York has its precedents for outsiders—Bobby Kennedy and James Buckley—quickly establishing residency and winning a post in the Senate. And if she hasn’t the foggiest notion of how to direct a foreign cabby in New York City from Zabar’s to Chambers St., that’s not the worst thing in the world. What is maddening is that Hillary doesn’t especially care about the people of New York: This is a blatant grab at power, an obvious stepping stone for her own presidential run in 2004 or 2008. And, as Newsday’s Bill Reel wrote last Friday, “Despite her popularity, there does exist...a fair number of so-called Hillary haters, and routing them would be the ultimate revenge on the vast right-wing conspiracy.”
I do believe that New Yorkers, when it comes down to voting, will see through her facade and elect Giuliani.
Still, she’s had a clear agenda in visiting New York so often in the past two months. Her appearances are planned not only for the money, media spotlight and contacts. She’s also coming—perhaps primarily—because she wants to fool the less sophisticated and informed voters into thinking that she sort of lives here already, and even has a connection to New York. She believes that if dutiful reporters record her every commencement address, baby-kiss in the projects, her support for an environmental initiative in Buffalo, then people who aren’t very bright will think she’s a New Yorker. Hillary’s tenure as First Lady has proved she doesn’t have much respect for the American people—the health care fiasco was proof of that—and believes they’re basically stupid.
That’s what she learned in Little Rock: how to successfully condescend to constituents who don’t know where New Haven is and get away with it. All these photo ops that Harold Ickes has engineered in New York are an extension of this philosophy: Hillary Cares, She’s One of Us.
Charlie Rangel obviously doesn’t agree. He told The Washington Times’ John McCaslin last week that Giuliani has met his match. Rangel: “He is so awkward in front of people who are not of his same sex and background that just being on stage with a woman, much less Hillary Clinton, will put him in a very, very embarrassing position… I don’t think Giuliani knows how to get to Washington without a guide.”
I don’t think there’s been a pundit who hasn’t speculated about this bizarre race. Last Friday, The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Gigot began his column: “A Republican senator running for reelection next year recently reacted this way to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s now probable Senate campaign: ‘Can’t you get her to run against me?’
Gigot goes on to say that privately Democrats are astonished at the First Lady’s audacity and the harm it could cause the party in 2000. He also states the obvious: that even the many Beltway reporters who admire Hillary aren’t about to counsel her to forgo the contest: It’s too juicy a story. He continues: “The exception is The New Republic, which has trashed her candidacy as loudly as it’s promoting Al Gore’s—and which is no coincidence, comrade. Its editors know Mr. Gore has enough problems without adding Hillary’s.”
The Post’s “Page Six” had a funny item last Thursday in which it reported that at the Princeton Club last week, former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry made the silly prediction that Dan Quayle would be the GOP’s presidential nominee; two floors above, conservative Grover Norquist, addressing the Fabiani Society, described Hillary as “an unreconstructed East German border guard.”
But it was The Boston Globe’s John Ellis, last Saturday, who won the prize for the week’s most scathing commentary. “On paper,” Ellis wrote, “the race is a complete mismatch. Hillary Clinton has no credentials for the job. She has never been elected to anything by anyone and she has accomplished nothing of importance over the course of her 25 years as a political spouse. Her resume is unimpressive. She was a partner at a second-tier law firm in a third-tier state who couldn’t meet her revenue targets. She worked closely at that firm with two other partners; one who committed suicide under mysterious circumstances and the other a convicted felon and thief.”
Ellis concludes: “She will not win because her candidacy isn’t about New York, or the people who live here [although Ellis writes for the Globe, he’s a New York resident], or what she might do for them. It’s about her. It’s her movie, which she stars in and directs. The problems of others are important only to the degree that they forward her plot.”
Patrick Kennedy’s Patriarch
It was a pleasing week for Kennedy-bashers who live on the Washington-Boston Amtrak line. Count on the New York Post to get the party rolling: In its June 1 edition, on page 7, there was the headline “Tubby Teddy Shapes Up for Voters,” accompanied by an evergreen photo of the Senator, on a boat some years back, looking like he was in his 15th month. Bill Hoffmann wrote that Kennedy was getting in shape for his upcoming shoo-in Massachusetts Senate run and that’s why he’s “cut back on alcoholic drinks, fatty foods and [the] desserts he loves so much.”
It was a cheap laugh, and one that the Post indulges in frequently: It’s a certainty that owner Rupert Murdoch is still angry that Kennedy forced him to sell the Post back in the 80s, with a midnight bill that prohibited cross-ownership of newspapers and television stations. Next on the list was John Kennedy Jr.’s George, which, as Mediaweek reported in its May 24 issue, is in the midst of a “spring cleaning.”
According to the trade magazine, George’s paid circulation fell 5 percent in the second half of 1998, while single-copy sales dropped 28.2 percent. A former George employee is quoted as saying, “I don’t think John is as involved as an editor should be. It’s not that he isn’t a hard worker in the day-to-day, but it’s in areas such as going out and meeting with people, talking about the magazine. It’s left a lot of questions up in the air.”
One question I have about George is why Kennedy accepted a full-page advertisement from the National Rifle Association. Not that it bothers me (NRA: Our phone number is 212-244-2282), but for all the bluster Kennedy’s relatives have made about the NRA and gun control, you’d think that would be revenue John Kennedy would sacrifice. But perhaps he didn’t even notice the ad was in his own magazine.
Finally, it’s good to have The Weekly Standard’s Matt Labash back among the living. I was concerned: Labash, normally a steely reporter, went soft after Littleton, and even found the presence of G-d in one of the town’s makeshift media shanties while he was reporting on the martyrdom of Cassie Bernall, the young Christian who was killed in the school massacre.
But fear not: In the June 7 Standard, Labash simply demolishes the pathetic Congressman Patrick Kennedy, exposing Democratic Minority Leader Dick Gephardt’s exploitation of the dim Rhode Islander’s name and fundraising ability, as well as recounting some truly embarrassing moments in the 31-year-old’s past. Gephardt has become Kennedy’s patron in the House, making him the fifth-ranking Democrat there, and putting him in charge of raising the necessary funds to win back the chamber for the party in 2000. Eagle Scout Gephardt’s cynicism has amazed even those who always knew the goody-two-shoes public persona was a front: The man is demagogic, twists facts and even though he despises both Bill Clinton and Al Gore, has shilled shamelessly for the ethically challenged duo. Why? So he can become the next speaker of the House.
Kennedy is far from being an orator; he can barely speak English. Here’s just one example Labash dug up, recounting a question Kennedy asked the secretary of the Navy about how to eliminate racism from the military: “So what happens is, things don’t get reported because, you know, let’s not make much to do about nothing, so to speak. One of the worries I have about, you, a really zero-defect mentality with respect to defect—I’m not talking now—I mean everyone can acknowledge that if there’s a little bit of extremism, I’m not saying that that isn’t just grounds for you know, expulsion from the military. But how do we address the broader issues... Can you answer that in terms of communication?”
As Gomer Pyle would say, Shazzam, shazzam, shazzam!
Another damning anecdote about simpleton Patrick that Labash relates is when the youngster, still in college, decided to enter the family profession and challenge nine-year incumbent John Skeffington for his Rhode Island state representative seat. Skeffington, according to Labash, was well-liked by the party establishment but Patrick said, “I faced a situation where I wanted to run for public office, and I was told to wait my turn. This was totally repugnant to me.” So give the kid points for moxie. But, of course, he bought the election.
Labash writes: “More remarkable were the resources at Patrick’s disposal: from the family’s deep-pockets donor lists to the Brown University speech coach hired to improve Patrick’s dadaist delivery, to Dad himself helicoptering in to the district to accompany his son door to door. Nearly a dozen Kennedys weren’t so much recruited as conscripted to win Patrick’s 1988 race... The only hint of embarrassment came from John Jr. ‘He was a perfect gentleman,’ says Skeffington. ‘He said, “I hope you realize that I don’t want to be here, I don’t like this, but you understand it’s my cousin and I was asked to do it. I don’t think it’s fair.”’”
Then there was Kennedy’s first real flash in the media when he took on now-retired GOP Rep. Gerald Solomon in a debate about the repeal of the assault weapons ban. Solomon, a Marine in Korea, was so incensed by the following remarks that he offered to put up his dukes against Kennedy. This was the blast Kennedy took at the New York pol, using, as always, his family as a backdrop: “Shame on you... Play with the devil, die with the devil... There are families out there...[you’ll] never know what it’s like, because [you don’t] have someone in your family who was killed.”
Labash’s article is titled “Patrick Kennedy—the Man and the Myth,” but
that’s far too generous. There’s no “myth” about this rather dumb man.
He’s a scion of Camelot, was born too late to get into real trouble with
substance abuse—Bobby Kennedy Jr. would be presidential material right
now if it weren’t for his heroin bust almost 15 years ago—bought his way
into the Rhode Island Legislature and then Congress, and now makes a
fool of himself every time he speaks in public. End of
06/03/99: Life in the Danny Thomas Suite