Jewish World Review May 19, 2000 / 14 Iyar, 5760
President Clinton went through an agonizing period of scandal and impeachment in which the public was forced to choose between him, Ken Starr, Newt Gingrich and the House prosecutors. No wonder Clinton's popularity soared.
And now Hillary Clinton, faced with a tough race for the U.S. Senate in New York, has been blessed with an opponent who gives new meaning to the title Mr. Insensitive. It was not so much New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's adulterous affair that upset world-weary New Yorkers, but when he announced on TV that he was separating from his wife without telling her first, this seemed a wee bit coldhearted.
And then when Giuliani's wife went before cameras to denounce one of his prior affairs, the battle lines were clearly drawn. As the Monica Lewinsky scandal demonstrated, the public will accept adultery in high places as long as the spouse stands by her partner.
Shortly after that scandal broke, the president flew to a huge outdoor rally in Albuquerque, N.M., where a young woman held up a sign that seemed to capture the feelings of many: "If Hillary Doesn't Care, Neither Do I." And from the very first public accusations by Gennifer Flowers in 1992, Hillary Clinton has always stood by her man.
Giuliani doesn't have that kind of luck. While his recent diagnosis of prostate cancer did not affect his standing in the polls, his sex scandal may be his undoing. As Doug Taggart, a previously undecided voter, Told the New York Times, "Stick a fork in him; he's done."
Without a spouse standing behind him, Giuliani is alone and vulnerable.
Ester Fuchs, a professor of political science at Barnard College and Columbia University, thinks the real impact will be to give Clinton the breathing room she needs to reach out to undecided voters. "What is most detrimental to Rudy is that while he now has to focus on questions about his personal life, marriage and illness, Hillary has the luxury of focusing on issues in her plodding campaign in upstate New York and chipping away at Rudy's weak support up there," says Fuchs.
If Giuliani withdraws from the race -- a decision is expected before the state Republican Convention on May 30 -- there are others waiting to take his place. But Hillary has been raising money and campaigning for nearly a year, and that gives her a decided advantage.
Former Mayor Ed Koch, no fan of Giuliani's, believes that he will either drop out or be forced out by his own party, but it won't matter much if he stays in. "He is injured irreparably for this election," says Koch. "When you treat your wife shabbily in public, people get upset, and he has done that."
Seemingly amazed that there is a major scandal that neither of them is part of, both Clintons have refrained from adding to Giuliani's woes. Hillary will make no public comment, and the president said last week, "I wish him and his wife and their children well on the health front and on the domestic front."
While Giuliani's campaign insists he has come to no decision about his future, the mayor's own words last week did not seem encouraging. "I have not made up my mind if I have the energy and the capacity to run," Giuliani said.
How many candidates question their own capacity? Talk about the luck of the