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Jewish World Review Dec. 13, 1999 /4 Teves, 5760

Chris Matthews

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Is Hillary clueless? -- IS HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, candidate for the U.S. Senate, clueless?

This is the hard, relentless indictment presented in a new book on the first lady titled Hillary’s Choice.

By author Gail Sheehy's account, the woman now networking her merry way from the White House to the Capitol is blind to all that stands in her path.

The rap sheet of Clinton's oblivion never seems to end. She didn't know about Gennifer Flowers until the president told her last year. She didn't know about Monica Lewinsky, didn't know that Webb Hubbell was stealing from her law firm, never spotted that "hunted look" in the face of another Rose law firm pal, Vincent Foster.

Her politics have been equally clueless, according to Sheehy's record. The woman who invited us to celebrate her "listening tour" of New York this year seems to have spent the last seven with her ears, eyes and nose closed.

The woman who didn't notice that keeping her maiden name offended the conservative voters of Arkansas had a tin ear for the offense the middle class would take at a giant, Washington-controlled national health-care bureaucracy.

We see in Sheehy's book that such blissful ignorance by a first lady can prove anything but blissful for her presidential husband. It was she who brought those troubled boys from the Rose law firm into the West Wing.

It was Hillary Clinton, not Bill, who hired Bernard Nussbaum as the president's counsel, then shared the lawyer's maladroit handling of the Clintons' ethics disasters.

It was she who resisted giving Whitewater documents to the press until the president had no choice but to create the independent counsel's office that would become the mousetrap for his impeachment.

Perhaps as a preview of future such disasters, the author gives us Clinton's method-of-operation for warding off an unwanted crisis.

Purchasing this book
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In every case, her MO was first to guard herself from the truth. In the author's title phrase, "Hillary's choice was not to know what she knew."

Her second step was to destroy the source of the revelation. When her husband was defeated for re-election as Arkansas governor we saw her "eviscerate" the man whom voters had chosen to replace him. Rather than accept the reality of the Gennifer Flowers affair, her ambition was to "crucify" the woman.

This is the insistent Hillary Clinton story line, according to Sheehy. The woman now packing her bags for New York propels herself forward by refusing to see what she sees, refusing to let others see it: "You know that the president has denied these allegations on all counts, unequivocally."

Having deployed a Star Wars-like shield against the truth, she then launches her own rockets against the "vast right-wing conspiracy" and other off-stage culprits.

It's with this political weaponry that Hillary Rodham Clinton now moves to a new home in Chappaqua. Behind in the polls and facing a nasty, resourceful rival in New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, she'll need both her state-of-the-art armor and those ferocious rocket-launchers of hers. If she's as clueless as "Hillary's Choice" suggests, even these won't be enough.

JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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