Jewish World Review June 18, 2003 / 18 Sivan, 5763

Mike Barnicle

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Consumer Reports

Hillary violates my right to privacy | (KRT) I've always been big on privacy. My passion for the topic has its roots in the fact I grew up in a household where someone - one of my brothers, my grandmother, my grandfather, my aunt, my uncle, my mother or father - was always barging into the one small bathroom we all shared. Speed was a necessity.

Three of us, the boys in the family, slept in the same room. The phone was a party line. Clothes were handed down. Baseball gloves were shared. The neighbors were as close as a hand reaching out the window. Arguments could be heard for blocks. The concept of being alone, having a few quiet moments to think, read or stare at the sky was totally alien.

This is the reason - my respect for privacy - that I decided not to buy Sen. Hillary Clinton's book "Living History," and cling to the hope that her husband, in a desperate competitive attempt to outsell his wife, won't call his autobiography "Oral History."

Clinton has told us over and over that she is a private person. And while I am in no position to challenge her observation, it does raise an interesting question: Why does a supposedly private person repeatedly invade our privacy with embarrassing details of an obvious political deal that she and others refer to as a marriage?

I mean, if she's such a private person, how come she's on TV every six seconds talking about her husband's hands, his eyes and his affairs? I don't get it. Probably because I'm dense when it comes to things that excite women. My hands are ugly, and I rarely take the time to make sure my nails are clean, at least the ones I haven't gnawed down to the cuticles from nerves and the anxiety of trying to figure out what time my kids will be home and who they're hanging out with.

Anyway, I admit that I've read a few excerpts and several reviews. I also caught a few minutes of Clinton and Barbara Walters and saw her with Larry King while changing channels.

I was relieved to discover that this didn't make me want to rush out to Barnes & Noble to plunk down $25 for the rest of her story. Actually, given a choice between reading "Living History" and the Manhattan phone book, I'd rather sit down and start with the A's.

I don't need to read another line about the single longest domestic dispute in American history. That's what the Clintons' marriage, as well as their political careers, have seemed to be; a decades-long, boring debate about public policy, Bill with chicks, foreign policy, Bill with chicks, health care policy, Bill with chicks, right-wing conspiracies and Bill with more chicks.

For decades, Hillary turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to her old man's inability to behave, to obey the basic vow of marital fidelity. She was even an active participant in helping to cover up or gloss over outrageous private behavior when it became public, choosing instead to use it to help separate him from the pack during the 1992 primaries.

More than anything else, the "60 Minutes" interview about adultery and lying that the Clintons did in 1992 with Steve Kroft of CBS helped transform both of them - husband and wife - into two things this country can't get enough of: celebrities and winners. After that performance, the crowds in New Hampshire only grew. His candidacy - their candidacy, actually - was not only revived, it was reborn.

Now, 11 years later, she's a senator. And, God bless them, it didn't take a village to reshape their relationship; it took a fight for a Senate seat. She's a hard worker, a politician consumed with the same illness so many of those around her are consumed by: personal ambition. But the message in the book and in her promotional appearances doesn't have much to do with the ordinary ills that afflict many families in the country she clearly wants to lead - housing, health care, education, war and peace. It's as if she's telling us she's entitled because her husband made her a victim. Feel sorry for me. Look what I've had to put up with.

The experts - all the talking heads, know-it-all political observers, consultants and handicappers - claim Clinton could have her party's nomination next year for the asking. But they insist she'll probably wait until 2008 to take her shot.

I don't know. I do know that five years is a long time. Just think back five years ago. There was no 9/11 and no chance Hillary Clinton would move to New York, win a Senate seat and write a book that tells us nothing we didn't already suspect: Hillary Clinton is not a private person. She's basically one more hardworking pol playing an angle, looking toward the future, hoping that people will wonder how she's put up with a cheat instead of wondering what the country would be like if a candidate with her view of life won the White House.

Mike Barnicle is a columnist for the New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.