Her campaign spent part of last week in a very public argument with a waitress over
whether Hillary Clinton left a tip.
National Public Radio interviewed Anita Esterday because in her stump speech, Ms.
Clinton described Ms. Esterday (who must work two jobs to support her family) as the
kind of person she intends to help when she becomes president.
"I wish she would have asked if she could talk about me later," Ms. Esterday told
NPR. "I didn't like it when someone called me up and said 'Hillary Clinton is
talking about you.'"
She wasn't complaining about her circumstances, Ms. Esterday told Mr. Greene.
"I don't think she understood at all what I was saying," Ms. Esterday said. "I
mean, nobody got left a tip that day."
The incident happened when the Clinton entourage stopped at the Maid Rite diner in
Toledo, Iowa for lunch Oct. 8. But it didn't become public until the NPR broadcast
a month later. Hillary Clinton's alleged stinginess swiftly made the rounds of the
When the brouhaha started, the Clinton campaign told NPR they paid $157 for the food
the party consumed, and left a $100 tip. Maid Rite manager Brad Crawford said the
bill was paid, but added that "where Hillary was sitting, there was no tip left."
Contacted again by NPR last Thursday, Ms. Esterday stuck by her story. Neither she
nor the two waitresses who worked with her that day knew anything about a $100 tip.
"I've known a lot of these ladies most of my life living here," she said. "I can't
imagine them pocketing it."
After the original NPR story aired, a Clinton staffer came to the diner to apologize
to her and gave her $20, Ms. Esterday said. The staffer said the $100 tip had been
left on the credit card.
That wasn't true. The VISA receipt shows no tip money. When informed of this, the
Clinton campaign told NPR the tip was left in cash. But, NPR notes, the campaign
"has declined to make available a staff member who was present at Maid Rite and left
So do we believe Ms. Esterday and her coworkers, or do we believe the Clinton
campaign? The Clintons have a history of dissimulation, and, during her Senate
campaign in 2000, Hillary Clinton stiffed a waitress in a diner in Albion, New York.
This incident could have a greater impact on the battle for the Democratic
presidential nomination than tens of thousands of dollars in campaign ads.
Most pundits in Washington have already conceded the Democratic nomination to Sen.
Clinton because of the large leads she holds in national opinion polls. But that
lead is illusory, because normal people don't pay much attention to politics a year
before the election. It's not a surprise that there are a lot of undecideds in the
national polls, or that the frontrunners in both parties are the candidates with the
highest name recognition.
The polls in Iowa where a higher proportion of voters is paying attention,
because the Iowa caucuses are less than two months away tell a different story.
There, Hillary Clinton's lead over Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill) is within the margin of
Sen. Obama is so wet behind the ears dolphins could swim there. But he's a likeable
guy conservatives who attended Harvard law school when he was there, or who
served with him in the Illinois legislature have nothing but kind things to say
about him who gives a good stump speech. He apparently wowed 'em at a big
Democratic dinner in Des Moines Sunday night. Sen. Obama also has plenty of money
and according to David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register the best organization
People tend to vote for the candidate they like. The incident involving Ms. Esterday
reminds us Ms. Clinton lacks Sen. Obama's warmth, and her husband's campaign skills.
Reports over the weekend that her campaign has been planting questions in audiences
reinforce the view she is programmed and insincere.
Bill Clinton won the Democratic nomination in 1992 despite losing in Iowa and New
Hampshire. But Hillary's campaign is based largely on an aura of inevitability.
Tarnish that aura, and her lead in the national polls could vanish like a puff of
Former Sen. John Edwards, the fading third candidate in the race, could determine
the outcome of the Iowa caucuses. If Mr. Edwards decides the high likelihood of
being Sen. Obama's running mate is better than the tiny possibility of winning the
nomination himself, and endorses Obama...