Jewish World Review Sept. 25, 2000 / 24 Elul, 5760
John H. Fund
Hillary gives new meaning to a "woman with a past"
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON has spent the last seven and a half years being
protected from troublesome questions by Secret Service agents and staffers.
It shows. This month's debate in Buffalo showed the first lady knows the
issues and can deliver scripted lines. But when she's forced to think on her
feet, she painfully reminds all of us this is her first campaign.
EVEN THE NEW YORK TIMES, not known for being friendly to George W. Bush or
other Republicans, admitted that Rep. Rick Lazio "came across as a smoother,
more aggressive performer." A seasoned candidate faced with the question
about her husband's impeachment scandal would have come up with a warm
expression of regret and turned the question around. But Mrs. Clinton
reacted as if she had never had to address the question before, and came
across as less than convincing. Then she allowed her little-known opponent
to dominate the stage and back her into a corner with her refusal to take a
pledge against running commercials financed with unregulated "soft money."
WOMAN WITH A PAST
Lazio does come across as a young, too-eager-to-please pol, but he is a
fresh face and Mrs. Clinton is clearly a woman with a past that keeps coming
back to haunt her.
First, there's her lack of ties to New York. Mr. Lazio said her Little Rock
policy record wasn't adequate for the Big Apple. A commercial being run by
the American Conservative Union, one of the independent groups whose
involvement in the campaign Mrs. Clinton rails against, pokes fun at her by
showing five babies sitting next to each other. "In New York, all babies
like these have something in common," the ad says as the camera zooms on a
single baby wearing a Yankee baseball cap. "They've lived here longer than
Hillary Rodham Clinton."
ANOTHER DAMAGING REPORT
Secondly, Independent Counsel Robert Ray has announced that he will release
a report on the First Lady's involvement in the Whitewater bank scandal
(which led to the collapse of a savings and loan that cost the taxpayers $60
million). Mrs. Clinton's defenders will scream "politics," but it is her own
delays in not turning over evidence (remember the billing records?) and her
lack of cooperation that have delayed Ray's report so long. Mrs. Clinton
will not be indicted, but Ray could well conclude that she operated in an
unethical manner and may not have told the truth to federal investigators.
Third, White House staffers have voiced concern that the old Clinton
practice of renting out the Lincoln Bedroom to contributors may still
continue under the First Lady's supervision. Since mid-1999, there have been
at least 26 times in which people have stayed overnight at the White House
after donating to Hillary's campaign or promising to do so.
| You, go girl!
The White House is balking at release of the name of Hillary's overnight
guests on Pennsylvania Avenue and also at the president's Camp David
retreat. If the charges that the infamous "overnights" have continued
despite White House admissions that the hospitality dispensed during the
1996 campaign was ill-advised, expect a populist backlash from some voters.
THE POWER DIFFERENTIAL
Mrs. Clinton is still having trouble standing on her own two feet. She has
always existed in the shadow of her husband, her power derivative and
unelected. Some of that isn't all her fault. She came of age during a time
when the role of women in politics was in transition. If she had been born
in the 1930's, she would likely have settled for the role of a conventional
political spouse, influential but behind the scenes. If she'd been born in
the 1950's, there is little doubt she would have sought public office in her
own right. Instead, she remains in an awkward position that will continue to
prevent her from connecting with voters.
If you detected an uneasy, programmed look in Mrs. Clinton's eyes during the
televised debate, it may have been her realization that her years in Bill
Clinton's still haven't prepared her for a leading role on the political
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09/21/00: Ignore the Polls. The Campaign Isn't Over Yet
©2000, John H. Fund