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Jewish World Review /Jan. 14, 1999 /25 Teves, 5759


Mugger Senator Hillary Rodham in 2000: The First Step Back to the Oval Office

I HAD A SCARY DOSE OF REALITY LAST FRIDAY. Speculating about the 2000 Senate race in New York with the subject of a profile in our latest edition, I brought up the assumed Giuliani run on the Republican side. No way, countered the subject: Rudy’s got his eye on the attorney general slot in a George W. Bush administration (or perhaps another winning candidate).

This fellow was cagey about his sources, but claims a deal has already been struck: Rudy helps the presidential candidate capture New York in the general election and presto! he’s A.G., all set to abridge the freedom of all Americans, not just New Yorkers.

I’d never considered this turn of events but it makes a lot of sense: Giuliani doesn’t want to be one of 100 bodies rattling around the old cloakroom in the Capitol, slapping each other on the back and going for cocktails after their abbreviated day of work is done.

No, he’d rather be his own man, free to prosecute the hell out of political enemies and maybe take a whack at the First Amendment too. And that’s scary.

If this prediction should prove correct, it leads to an equally horrific possibility: Sen. Hillary Rodham (D-NY).

Without Giuliani in the way—who’d probably defeat the First Lady, given his popularity in the city and upstate—who’s going to knock her down? The supposedly conservative Congressman Pete King, who’s been co-opted by Bill Clinton because of the President’s successful intervention into the British-Irish "Troubles"?

Not likely.

George Pataki, dreaming of a veep slot with a GOP nominee, won’t run, and after that, New York is bereft of influential Republicans who could smash a cash- and endorsement-rich Hillary.

It’s a distressing but completely possible scenario, given Hillary’s inexplicable popularity in the state. (As a journalist friend of mine says, "I think Hillary is just as demented as Bill, which is why she might run.") But it’s just her first step, I think. With her husband’s presidency destined to be recorded by historians (even the most liberal ones) as one that ranks just above Warren G. Harding’s, Hillary is hell-bent on making sure she doesn’t share the same fate. So, with a successful run in New York, aided by Chuck Schumer (who owes her for his defeat of Al D’Amato last fall) and New Jersey Sen. Robert Torricelli, the man who’s been floating—with her nod of approval, undoubtedly—a possible candidacy, Hillary returns to DC as her own woman.

On Jan. 5, The New York Times gave its tacit approval to a Hillary run in an editorial: "[W]e are strongly on the side of large fields, intense competition and the general theory of the more the merrier, including those who move to New York to find work."

Then—and yes, it gets much worse—she plots to take back the White House in 2008. It’s possible she’ll stick with Bill: In that case, President Rodham would have two missions: rehabilitate his image while foisting her own agenda on the country. Or, if she dumps the lug, which any sane woman would, she’ll make a go of it on her own, unencumbered by the baggage of a discredited president. Women and Michael Moore (an honorary woman) on the Upper West Side of Manhattan will rejoice.

The first step in Hillary’s Senate campaign is probably already under way: It’s unusual for a magazine to order a second printing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the February issue of Vanity Fair has another million copies on the loading dock right now, ready to be delivered to the White House. Gail Sheehy, who writes a fawning profile of the First Lady called "The Clintons: Why Hillary Won’t Dump Bill," has never been more smarmy in her prose. As an old pro in the business told me Sunday, Sheehy is Sidney Blumenthal. Without the facelift. But why get catty? Anyway, the entire piece is littered with nauseating paeans to Hillary, but the following is surely a classic:

After describing the Clintons’ stormy summer, including when Hillary allegedly discovered the truth about Monica Lewinsky shortly before her husband’s Aug. 17 non-apology to the nation, and her subsequent cold-shoulder treatment of him, even when Clinton invited "more black brothers than ever" to a White House prayer breakfast, Sheehy exults in the First Lady’s stump performance in the ’98 elections. She writes: "The Clinton who found redemption in the fall of ’98 was not Bill, who continued to infuriate Republicans with his unrepentant answers to questions sent to him by the Judiciary Committee. It was Hillary, who erased the memory of the ’94 Democratic congressional defeat by emerging as the biggest draw of the fall ’98 elections."

The Dersh
(Interestingly, Sheehy reveals that Alan Dershowitz, the obnoxious lawyer who defends Clinton at every opportunity on cable talk shows, was a guest last summer at a Martha’s Vineyard dinner at financier Steven Rattner’s home. Dershowitz and Clinton, the latter shunned by most guests, "discussed the Bible.")

Sheehy’s not quite accurate, as the Republicans held control of both the House and Senate, but who am I to interrupt the all-knowing hagiographer? "She was a woman whose public world was now an oyster full of pearls. Hillary’s valiant year may turn out to be comparable to Jacqueline Kennedy’s example of dignified grief after the assassination of her husband."

Second place? Here’s my nomination: "She is also a protector. Her life strategy, decided long ago, was to take the raw material of a brilliant, emotionally battered child with a good heart and a desperate ambition and shape him into a political star to which she could hitch her wagon full dreams for changing the world. It took a Hillary to raise a president."

Finally, the Jesse Jackson factor. How Jackson, who’s self-righteous about racial inequality to the point of threatening a primary challenge to Al Gore next year, got mixed up with the Clintons is anybody’s guess. Just another attention whore.
But there he was at the White House, the night before Clinton’s grand jury testimony, "ministering" to a "distraught" Chelsea.Jackson told her stories from the Bible, likened her father to King David of Israel, "a talented musician, just as Bill is. And yet he became weak when he saw Bathsheba." Jackson added, for good measure, "What’s different here is that Ken Starr is able to play God with government funding."

You get the gist. It’s said in the gossip columns that Sheehy and Carl Bernstein are competing for whose bio of Hillary comes out first. My money’s on Sheehy, since Bernstein’s seemed to have writer’s block since the wild 80s, but I can only hope her tome will be remaindered as fast as Dan Quayle gets in and out of the GOP presidential race. Then again, as a Red Sox fan, I don’t hold out for miracles, especially when an author so well-connected in the publishing racket is involved. Shame on Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter for publishing, and paying for, such utter garbage.

Put the Lid on Dole: Both of Them

LEAVE IT TO BOB DOLE to muck up presidential politics. Again. It was bad enough that he ran the most lackluster campaign in memory three years ago, but now his wife, Elizabeth Dole, no doubt at his Viagra-charged urging, is contemplating a run at the GOP nomination in 2000.

I don’t have any ax to grind with the woman the pundits love to call Liddy, and she gave a swell performance at the ’96 convention, but she’d be a lousy candidate for several reasons: One, the party needs a leader from a younger generation; at 62, Dole isn’t ready for the glue farm, but she doesn’t portray the youthful image that Clinton so artfully exploited in ’92.

Second, she’s never run for any elective office, is wound very tight, so who knows how she’d perform in debates or on the campaign hustings? Finally, if it’s the veep slot she’s really after, that just doesn’t make sense for George W. Bush, the probable nominee.

(Bush, by the way, who says he won’t announce his plans until this spring, has been making surreptitious visits to Iowa, away from the media’s glare, according to a source of mine there.)

Dole’s from North Carolina, a state that Bush will win handily; he’d be better off with a Northeastern or rust belt pick, say Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania (a Vietnam vet) or Michigan’s Gov. John Engler. In a perfect world, I’d like to see Alan Keyes as Bush’s running mate, but he’s too radical for a national candidacy.

It’s said that Sen. John Ashcroft’s departure from the field is a plus for Steve Forbes, who’s been assiduously, and shamelessly, courting the religious right the last two years. I don’t buy it. Forgive my repetition, for while Forbes is excellent on economic issues, and seems sound on defense, he’s just too damn dorky to get elected. Dan Quayle, the annoying Gary Bauer and Sen. Bob Smith are all nonstarters.

Sen. John McCain will receive early support from a fawning media, but his temper and a scandal-tainted past will leave him as a poor antidote to Bill Clinton. An example of his boosters in the press include Jonathan Alter, who wrote in the Jan. 11 Newsweek: "Most important, to make a race of it with Bush, he’ll need to exploit his status as a war hero to expand ‘character’ beyond the narrow confines of social and sexual sins. If he accomplishes that, he’ll help American politics even if he loses."

Thank you, Father Alter. I prefer the Jan. 6 comments of George Will in The Washington Post: "Arizona Sen. John McCain had a splendid 1998, as such things are reckoned in Washington. That is, he pleased Washington, and the New York Times. His task in 1999 is to recuperate from that." However, seeing McCain speak in Phoenix two weeks ago just pointed out that he’s the Republican Bill Bradley, and even those years in a cage won’t overcome a dull message and messenger.

As entertaining as he is, I hope Pat Buchanan can keep his ego in check and not run for a third time in a row; his weird strain of populism, anti-immigration and foreign policy views that border on the anti-Semitic aren’t needed in the GOP skirmish.

Which leaves the determined Lamar Alexander. He’s got the right conservative credentials, but like Forbes doesn’t have a whit of charisma. Granted, pitted against Al Gore that quality might not matter as much, but the GOP will need every advantage it can muster. Already Alexander is attacking Bush, ridiculing the latter’s slogan "compassionate conservatism" and claiming that Bush is leading in the polls just because of his last name.

Last Thursday he told Chris Matthews on Hardball: "I don’t like those words. I think those are weasel words. I think they mean nothing. They’re just like Al Gore’s words, ‘practical idealism.’ What they’ve done, both Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore, is they put a couple of words together and—and they mean exactly nothing. And they confuse the voters. And if we’re going to bring out the best in the country, what we’ve got to do is restore some respect for the presidency. [Clinton’s] presidency has just destroyed the language: ‘Is’ doesn’t mean ‘is’; ‘sexual relations’ doesn’t mean ‘sexual relations.’ And now we have two leading people on both sides, Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush, using weasel words to build their whole political identity."

Obviously, Alexander is petrified that Bush will wrap up the nomination prematurely with his barrels of cash, loyal family connection and strong record as governor of Texas. And "compassionate conservatism" aren’t "weasel words."

What Bush has demonstrated is that he can reach out to voters previously ignored by the GOP; that he’s for the immigration that’s given this country its proud identity; that he won’t stake his entire candidacy on the thorny social issues that the Christian Coalition has so successfully divided the party on. Alexander’s been running for president since he lost in ’96; he may have visited every damn farm in Iowa and general store in New Hampshire by January of next year, but with a truncated primary schedule he won’t have the money, or the appeal, to compete in the huge media-saturated states.

With his bitterness toward Bush already in full bloom, I doubt he’ll even get a cabinet post or ambassadorship as a consolation prize in the inevitable Bush administration.

JWR contributor "Mugger" is the editor-in-chief and publisher of New York Press. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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12/17/98 : Boy Mugger's obsession
12/11/98: Irving’s the King Wolf
12/09/98: What do Matt Drudge and Tom Hanks have in common?
11/26/98: Starr’s Magnificent Moment
11/18/98: Who could have imagined!?
11/11/98: Send Dowd Down to the Minors
11/05/98: Feeding Gore to a shark named Bush
10/30/98: "Pope" Jann and his rappers speak ---it's time for fun again
10/28/98: Lowered expectations, but the GOP holds the cards
10/23/98: Speaking from Zabar’s: Michael Moore!
10/21/98: Bubba redux? His uptick won't last
10/16/98: Gore for President: The Bread Lines Are Starting to Form

©1998, Russ Smith