Jewish World Review March 9, 2001 / 14 Adar, 5761
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- FRIENDS and acquaintances were dismissive when about a year ago I made an issue out of Candidate Hillary Clinton stiffing a waitress at an upstate New York restaurant. I insisted it wasn’t an isolated oversight, but that it betrayed something about the candidate’s overall character.
Bah humbug, they scoffed. "Why are you making such a big deal? Everyone forgets once in a while. It doesn’t mean anything."
While I couldn’t have predicted the extreme to which my philosophy would be vindicated, I wasn’t the one caught by surprise when the Clintons tried to take half the White House with them.
When former Clinton advisor Dick Morris, who happens to be Jewish, once asked about his consulting fee, Mrs. Clinton shot back: "Is that all you people think about—money?" Now we can pose the same question back to the Clintons, even though we already have the answer.
It’s the little things that reveal the most about people. I thought that was common wisdom. Living in New York City, I get the chance to observe lots of people’s little things.
I remember, for instance, waiting at an east midtown traffic light and noticing a yellow cab to my left dropping off an artsy, downtown-looking female Generation-Xer in front of an upscale restaurant. We saw her pay the driver and then watched as she waited, hand outstretched expectantly toward the driver, for her change—literally—the silver change.
I also remember the day that Manhattan groceries started charging $3 for delivery, which had been free of charge forever. I read an article in the New York Times about what spurred the change. Relying heavily on tips, the mostly Nigerian young delivery men complained of not being able to make enough even to pay their share of the rent for the cramped Queens apartments they shared with up to a dozen other guys. They complained of frequent 25- or 50-cent tips, and of going up five flights of stairs in walkups with $100-worth of groceries for a dollar.
Just last week, I was out with some friends at a Mediterranean restaurant. When we got the check, one friend—a young woman from a more privileged background than what I’ve known—collected the cash and paid with her credit card—a common practice. The check was for just under $52, tax included, and I wanted to make sure the waiter would get a $10 tip (we’d been sitting there for a while)—so when my friend finished handling it, I peeked at the slip. I saw the printed total of $52, the line by the printed word "Tip" left blank, and a signature at the bottom so big and exaggerated that it encroached on this space.
"Where’d you put the total amount?" I asked.
"Right there," she pointed to her signature, getting up and putting on her coat.
"Where?" I asked, confused.
"Right here. Sixty-two," she answered, ready to go.
There, through the forest of her towering script, I was able to make out—barely, barely—the number 62 followed by a dash, buried under the signature. If it hadn’t been pointed out to me, I wouldn’t have found it. To everyone’s vexation, I adjusted the slip and explained to the waiter, and we left. But I had to wonder how many waiters might have gotten haphazardly screwed out of a tip in the course of my friend’s nightly whirlwind social life.
At first it took me a while to get used to seeing this sort of thing in New York—sophisticated, enlightened, high-cultured, Poor Man Advocacy Central. The New York that chose Clinton, Schumer, Gore and Clinton (not to mention Cuomo and Dinkins). The anti-rich, anti-corporate breed that’s always ranting about "taking care" of people, that elects politicians who promise to do so, and that complains about any and every tax break even when it helps the working man as proportionately as it does any rich guy. (In fact, they’re doing it right now.)
I do take care of people. I live by a "spread the wealth" philosophy. That’s why I don’t feel that taxes need to be used to redistribute wealth. The American economy is built in a way that spreads wealth organically. It’s a balanced system we have here. But for those who don’t believe in it, and think good will can only be coerced, the desire for a more socialized system makes sense. Since they have only themselves to go by, I can understand their scant faith in humanity and partiality toward the iron fist. But I don’t think the rest of us should be made to foot the bill for their pessimism—or their parsimony.
Indeed, it’s always seemed an irony that communists were known as "idealists," when their politics were driven by such cynicism and the attitude toward their fellow man was so pessimistic.
This seeming dichotomy between politics and practice also lives in people who have a hard time relating or being kind to others, and therefore tend to opt for the "nicer" party, supporting "generous" policies, as well as politicians who play the game of inclusion politics. Treating those around them with disregard, they live one way and vote another, in a sense going to the polls to atone for theirs sins. Others with this problem make a practice of traveling to distant lands looking for miserable, impoverished strangers to impart kindness on and shower with good deeds, all because they’re unable to speak a kind word to their mother.
I live on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the seat of limousine liberalism, where 96% of registered voters voted for Hillary Clinton. Yet when I’m walking into an establishment behind someone, if I don’t catch the door, it closes before me; when I walk into the establishment first, and hold the door for the next person to take it, instead of taking it, he or she walks all the way through without saying "thank you." When I want to enter or leave my building, either I have to walk all the way around people with baby strollers blocking the wide doorway, or it takes a number of excuse me’s before they even notice that someone’s there—and then a couple more before they actually move.
With all these groups, guilt is assuaged through politics. Their staple of big-spending politicians draws its support both from the guilt-ridden and from a constituency of les miserables. These politicians make similar assumptions about humanity, such as the notion that people on welfare can’t help their situation, and that people in general "are selfish and have to be forced to do what is right," as one advocate of big spending put it.
For someone who subscribed to this brand of logic most of her life, Hillary Clinton has come a long way from the radical "idealistic" proponent of social change who at her Wellesley graduation took the podium to say:
"We feel that for too long our leaders have used politics as the art of the possible. And the challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible….There are some things we feel, feelings that our prevailing, acquisitive, and competitive corporate life, including tragically the universities, is not the way of life for us."
Indeed, the Clintons embody the hypocrisy of greedy leftwing corruption. For anyone who was ever a Hillary supporter and finds her recent behavior contradictory to what she ostensibly has stood for, author-philosopher Ayn Rand reminds us that there are no contradictions. If you think you’ve encountered one, go back to your original premise. It’s probably wrong.
Hillary Clinton is the guilty hypocrite’s politician; her supporters shouldn’t be turned off or thrown off by her recent acquiring sprees.
Exposed about the tip she forgot to leave, Mrs. Clinton was given a chance to correct the oversight. A $100 savings bond was purchased for $50 and sent to the waitress. According to a campaign staff member, "Mrs. Clinton and about six staff members" pitched in for it. What was Mrs. Clinton’s share of the $50? "No comment."
A $50 problem, and she still couldn’t fix it.
College student Hillary Rodham’s contempt for what she saw as the greedy establishment may well have been projection on her part. Perhaps she feared the pull of material comfort, and sensed the enemy within herself. And so she turned into her own worst nightmare: a moneygrubber, a tchotchke hoarder.
And now that’s all she can think
03/05/01: World travel: Less is more