Jewish World Review July 8, 1999 /24 Tamuz 5759
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON'S advisers chose an interesting way to introduce her as New York's Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate. They carried her from site to site and put her on display, like a political King Tut.
She appeared among the people as someone to be seen, not heard; venerated but not touched. As gawking audiences streamed past, she nodded and smiled from her cheekbones.
This exercise was designed to demonstrate her virtuosity at listening. Unfortunately, it made her look like The Accidentally Embalmed Tourist -- in shiny new Bruno Magli pumps.
If her event planning doesn't improve, Mrs. Clinton's worst days lie ahead. New Yorkers, especially those outside Manhattan, already look upon her as an impostor. After all, here's a woman who turned her back on a lifetime's worship of the Chicago Cubs and claimed fealty to the Yankees. Half the voters upstate disapprove of her, according to the latest polls. Manhattanites interviewed on TV seemed underwhelmed, as well.
It therefore falls on Mrs. Clinton to do two things: She must tell Empire State voters what kind of person she is, and she must declare her beliefs. She approaches both chores burdened with a certain amount of baggage.
The who-she-is question seems to haunt even her. Just seven years ago, she traipsed around America dressed as a '50s-vintage hausfrau, complete with bobbed hair and an ever-present headband. She drawled when appropriate and croaked out an occasional "y'all." Although the headband vanished on Inauguration Day, she proceeded to try out so many coiffures that an enterprising cyber-wag established a website called "Hillary's Hair."
Later, after solving the tonsorial riddle, she stepped forward as Hillary the Conquering Liberal. In 1994, she set out to redesign the American health-care system and convened a panel that drafted its plan secretly -- in violation of federal law. The task force produced a complicated and draconian model statute. Among other things, it would have put the nation's teaching hospitals under the federal thumb. (She now says she supports such institutions, 10 percent of which are in New York.) The plan prescribed some eye-popping maximum fines: $5,000 for refusing to join the government-mandated health plan; $5,000 for failing to pay premiums on time; 15 years to doctors who received "anything of value" in exchange for helping patients short-circuit the bureaucracy; $10,000 a day for faulty physician paperwork; $50,000 for unauthorized patient treatment; and $100,000 a day for drug companies that messed up federal filings. Not surprisingly, the plan's fraud-abuse program financed itself through such bounty hunting.
When told the plan could bankrupt small businesses, Mrs. Clinton sighed, "I can't be responsible for every undercapitalized small business in America." When a woman complained that she didn't want to get shoved into a plan not of her choosing, the first lady lectured, "It's time to put the common good, the national interest, ahead of individuals."
As for privacy, forget it: Her plan would have required people to carry national identification cards that embedded confidential patient information on computer chips.
These policies take on significance only because they may fit a pattern.
Mrs. Clinton reportedly adopted an "off with their heads" approach to White House civil servants who didn't suit her. She demanded the firing of the White House Travel Office and may or may not have had a role in sending the FBI after its director, Billy Dale. She reportedly ordered termination of usher Chris Emery, the father of four young children, after he returned a phone call from former first lady Barbara Bush, who had a question about her laptop computer. She helped cashier a chef whose chief known offense was to have served an orange jello pie to the Bushes.
The press typically accords first ladies a free pass on such behavior. But now that she's a candidate, Mrs. Clinton may have to answer for her past. What does her treatment of the White House help say about her respect for working people? And what about her approach to special favors? To take a famous example: Did she really make $100,000 on a commodities trade on a day in which she chaired a nonstop meeting of the Legal Services Corp. that included a brown-bag lunch?
And what about such things as the Rose Law Firm billing files? The FBI files? Faulty income-tax forms? Tax deductions for giving used lingerie to a church?
Some of Mrs. Clinton's friends wave off such questions as relics of Republican mean-spiritedness. They note her considerable personal warmth and charm, and say she will triumph because she has sound ideas. Certainly, she's an unapologetic, old-school liberal. She believes that a government determined to bring forth virtue sometimes has no choice but to discipline naughty citizens by means of a brisk cropping.
Of course, we who live outside New York often read the news and conclude the state could benefit from regular canings.
If so, Hillary's the one to do
07/02/99: Master's day of reckoning is fast approaching