- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 16, 2000

Hillary Rodham Clinton has begun her career as an officeholder, joining her new colleagues on Capitol Hill for freshmen orientation. If the first lady's unquenchable smiles were any guide, it would seem that the quest that began at her Wellesley College commencement 31 years ago for "more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating modes of living" is over: Happiness is being a senator-elect.

"It's great," she burbled about the new gig. "It feels good. It feels really good." Shifting into a higher-flown if no less effervescent diction, she also stated, "It is a joy to be representing New York," a sentiment which is, yes, equally serviceable for senator and beauty queen alike. In her joy (a.k.a. her Senate tenure), Mrs. Clinton says she hopes "to be build relationships and create consensus." And not only is she "hoping to build relationships and create consensus," she is also "absolutely hoping to build relationships and create consensus."

Which means exactly (absolutely) what? That, of course, remains to be seen. For now, it seems clear that Mrs. Clinton has become Mrs. Conviviality, attack spouse turned beamish pol, vast right-wing conspiracy or no vast right-wing conspiracy. "I am delighted to be back and rediscovering the beauty of the Capitol," she told one newspaper, bringing to mind nothing so much as Emily Post's lessons in amiable conversation. "I was just thinking that I haven't spent much time in this building since 1974, when I worked in the Congress, and 1968, when I was an intern." (An intern?)

Notice Mrs. Clinton didn't mention the time she spent lobbying for her ill-fated Hillarycare plan in 1993, which, notoriously, went down to defeat in the then-Democratically controlled Congress. After all, such a reference might lead to an awkward pause. And notice she didn't mention anything about her unstinting efforts to impeach Richard M. Nixon in 1974. That, of course, would only serve as an eerie reminder of her husband's impeachment. Such facts are not exactly conducive to building relationships or creating consensus.

The curious fact is, it may be that only by glossing over the past can Mrs. Clinton hope to realize this self-styled image of relationship-builder and consensus-creator that seems to have captured her imagination. That this polarizing figure of the Clinton years can aspire to such a role is something of a marvel. The question is, will it fly? Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson put it this way: "I think she will be accepted for what she decides to be. I think she will go forward with a blank slate and she will make her career."

Lucky her. If it happens, it may well be that Mrs. Clinton, as columnist Suzanne Fields has noted, should be known as the Comeback Kid, not her husband. While her odyssey may not strike one and all as the "modern fairy tale" that NBC's Andrea Mitchell has characterized it as being, it remains a story well worth following as much for what it tells us about ourselves as for what it tells us about Mrs. Clinton.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide