- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2000


With the Sunday spectacle, as minutely choreographed as it was gigantically staged, that marked the official debut of Hillary Rodham Clinton as U.S. Senate candidate, Mrs. Clinton introduced her latest political agenda. Considering that the six months she's spent traversing the state "during which," as a biting New Yorker piece recently noted, "she tried to elevate nodding into a kind of political philosophy" have only shifted her poll position from roughly 10 points up on her Republican opponent, Rudy Giuliani, to roughly 10 points down, Mrs. Clinton has decided it's time to reintroduce herself to her coveted constituency. It seems, as she told the New York Times in the first extended interview on her candidacy, that voters don't particularly like what they know about her. Therefore, she thinks, voters simply don't know enough.
After seven slash-and-burn years of the Clinton-Gore administration, one might believe Americans know everything they might reasonably expect to know about Hillary Rodham Clinton (except, of course, how she transformed her $1,000 stake in the cattle futures market into $100,000, what role she played in the Castle Grande flimflam deal … etc.). Not so, insists the Hillary-for-Senate coterie, including political adviser Mandy Grunwald and Hollywood television producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. And so they have put together what else? a soft, pink sweater of a biographical film that premiered on announcement day (Mrs. Clinton actually wears such a sweater on camera).
It is this new Hillary Rodham Clinton Human Hillary who "has a great guffaw of a laugh," "terrible eyesight," and, as Mrs. Clinton herself says, "makes a mean tossed salad," that the Senate candidate plans to take to the hustings. After all, the issues alone or, as the New Yorker's Elizabeth Kolbert put it, "talking about talking about the issues" haven't been clicking. Ms. Kolbert's devastating essay, "Running on Empathy," underscores the meaninglessness of a rhetoric that camouflages an intense desire to be elected based on sincerity or its imitation alone. Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that Mrs. Clinton's appeal has been somewhat limited. In fact, with the exception of black women, Mrs. Clinton hasn't yet won the allegiance of the constituency groups on which Democratic candidacies depend. Among white women, particularly suburban white women, Mrs. Clinton's support is downright tepid. Maybe Human Hillary and her "mean tossed salad" are part of an all-out effort to woo the soccer moms of the Empire State.
And maybe that's why Mrs. Clinton spoke at such mind-numbing length to the New York Times about … grocery shopping. "You know," she said, of her first foray to a market near her new Chappaqua home, "pushing that cart through the supermarket, and standing and talking to I had a long conversation about clementines with the produce manager because it's been a long time since I bought a crate of clementines. You know, standing over in the dairy department trying to decide what Skim Plus meant. Because, you know, I'd never seen Skim Plus. And having a man come up to me and kind of do a double take and kind of say, 'Is that you?' and I said, 'I guess so, it is me.' It made me feel like I was re-entering the real world."
It would seem that re-entry is a continuing process. The most striking statement in Mrs. Clinton's announcement speech concerned her take on government "not the source of all our problems or the solution to them," she insisted, all the while plugging her pet government initiatives and programs. "But I do believe that when people live up to their responsibilities, we ought to live up to ours." We? Who's we? Until Sunday, Mrs. Clinton occupied that officially unofficial role that allowed her, as first lady, to speak for the nation. As a novice political candidate, her role has changed. She doesn't become "we" again unless "the people" elect her. The race is on.

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