- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2000

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. To listen to some of the coffee-shop chatter, a visitor could think Hillary Clinton wants to be the United States senator from Arkansas.

Fayetteville is the seat of the University of Arkansas and the closest thing in Arkansas to a coven of liberals, feminists, radicals and unwashed long hair. A lot of the long hair covers red necks, however, and a Berkeley radical wouldn't necessarily feel at ease prowling the Dickson Street strip. He probably couldn't appreciate how hard some of the young professors have to work at being semi-hip.

Nevertheless, this is ground zero for what's left of native Clinton country, and Hillary is the absentee queen of the hoedown. This is where Hillary first met Arkansas, when Bill was a young professor at the law school having figured out how to dodge the Vietnam draft and she was the live-in girlfriend fresh from Yale Law, in granny glasses and what New Haven girls imagined feed-sack dresses ought to look like. Little Rock is 200 miles farther south, and all down hill.

The political talk is usually no more naive than you might hear in the faculty lounge in Cambridge, Madison, Palo Alto or Bozeman, Mont., but it's earnest enough, and it suggests a campaign opportunity for Rick Lazio.

"The great thing about Hillary getting elected in New York," says an earnest young campus liberal who insists that he ought to keep his name out of the papers, "is that we really would be getting three senators for the price of two."

This would astonish New Yorkers, of course, and that's part of the pleasure some of Hillary's fans in Arkansas take in the prospect. Making sport of Yankees, the undefeated Razorbacks to the contrary notwithstanding, is still the No. 1 pastime. "A Yankee," the old saying here goes, "is worth almost as much as a bale of cotton, and he's twice as easy to pick."

Mr. Lazio, clearly not experienced in picking either cotton or Yankees, needs help. Hillary hit 50 percent in the polls this week. "The days of wine and roses are here for Hillary, if they stick," says Maurice Carroll, the head of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute. "With 50 percent, you can't lose. You can tie, but you can't lose." The logic is irrefutable enough, if the Quinnipiac Poll, like all poll findings, is not.

Mr. Lazio insists he's not concerned, but he should be. The most troubling finding confirms what everyone suspected, that large numbers of voters think he lost the first debate with Hillary. He treated her as an equal, and that infuriated a lot of women, feminists most of all.

A politician clever enough to be his party's candidate for United States senator ought to be clever enough to privately disregard the conventional wisdom while paying necessary court to it in public. Women don't want to be treated as equals, and the man who treats women, God love 'em, as if he thinks a woman is no better than he is will pay dearly for it. Getting in Miss Hillary's face in the debate, with a demand that she practice what she preaches about the ethics of taking other people's money, was the sort of thing a man might do in a face fight with another man. Not very nice.

It was the sort of thing that Miss Hillary might have done. In fact, she has. In 1990, when Bill was laying the foundation for his race for president with one last campaign for governor of Arkansas, Miss Hillary single-handedly took a feared challenger out of the race. A young man named Tom McRae called the reporters in for his formal announcement and Miss Hillary herself showed up, without pad and pencil but with a lot of attitude. She started asking the questions, taunting and mocking him, and the press conference broke up in anger and confusion. Rick Lazio or better yet, the men who put together his campaign commercials could look it up. The videotape is highly entertaining, and very revealing.

Mr. Lazio doesn't have to remind anyone of who the Clintons are. "Like everyone else," he might say, "I feel sympathy for Bill Clinton's wife. She has had to put up with what no woman should have to put up with. But New Yorkers don't owe Mrs. Clinton a seat in the United States Senate as consolation for her torment over these past eight years. And New Yorkers don't owe Arkansas a third seat in the United States Senate. The taxpayers will be giving the Clintons a sumptuous apartment in Little Rock in that big presidential library on the Arkansas River, and they'll be flying back and forth between Washington and Little Rock at taxpayer expense. Arkansas already has two full-time senators, and New York deserves two full-time senators, too. I want to be one of them, and I won't share my allegiance with Arkansas or any other state."

If New Yorkers are half as selfish as the rest of us know they are, Rick Lazio could spend October calling the hogs.

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