- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2000

LOS ANGELES.Loretta Young died on the eve of the Democratic convention in Los Angeles with perfect timing, a reminder (as if the town needed a reminder) that the glamorous and elegant Hollywood of the last Democratic National Convention held here is dead, dead, dead.

Her designer dresses suggested sophistication and grace, and she almost seemed to float when she walked down the stairs to greet the audience (or at least the camera) as the "first lady of television." The stars today Hollywood rarely calls them that wear tight sexy designer dresses that wrap them in a raunchy reality.

Human nature hasn't changed, but our icons sure have. Fantasies, too. A quick glance at the podium demonstrates that. Loretta Young could play a tough cookie with a core of inner strength, but she wore it with a veneer of feminine vulnerability. Both women and men rooted for her because she played by the rules and was comfortable in the person she portrayed, a rare combination of both a "woman's woman," and a "man's woman."

"My appeal wouldn't have been to the intellectuals or the neurotics," she told her co-author for an unpublished autobiography. In her most famous role in "The Farmer's Daughter," Loretta Young plays a Swedish maid who runs for Congress. Everybody loves her.

She wouldn't have been a bad image model for Hillary Clinton, but Hillary, a star of Clinton Night at the convention, came of age after the sexual and cultural revolutions of the four decades since the Democrats nominated JFK in Los Angeles and she's burdened with very different images of female heroines.

Nowhere is the split personality of the female vision for the 21st century more confused than in Hillary Clinton. When she took center stage at Staples Center eight years of public personas hung over her like a closet full of the fashions a woman can't bear to throw away even though she wouldn't dream of wearing again they're dated, tacky, too youthful or worst of all, no longer fit the figure.

Gone is the young woman in headbands with bad hair days who wears unflattering hats, dresses and suits. The first lady was pretty in blue. As she tell audiences on the campaign trail, she's older and blonder.

But her prime-time speech (which put the president who followed her out of prime-time in the crucial eastern time zone) was canned and delivered in sing-song, suggesting that she was more concerned with not making a mistake than evoking warmth and spontaneity. That's too bad for her. The polls, including her own, suggest that New York voters simply don't trust her.

She's like a cubist portrait by Pablo Picasso; you see her from the front and from the side, and the angles don't morph into a coherent composite, but grate and irritate and the viewer can't put it all together. It's not all her fault, but it is largely her doing.

In her speech, for example, she alluded to her failed health care plan and said she'd learned a lot since then, but what is it exactly that she has learned? She didn't say. Did she learn that most people don't want the government spending their money on what Hillary Clinton thinks is good for them? Or did she learn that her secret meetings showed her to have a penchant for running things without public knowledge?

Greatest irony of all, Hillary got her best public approval poll ratings as the victimized wife rather than the aggressive co-president. Women who felt she abused power suddenly saw her abused by the powerful. Excruciatingly painful as it was to see Monica's dirty laundry washed in public, there's no way Hillary would have run for the U.S. Senate without the mortification that made her vulnerable.

But that vulnerability also cut into her natural constituency, the liberal career women in New York who you can see in the HBO sitcom "Sex and the City." The polls suggest that they see her as having forged a pact with the devil, not as unwitting victim of her husband's hedonism. True or not, that image trumps all others. "She is not just pretending to be a New Yorker and a New York Yankee fan," writes author Katie Roiphe, "she is pretending to be a woman."

These career women who had to claw their way to powerful careers without the "help" of a philandering husband a president no less to make them look virtuous, are jealous. They see their personal ambitions and bitchiness writ large in Hillary and it drives them crazy. "They accept her so completely," writes Miss Roiphe, "that they resent her, they admire her, they secretly want to see her fail."

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