- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2000

Every time I find myself wanting to give Hillary Clinton the benefit of the dubious decision, she makes it impossible. She's smart without subtlety, audacious without discretion, powerful without a purpose beyond her own selfish interests.

She's a lightning rod, like Newt Gingrich. Unlike Newt, she never pays a price.

Like Newt, she landed a book contract worth millions. Unlike Newt, she won't have to give it back. Nor do you hear fellow Democrats criticizing her. (Surprise. Surprise.)

When Newt received a $4.5 million for a book contract from Harper Collins, owned by media baron Rupert Murdoch, he was investigated by the House Ethics Committee and excoriated by Rep. David Bonier. "He hasn't even been sworn in as speaker," cried Mr. Bonier, "and he's already begun to cash in."

The House Ethics Committee did not find him guilty of ethical breaches, but they condemned him for "giving the impression of exploiting one's office for personal gain." Mr. Bonier suggested that Mr. Murdoch had given Newt a Christmas present that would be repaid in kind in later legislation affecting Mr. Murdoch's media properties.

Has anyone heard a Democrat suggest that Hillary's $8 million book contract from Simon & Schuster, owned by Viacom/CBS, which could be affected by legislation later, as "giving the impression of exploiting one's office for personal gain"? Will Hillary recuse herself from votes affecting Viacom/CBS?

Hillary has been exposed as something of a gold-digger before, most dramatically when she made a quick $100,000 killing in cattle futures trading, with lots of help from one of her husband's wealthy campaign contributors in Arkansas.

But that was a long time ago, of course. She was elected senator from New York in a fair election and is in a good position to move back to Washington as a senator with, if not a clean slate, at least a new slate. But since her first act was so extravagantly self-aggrandizing, she erased in an instant any good feeling she may have had coming. For $8 million she will sell her personal feelings in a book about being first lady, which according to the New York Daily News will include details of her innermost thoughts about betrayal by her husband. She's certainly not getting that kind of money to describe trips to India, her views on China trade or why she changed chefs at the White House.

Maybe Hillary has spent too much time in Hollywood with her begging bowl, forgetting she is supposed to be first a first lady. She acts more like a movie star leading a tabloid life. What a wonderful opportunity she had to dampen public suspicion. Instead she continues to feed it.

We don't know much about Laura Bush yet, but what we do know is that she isn't bitchy. She's been a governor's wife for almost eight years and she has made public and private issues her own. As a librarian-teacher, she wants every child in America to learn to read. As a wife, she was largely responsible for boosting George W. onto the wagon after years of heavy drinking. Their relationship suggests mutual respect and independence that's neither condescending nor patronizing.

The first lady's job, as we all perceive it, is something of a Rorchshach test. We want her to reflect her own personality and capability with dignity that reflects honor on her, her husband, and the United States.

But the Bushes, like the Clintons before them, arrive in Washington with vivid reputations. We're meeting George W. after his bad-boy drinking days are over. Bill Clinton arrived in Washington in a swirl of "bimbo eruptions." Hillary was the feminist who put down the little ladies who baked cookies and served tea. Laura arrives with rave reviews as her years as first lady of Texas.

Hillary complains that she never enjoyed a "zone of privacy" as first lady, but that was her doing after she jump-started her husband's campaign with a theatrical turn on "60 Minutes." Hillary's zone of privacy has always been determined by the stakes at hand, a question of price and who would pay it. A book contract worth $8 million makes cattle futures small potatoes. And that's no bull.

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