- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2000

Though the media has irked first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton for years, it has provided a forum for her many deft and occasionally daft public characters.

Mrs. Clinton has played attack wife, wronged woman, diplomat, mommy, harridan, orator, survivor, beauty and "feminista."

Now, she is soloist. With a brand new ad for her New York Senate campaign, Mrs. Clinton seems intent on shedding the shackles of the White House, and establishing yet another new persona.

"More than a first lady," a male voice croons in the 30-second commercial, which will be seen for two weeks across New York via $400,000 of newly purchased air time.

But the new spot comes in a familiar shade. It is a showcase for the type of much ballyhooed, heartfelt empathy that has served President Clinton so well in the past.

Mrs. Clinton is also out to feel a little of that public pain.

"First" is the theme throughout the soft-focus series of still photos that depict an earnest, polished woman who cuddles children and thumbs through thick books.

She was "first" a lawyer, her "first" cause was children, her "first" priority public schools. The five-letter word is burned into every frame.

President Clinton, however, is last here. He is not mentioned, depicted or alluded to. Nor is Mrs. Clinton's Arkansas past.

It was her intent to be Bill-less.

"It never occurred to me," Mrs. Clinton told reporters Thursday when pressed about the president's absence. "I'm using this opportunity to introduce myself."

This is not the only time she has divorced her husband's image from her own. In an 18-minute biographical video released in February, Mr. Clinton appeared in only a single scene.

The Hillary Clinton of the new commercial seems a savvy and independent saint.

"For 30 years," the ad notes, "she has fought for children and families. As New York's senator, she'll fight for better schools and health care for children."

But no princess is she.

"Hillary: Put her to work for all of us," the copy concludes.

So far, the ad is getting mixed reviews. It was parodied on late-night TV on Wednesday night, where they replaced the last line of the ad with "The first Clinton you can trust your daughter with."

USA Today called it "light on specifics," while the New York Post found the audio a little too "subdued" to be effective. The New York Times said the ad was typical fare, but was "a deliberate effort to counter the concern among women that she is simply a product of her husband."

The effort barely registered with Bruce Teitelbaum, campaign manager for New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, the first lady's opponent.

"The ad is obviously trying to portray Mrs. Clinton as someone with a record of accomplishment," he said Thursday. "The fact is she doesn't have a record."

Mrs. Clinton has some experience in commercial effectiveness, however.

Back in 1996, she considered producing a few TV spots to clarify her role in Whitewater and "Travelgate" and make sure "that the truth gets out."

"In a political campaign," Mrs. Clinton said at the time, "unlike in the sort of daily back-and-forth of public service, you can focus people's attention, and if worst comes to worst, you can pay to advertise what the facts are."

As of today, the first lady has visited all 62 New York counties. The ad can be seen at her Web site (www.hillary2000.org).

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