- The Washington Times - Friday, February 16, 2001

Hillary Rodham Clinton says she wants "to be judged not by the past administration, but by what I do in the Senate." Not to be churlish, but it wasn't so very long ago that Mrs. Clinton ran a senatorial campaign based on what she plugged as her achievements within that "past administration" now receding so odoriferously into its seamy place in history.

No matter. "Don't Stop Thinking about Tomorrow" was her husband's theme song, and it might as well be hers, too. The junior senator from New York wants to turn over a new leaf, and who could blame her? After all, for successfully escaping indictment Mrs. Clinton's crowning achievement as first lady (along with the Senate seat and the big book deal) the accolades are few. It is not hard to imagine that Mrs. Clinton's yet-to-unfold life as a legislator must surely hold out the pristine promise of going straight.

Unfortunately, the mud of that old garden path keeps bogging her down. First, it was the multimillion-dollar book deal, an unseemly arrangement for which she got what amounts to a pass from the media and politicos alike. Then there was her de facto senatorial shower, for which pals put their T-bills together to equip the freshman senator with the requisite Limoges supperware for her new life, post-White House pomp and table settings. (This is not to be confused with the $190,000 White House knickknack heist, roughly half of which the Clintons have either returned or paid for.) Then came her husband's Great Pardon Fiasco.

While Marc Rich is all Bill Clinton's headache, Mrs. Clinton's Senate term is still suffering a hangover resulting from Mr. Clinton's dubious decision to commute the sentences of four members of an insular Hasidic community in New Square, N.Y., whose spiritual leader kicked off a campaign for pardons with the Clinton administration beginning before and concluding after New Square voted 1,400 to 12 for Mrs. Clinton. Quid pro quo? "There was a meeting," Mrs. Clinton said last month, referring to a White House chinwag with New Square's leaders in December. Speaking with the caution of a non-English speaker trying to avoid a blunder, she continued, "I did sit in on it. That issue was raised. It was referred to the president. I never made any view known one way or another at any time." Sigh. The words "fresh start" are not the first that come to mind.

Not that it's easy to get a foothold with Bill Clinton's continuous scandal spiral throwing everything out of whack. Indeed, Mrs. Clinton herself induced a momentary sense of vertigo when she recently said, "His record demonstrates a long and personal struggle to bend the rule of law to fit his views." Et tu, Hillary? Hardly. Mrs. Clinton was declaiming against now-Attorney General John Ashcroft although she was describing pure Bill Clinton. She can't seem to help herself.

Over the weekend, Mrs. Clinton set out to make a little news of her own on the issue of racial profiling. The New York Times reported the story this way: "Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton toured Brooklyn yesterday announcing a plan to end racial profiling but ran into new questions about accepting gifts while still the first lady." The new senator wants to talk Big Issues, and the press wants to know whether the former first lady reported the gift of a beaded evening bag worth several thousand dollars styled in the likeness of Socks the Cat. (The answer is no.)

In fairness, it's also worth reporting that Mrs. Clinton has flown through a snow storm to meet with civic officials in Rochester, logged time in Budget Committee meetings, and co-sponsored a bill on high-speed rail service in New York. There's thinking about tomorrow for you. Of course, as first reported by the New York Post, Mrs. Clinton has also quietly petitioned the Senate to allow the Clinton Legal Expense Trust to remain up and running. That means Bill and Hillary Clinton may continue to raise money for legal expenses.

So much for the new leaf.

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