- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2001

Q: "Reverend Sharpton, how many suits do you own?" A: "Well, you would have to I debate whether I own it because a lot of that is business expense, but I have, I have access to about 10 or 12."

Hmm, let's see. There's Al Gore, Bill Bradley, Ed Koch, Hillary Pantsuit Clinton and … so on. Unless, of course, the Rev. Al is talking about the blue serge, the gray flannel and the summer seersucker. If so, one might wonder whether his access to said suits is unrestricted. That is, is he obstructed in any way by previous owners, dry cleaners or wire hangers?

Such questions were never satisfactorily resolved in a lengthy but cagey the New York Times used the word "squirrelly" deposition Mr. Sharpton gave recently to lawyers for Steven A. Pagones, the former prosecutor Mr. Sharpton was found to have defamed in connection with the Tawana Brawley hoax 13 years ago, and to whom Mr. Sharpton still owes $65,000 in damages.

Al Sharpton says he can't pay up. In fact, the way he tells it, he has no money not a dime no credit cards, no tech stocks, no car, not even a radio; just a nice watch, a wedding band (take them, Mr. Pagones), and the strange power to make Democratic candidates bend at the knees. He says he puts "99 percent" of his "take-home" pay ($73,000, he says) into his promotional company, Rev. Als Productions handy moniker, that but somehow sends his daughters to a pricey private school. He has no bank account, but sure seems to have everything else. Mr. Pagones' legal team thinks Mr. Sharpton has a hidden asset or two.

Sounds like a good hunch. If Mr. Sharpton, now seriously mulling a run for New York City mayor, throws his hat into the ring, will the secrets of his pocketbook spill out for all to see? That would depend on the media. Judging by the pass they just gave Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on fiscal matters funny money fund-raising, and even cattle futures trading Rev. Al is reasonably safe. Sure, the cattle deal is about juicy as a sack of old fertilizer by now, but the fact remains that Mrs. Clinton never gave a cogent explanation for her great luck. Nor, more important, was she asked for one.

It seems that Mrs. Clinton, and maybe Mr. Sharpton, too, have simply graduated beyond having to deliver explanations for anything. In Mrs. Clinton we behold a being whose $8 million book deal, $2.85 million mansion, and Senate seat have been reduced by an admiring press corps to mere accouterments of celebrity living, a blinding shield for the woman beneath. "Can a celebrity with a multi-million dollar book deal and a new mansion find happiness in the nation's oldest and most exclusive club?" NBC's Andrew Mitchell recently enthused.

Which is not to say, however, that there are no insights to be gleaned from a human being's more superficial characteristics. Take the fact that the junior senator from New York doesn't carry a purse. Lucianne Goldberg first raised this not-altogether flippant issue on her news-synthesizing web site, Lucianne.com: "What gives Hillary the total look of empowerment is the fact that, though pocketless, she never carries a handbag. That means, significantly, someone is just out of camera range carrying it for her. Think about it."

It actually fits like the last puzzle piece. There are many things you would think might happen to regalistic women who don't carry pocketbooks that are happening to Mrs. Clinton. Naturally, she's having a hard time digging up a ghost writer for her $8 million book, for example. It seems her reputation for berating and belittling underlings is having the ju-ju effect of warding off all literary "ghosts."

As one publisher who gave Mrs. Clinton a list of potential writers told the New York Post's Page Six, "She's having trouble. She's incredibly difficult. She didn't like the editors of her first two books, and she hated the ghostwriters." Another "insider" pooh-poohed the notion. "There are no difficulties," the source insisted, noting that Mrs. Clinton was, after all, rather busy these days new house, new job and all those swearings-in. After being sworn in twice in Washington the first time, the real McCoy, the second time, a staged "reenactment."

Mrs. Clinton will actually be sworn in a third time at get this the Theater at Madison Square Garden. (Such an appropriate venue.) There, Mrs. Clinton will take the oath of office again why not? this time feted by the likes of Billy Joel, Toni Morrison, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward and Jessye Norman. No word yet on whether the Rev. Al will attend, but it's a good bet that he'll have access to a suit.

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