Jeanine Pirro officially declares Senate candidacy
By Carol Devine-Molin
People from all over America are closely watching this Clinton versus Pirro Senate race, and they're undoubtedly curious about Jeanine Pirro. With that in mind, I'll offer up a few personal observations.
I met Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro in late 1996, when she graciously consented to be interviewed on my little cable access program sponsored by the Town of Greenburgh Republicans. At its peak, "On the Right Side" (1996-2002) was distributed to approximately two thirds of cable viewers in Westchester - a major county within the New York metropolitan region – which has a populace of more than 900,000. As to Westchester's politics, it was once decidedly Republican but morphed into a Democratic stronghold in recent years.
Importantly, Jeanine Pirro has cross-over appeal with supporters in both major parties. People appreciate Jeanine's tough prosecutorial style, matched by her strong advocacy on behalf of victims. Jeanine is moderate to liberal on social issues, which is typical of New York Republicans. But make no mistake, she's a fiscal conservative, backs the Patriot Act, and will undoubtedly stand with President Bush on this war on terror.
What can I say about Jeanine Pirro that hasn't already been said? Sure, she's incredibly intelligent, charming, dedicated and passionate in her overall demeanor. However, after conversing with her, one can't help but be impressed by her kindness, empathy, inner fortitude, and upbeat attitude. She's complicated. Moreover, there's a genuineness – a down-to-earth quality – about her that just draws you in.
Here's an insight into her character: In 1996, before we began taping, I shared with Jeanine that I was still a novice and a bit nervous since she was only my second interview on the program. She listened attentively, and then immediately put me at ease, voicing full faith in me and my abilities. The beauty of Jeanine is that she imbues others with confidence and optimism. Her strength is inspiring. I read that Jeanine's daughter aptly described her mother as a "rock". According to an Associated Press piece, Christine Pirro, age 20, stated: "I'm here today to say how proud I am of my family, especially my mother," she added, "Through it all, my mother has been the rock of this family."
I subsequently volunteered for Jeanine Pirro's 1997 campaign, and had the opportunity to observe the District Attorney interact with a host of local Westchester residents. Jeanine was always smiling, quick with a comeback line and very funny. This woman has an excellent sense of humor. And she's happy. She's basically a happy person and that's a key attribute for any politician to project. It's something that's hard to fake. Over the years, I've seen Jeanine Pirro on occasion at law enforcement conferences and Republican events, and she's consistently her affable and charming self. The long and short of it is that Jeanine is an extremely likeable individual. And that's a huge plus for any political candidate.
But Hillary Clinton is another matter. "She is angry. Not all of the time. But most of the time", wrote Gail Sheehy in her 1999 book on the former first lady. And Sheehy is a Hillary supporter! Frankly, that tinge of anger is often apparent and affects her likeability. I raise this point because likeability is vital to eliciting votes. Hillary Clinton often comes across as calculating and shrill. Well how does that translate to the political landscape?
As one Westchester resident remarked on the local news channel, "I don't trust her". The Democrats are in denial if they don't understand that Hillary "the candidate" – either for the Senate or presidency – has some problems. Her support is soft. As soon as Jeanine Pirro jumped into the race, Hillary Clinton's poll numbers dropped by 14 points to 50 percent. I expect to see more New Yorkers move into the "undecided" category, as they take their time to evaluate the Senate candidates. Ultimately, Jeanine Pirro will scoop up quite a few of those "undecided" votes.
Jeanine is fully cognizant that "upstate jobs" represents a pivotal issue in this election, and, to date, these jobs have failed to materialize. As Jeanine said to Newsweek: "I'm a prosecutor and a former judge, as you know, and I believe that we have an obligation to deliver on our promises. When you make a promise to the electorate, you don't back off and say it was too difficult. You put your evidence where your promise is. She made a promise of 200,000 jobs. She did not deliver. There were seven bills that she introduced and they all died in committee."
Frankly, the Republicans control the agenda in Washington, DC, and it would behoove New Yorkers to elect a Republican Senator who would be in a position to get things done. Hillary's record of accomplishment is rather weak, and Jeanine Pirro will campaign tirelessly to promulgate that message. That's precisely why she worries the Democratic leadership.
And if the Democrats think that Jeanine's 32 second gaffe during her formal announcement will have the effect of undermining her entire campaign, then they're patently out-of-touch. The Democrats will be hard-pressed to come up with any real ammunition against Jeanine Pirro who has a superb thirty-year record of public service. Moreover, the Left's continual bashing of Jeanine's husband is a strategic miscalculation. The Democrats, and their surrogates in the media, would be wise to avoid making this a referendum on Al Pirro and Bill Clinton.
Sure, Al Pirro was convicted of tax fraud and sent to Federal prison. And he fathered a child with another woman during his marriage to Jeanine. However, former president Bill Clinton was impeached for lying to a Federal grand jury about the nature of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, which also resulted in a five-year suspension of his Arkansas law license and a twenty-five thousand dollar fine.
And that's only the tip of the Bill Clinton iceberg. As far as his critics are concerned, Bill Clinton's legacy keeps on giving. It just came to light that the Clinton administration directive, known as the "Gorelick Wall", prevented military intelligence from giving the FBI a heads-up on Mohamed Atta's involvement in a Brooklyn terror cell, a year before 9/11.
If Democrats wish to make husbands a crucial element of the debate in this Senate campaign, then Republican pundits will be eager to oblige. We would like nothing better than to assail Bill Clinton's failed national security policies, which only exacerbated our troubles with al-Qaeda and radical Islam.
However, all things considered, I think it best to leave the husbands out of this Senate campaign. Hillary Clinton and Jeanine Pirro have their own records to run on, and both Republicans and Democrats should stick to the pertinent issues.
Lastly, the Democrats are foolish if they think that Queen Hillary has this race all wrapped up. Jeanine has the Big Mo and will whittle down Hillary's lead. This is going to be deja vu all over again, to quote one of Yogi Berra's all-time great lines. It's likely to be reminiscent of the Cuomo versus Pataki gubernatorial race. No matter what Cuomo and the Democrats threw at Pataki, he was an energizer bunny that just kept moving up in the polls, until that final poll on Election Day. In fact, just a few days before the election Pataki was in a brief freefall before stabilizing and climbing to victory.
It was amazing - Pataki was unstoppable. And the tenacious and incredibly charming Ms. Jeanine Pirro may very well be poised to do "a Pataki".
Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.
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