The more I see you ... (How can New York miss Hillary when she won't go away?)

By Vin Suprynowicz
web posted November 22, 1999

As first ladies go, Hillary Rodham Clinton is intelligent, aggressive, attractive, and ambitious.

To her fans, "What's not to like?" Anyone who criticizes the first lady is plainly being ungracious - while probably betraying a thinly-veiled desire that women should "keep their place," barefoot and in the kitchen.

Indeed, political pragmatism has long stilled voices in those quarters from which criticism of Mrs. Clinton might be hardest to ignore.

It is part of the catechism of modern feminism that women can and should seek success equal to men in business and politics - and that they need no longer disguise such ambitions by posing as glorified hostesses to some father or husband.

Yet did Mrs. Clinton rise to her current position of prominence on her own - or by attaching herself to the arm of a charming modern-day Macbeth, and then hanging on no matter how degrading and public his indiscretions?

Critics tried to warn the first lady that if she ran for the U.S. Senate from New York, the gentility with which the press has finessed her leading role in sundry schemes and imbroglios - from those miraculously flawless cattle trades to the transubstantiated billing records to the purloined FBI files - might expire with the suddenness of another legendary princess, who found her royal coach turning back into a pumpkin.

It may be happening. The nine-point lead Mrs. Clinton enjoyed in March over New York Mayor and likely rival Rudy Giuliani has now reversed to a five-point deficit, while polls show her "favorable" rating dropping from 52 to 37 percent.

"The pardon for Puerto Rican terrorists backfired spectacularly," the Wall Street Journal editorialized recently, and "Mrs. Clinton's advisers decided it wouldn't be prudent for her to attend even one of the Yankees' World Series games for fear of embarrassing 'Bronx cheers,' according to Barbara Olson, author of a new Regnery autobiography of Mrs. Clinton, 'Hell to Pay'."

A New York "senator" who dare not show her face at a Yankees game? Oh, the humanity.

WRRN-TV in Kingston, N.Y. announced last month it will no longer cover the First Lady's carefully stage-managed campaign appearances until she declares herself a candidate and grants interviews. Whitney Radio, which operates two stations in affluent Westchester County, says it will no longer send reporters to her "staged events," either.

Oh dear.

Apparently in search of a venue where her marital status still trumps Mr. Giuliani's ability to visit exotic locales and serve as eyewitness to history, the first lady last week winged her way at taxpayer expense to the Middle East in search of better "photo ops."

Bad mistake.

There, Mrs. Clinton sat silently as Soha Arafat - wife of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat - accused Israeli forces of using "poison gas ... which has led to an increase of cancer cases among Palestinian women and children." The first lady promptly embraced Mrs. Arafat.

It was only a full day later, after Mayor Giuliani criticized Mrs. Clinton for allowing the remarks to go unchallenged, that the first lady said such comments could "hurt the peace process."

Talk about a stinging rebuke.

Twelve percent of New York's voters are Jewish, and they tend to notice such things. The latest polls show Mayor Giuliani either dead even with Mrs. Clinton among the state's Jewish voters, or winning a plurality.

Washington-based commentator Chris Matthews promptly went on TV last weekend and ridiculed Mrs. Clinton, pointing out that while the first couple's cynical habit has been to stage appearances before groups of schoolchildren who are used as mere props, here, "She was the one who was used as a prop," lending credence to an attack on America's longtime ally, Israel.

Finally, even Democrats are beginning to speak up.

Referring to the challenges Mrs. Clinton apparently faces in trying to balance her roles as both candidate and first lady, Judith Hope, New York state Democratic chairwoman, suggested Monday, "Maybe she has to give up her day job. ... Maybe she needs to put a cot in that house in Chappaqua and move in there."

Or, of course, she could follow the advice which biographer Olson --former chief investigative counsel for the House Whitewater Committee -- says the first lady has received from more than one well-meaning fellow Democrat.

Since the first lady's real amibition is to "run something big," Ms. Olson says some in her own camp have urged her to seek the presidency of the World Bank, to which "she could be appointed without having to go through either the nastiness of a Senate confirmation process or the untidiness of a popular election."

Yeah -- maybe that's the ticket.

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His new book, "Send in the Waco Killers" is available at $24.95 postpaid from Mountain Media, P.O. Box 271122, Las Vegas, Nev. 89127; by dialing 1-800-244-2224; or via web site

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