Six more years of Clinton?

Prospects: Just being Democratic might not be enough, even for Empire State true believers, to elect Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Senate.

June 06, 1999|By JAMES LILEKS

WHEN SOME people shout "run, Hillary, run!" they're pointing to a short dock that leads to a deep lake.

Hillary Rodham Clinton's bid for New York's Senate seat will be interesting, but it's not a lock. Sure, she has a guaranteed base; if the Democratic Party dug up Alger Hiss and wheeled the corpse around Manhattan, some people would vote for the bones just to stick the shiv in Richard Nixon one more time.

New York City is a quaint, little petting zoo of old-style liberals who'll happily vote for Clinton. These joyless coots think Mayor Rudy Guiliani is a balcony-strutting Il Duce wannabe who must be stopped lest he makes New York even cleaner and safer. Why, Times Square was just the start. If Guiliani makes it to the Senate, all Americans will be herded into theme parks and forced to scrub off graffiti while wearing Disney-made mouse ears. Whistle while you work shall make you free.

Aside from the nuts, though, millions of liberal New Yorkers are more inclined to vote GOP than before. A conservative is no longer a liberal who's been mugged; now a conservative is a liberal who hasn't been mugged in a while, and realizes he has a conservative to thank.

These people might vote Democratic again if the candidate's right. But Hillary Clinton is not that candidate, for several reasons:

1. She's from well, where exactly is she from? Arkansas? Chicago? One of those square states in the middle of the country, right? The one that gets floods. Or tornadoes. Or maybe it's locusts. Anyway, she's not a New Yorker. But she will have to pretend that she really cares about New York, and that'll be tough. A woman who has strode the world stage and been salaamed into palaces and European capitals will have to pretend her heart now burns to get federal money for downtown Syracuse. Truth is, Hillary Clinton cares about New York the same way she cares about Arkansas. Just another place, just another set of accents she has to remind herself not to mock.

Guiliani, on the other hand, is a true New Yorker, which is to say he's neurotic, aggressive, thin-skinned, whiny, pompous and full of himself. He also has his negative side.

2. The Gorbatross. What if New York Democrats prefer Bill Bradley over Al Gore? Sure, they're both dull, but Bradley lacks the odd spastic enthusiasm that gives Gore's dullness its empty, annoying quality. Bradley's dullness has weight; if listening to Gore is like eating a feather pillow, listening to Bradley is like eating a cornerstone filled with bran. He's so diligently dull that the intelligentsia can't help but love him.

Clinton will be obliged to defend Gore, since they both hail from the Greatness Factory of the Clinton administration. But she'll tack left to stir up the faithful while Gore moves to the center, as all presidential candidates do. One's going to have to repudiate the other, and smart money says Hillary stabs Al first. She gulped back bile to keep Bill in office. But she's not married to Al. Sorry, Tipper, but it's your turn.

3. The scandals. The right is licking its chops at the prospect of a Hillary Clinton candidacy, of course. From cattle futures to letting the First Cad employ her back as a doormat, it'll be a greatest-hits parade of the Clinton years. None of the scandals will stick; they never do. But Hillary Clinton, like Al Gore, will stand as a living example of Bill Clinton's administration. And the country is just getting tired of these people.

A vote for Hillary Clinton means another six years of Bill. She can't divorce him; that would suggest that he did something wrong, somewhere, sometime, and the Clinton legacy depends on the idea that Bill is innocent. (Technically.) So Bill Clinton will be hanging around New York, looking for scraps -- a Supreme Court appointment, U.N. ambassador, traffic reporter, commissioner of hot dog condiments, anything to keep him bathed in the rivulets of public love.

Voters might ask themselves if they really want to hear Bill Clinton's voice for another six years, and the answer, given in the privacy of a voting booth, will be a sorrowful, respectful no. Sorry, Hillary, but someone has to take the fall.

James Lileks wrote this article for Newhouse News Service.

Pub Date: 06/06/99

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