A once in a lifetime for Hillary Clinton

February 23, 2007|By KATHLEEN PARKER

For once in my lifetime / I feel like a giant / I soar like an eagle / As tho' I had wings / For this is my moment / My destiny calls me / And tho' it may be just once in my lifetime / I'm gonna do great things. - "Once in a Lifetime," by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse

COLUMBIA, S.C. --There she is, Miss A-mer-i-ca. There she - oh, no, sorry. It's just Hillary.

But standing there center stage, surrounded by queens (the kind who wear tiaras), she looked like Miss Queen of the Universe greeting her court.

For this was her moment, her once in a lifetime. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was in Columbia this week on the first stop of her first South Carolina tour since declaring her candidacy for president. The smallish auditorium at Allen University, one of two side-by-side, historically black colleges here, was filled to overflowing.

After an hour of pre-game warm-up, Mrs. Clinton swept in and moved down a line of huggers toward a raised platform centered in the room.

Her positioning meant that she had to keep turning in order to hug back. Around and around and around she turned, 360 degrees, over and over, her arms outstretched in perpetual greeting, like a jewel-box ballerina whose battery has run low.

This wasn't her first visit to South Carolina, she told the crowd. She had been here a long time ago, back when she was a lawyer for the Children's Defense Fund, working for the poor, the underprivileged and the downtrodden.

She left it at that. No one in the crowd seemed to notice or care that the New York senator has been to South Carolina lots of times, hanging out where the poor and underprivileged seldom gather except as maids, gardeners and servers.

She and husband Bill have been high-profile regulars at the elite group hug known as Renaissance Weekend since way back when Bill was a governor and Hillary was a lawyer-wife.

Mrs. Clinton is nothing if not selective. She strategically invoked several "long-agos" and "way-back-whens" throughout her speech - determined, it seemed, to remind people that she is the elder statesman in this bunch - unlike that puppy, Sen. Barack Obama, who wowed crowds here last week.

At one point, she borrowed from her Brownie/Girl Scout days. At another, she recalled the days of Sputnik - the unmanned space mission launched in 1957 by the Soviet Union. Senator Obama wasn't around for Sputnik.

In another time-travel moment, she harked back to those wacky missile crisis days when baby boomers played "dive and hide." We avoided that crisis how? By talking to our enemies. Unlike you-know-who.

Hey, didja know they have farms in New York, y'all? Well, yessiree-Bob, Mrs. Clinton told the crowd by way of introducing her agricultural bona fides. And, yes, she did say "y'all," which you don't hear much in Chappaqua.

Mrs. Clinton also knew some of the most arcane factoids possibly ever delivered on a campaign trail. Talking about her education agenda, she dropped this nugget: The average college graduate makes $1 million more than the average high school graduate. We get the point. Go to college and you'll make more money. Check.

Trickier was this one: Last year, there were more bankruptcies in the U.S. than college graduates. Hmmmm. What could this mean? If you go to college, you will or won't go bankrupt?

Never mind. The crowd didn't care. They loved Mrs. Clinton and she loved them. Flanked by Miss Benedict College and Miss Allen University, she was missing only the crown that has long been her due.

Her special moment, her once in a lifetime.

Her destiny.

Kathleen Parker's syndicated column appears Mondays and Fridays in The Sun. Her e-mail address is kparker@kparker.com.

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