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Archive for Saturday, June 19, 1999

WHY HILLARY?

June 19, 1999

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Why would she run and why would New York elect her?

First lady Hillary Clinton's apparent desire to seek the U.S. Senate seat from New York continues to baffle many observers.

It's obviously an intriguing prospect on many levels. The first lady, who has been publicly humiliated by her husband's sexual indiscretions, could now force him to play the game her way. Although Bill Clinton is an engaging campaigner, many observers have speculated that his wife's political savvy and policy acumen may exceed Clinton's own. Political commentators can't resist this story.

But big questions continue to nag some observers. First, why would the first lady want to pursue a Senate seat? And why would New Yorkers want to elect her?

As a senator, Hillary Clinton's connections would be immense. But the reputation that precedes her probably would have a negative impact as often as a positive one. Any Hillary-sponsored bill that made it to the president's desk in the next two years would have a darn good chance of being signed, but would Mrs. Clinton be effective in building the consensus necessary to get legislation passed? Much has been written about the difficulty Vice President Al Gore will have in distancing himself from the president as he enters the 2000 campaign. Mrs. Clinton's problems with shaking that legacy would be many times greater than Gore's.

And why would New York want Mrs. Clinton? She has scant connections with the state and little experience with any of its people except for the political elite. What does she know about New York and its people? Why would she be qualified to speak and act on their behalf? Maybe the state would be better off hiring a well-paid lobbyist to represent its views. If Mrs. Clinton wants a Senate seat, why not ask voters in Illinois, her home state, to send her to Washington?

And finally, why would Hillary Clinton want to enter this race from a personal standpoint? She is smart enough to play the game and probably more qualified than many candidates. But voters should wonder about the motivation of someone who has paid as huge a political price as Hillary Clinton being eager to re-enter the fray. It brings to mind various admonitions about basic character flaws afflicting many candidates. There certainly is reason to wonder whether Hillary Clinton is an example of the maxim that the flaws that drive many candidates to run also should disqualify them for office.

What's her hurry? Why doesn't she take a few years off, write a book, learn something about the state she hopes to represent, maybe get a divorce and get a life? Maybe then she would be ready to stand on her own merits and seek a political office.

Hillary Clinton may easily have the financial backing, political savvy and campaign advisers that she needs to get herself elected to the U.S. Senate. But whether she has the proper qualifications or the proper motivation are much larger questions.

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