Archive for Friday, July 21, 2000

Hillary under the microscope

July 21, 2000

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— I don't know whether Hillary Clinton in a bitter rage the night her future husband lost his first political race 26 years ago called Bill's campaign aide a "f Jew bastard."

That the lady has a fiery temper a trait that made her feared inside the White House is indisputable.

That she's an anti-Semite, considering her wide range of Jewish friends and associates, is incredible.

Who cares?

This flap over a remark almost three decades old tells me our fad for political correctness has gone bonkers.

But the rhubarb confirms the worst apprehensions about the Saga of Hillary Clinton.

Her Senate venture in New York will be muck-flinging, sewer-spraying ugly simply because she is a magnet for hatred who draws kooks like her Arkansas accuser out of the weeds.

Some Pollyannas thought the New York race might be polite with Rudy Giuliani supplanted by suburban nice guy Rick Lazio. No chance.

No female celebrity of our time, not even Saint Eleanor, swings the like/hate barometer into the red zone like Hillary.

No wonder her political negatives are sky-high.

She's been psychoanalyzed in a half-dozen books, portrayed as power-mad enabler of an adulterous president.

Whether or not Hillary cast a Jewish slur in 1974, my verdict on the controversy is a Bronx cheer.

The charge is trifling, ancient, scurrilous and unfair.

Come on, 26 years?

Isn't there a statute of limitations on spontaneous idiocy?

Imagine if any current political campaigner were accused of dropping a racist or ethnic remark 26 years ago.

Al Gore would ignore it.

George Bush would laugh it off: "Hey, I said a lot of dumb things when I was young and dumb."

Hillary Clinton couldn't afford silence in the face of New York's political reality. A Democrat usually gets 70 percent of the Jewish vote. She's drawing 54 percent in polls. She couldn't let the wound fester.

"It absolutely never happened," she said outside her Chappaqua, N.Y., home. She seemed near tears. "This cut to the core of who I am and what I believe. Am I angry? Darned right I'm angry."

Ironically, the prez interrupted his hand-holding of Israel's Ehud Barak and Palestinian Yasser Arafat to call a New York tabloid:

"In 29 years my wife has never uttered an ethnic or racial slur. She may have called him a bastard she's not pure on profanity.

"But she's so straight, she squeaks. She's never told an ethnic joke."

OK, the Clintons have not always been on friendly terms with the truth.

But the accuser, Paul Fray, shoves the incident into never-never land.

He recounted the incident in a forthcoming book, "State of the Union," by former National Enquirer reporter (an ex-Philadelphia Daily Newser) Jerry Oppenheimer.

"She said it," Fray insists on TV.

"My wife heard it. So did another campaign worker."

Fray is a dubious source.

He is a defrocked lawyer who, according to court records, was addicted to painkillers, erratic behavior and memory loss.

In July 1997, Fray wrote Hillary a peculiar letter of atonement: "At one time in my life I would say things without thinking, without factual foundation. I beg your forgiveness."

Never mind that Hillary is backed by the Anti-Defamation League and by the American Jewish Committee . The furor will leave a tarnish.

Did she or didn't she?

In truth, the tumult over an insult Hillary may not have made 26 years ago is a sign that the Political Correctness Police have turned into thugs.

As biographer David McCullough reports, Harry Truman peppered his private remarks with ethnic slurs yet he was the president who integrated the U.S. armed forces.

Richard Nixon's tapes are loaded with anti-Semitic slurs yet no president was a stauncher friend to Israel.

Jesse Jackson was pilloried for calling New York City "hymietown" but was that off-hand slur proof of Jackson's deep anti-Semitism?

The political-correctness frenzy hit a crescendo with pitcher John Rocker's ravings about foreigners on the New York subway trash talk common to any baseball clubhouse.

Rocker was vilified like the second coming of Joseph Goebbels.

Whether it's Truman or Nixon or Hillary, here's the bottom line on accused bigotry:

Consider the whole life, not a chance remark.

Her Jewish contretemps, though, shows again how troubled will be Hillary's Senate journey she and her husband stir the juices of hatred like no political couple in 50 years.

Trailed by protesters last week, Hillary mused:

"Even before I met Bill, I've evoked strong opinions in people. It's become the background music of my life."

Her chorus is tuning up boos, jeers and jackhammers in an anti-Hillary serenade.

Sandy Grady is Washington columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.

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