Archive for Monday, December 22, 2003

What’s behind Hillary-mania?

December 22, 2003

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The lines of people eager to see her snake around the block in virtually any city she visits on her tour. Like a rock star, she sells out any venue she sets her sights on. At the top of her game, she's treated like royalty.

And to think just a few years ago her husband publicly wiped his feet on her psyche, turning a smart and politically savvy first lady into just another doormat of a suffering wife married to a man with a wandering you-know-what.

I just don't get it.

Hillary Clinton keeps wowing Democratic crowds and crushing all presidential wannabes in the polls, but she insists she's not running. She just wants to be the junior senator from New York, she says. She just wants to back any Democratic candidate able to quash President George W. Bush in 2004, she adds.

In fact, Hillary's record in the Senate has been moderate in a schizoid sort of way. She backed Bush's war against Iraq, for instance, and now tells adoring crowds to be patient about rebuilding Iraq. Yet she and her wandering husband, Bill, also have pumped up Wesley Clark, the antiwar general who's a Johnny-come-lately to the Democratic Party, as the Dems' best bet to unseat Bush.

In South Florida this week to raise money in West Palm Beach for a women's hospital, sell more of her best-selling "Living History" memoir (a yawner) and raise a million bucks for the Democratic National Committee at a swank dinner in Miami, Hillary showed once again she's more popular today than she was a decade ago when the lawyer told reporters she wasn't going to be a first lady who sat around baking cookies and serving tea to guests.

Now she's the senator that polls show comes the closest to beating Bush, except she's not running, and she keeps telling reporters at every stop that she won't run -- in 2004 anyway. Why reporters keep asking is beyond me.

Hillary's negatives are as strong as her positives. Of course, Hillary gets votes from liberals without question. But moderates and independents?

She's a love-her-or-hate-her candidate with few in-betweens. Sure, she gets the sympathy vote from a lot of women of her generation who put up with wandering husbands, too. During the Monica mess they viewed Hillary's stand-by-your-man complacency as a noble and fearless loyalty to marriage -- a view I never shared. To me, Hillary cut an opportunistic deal with the devil to stay in the circles of power. I didn't expect her to burn her bra on the White House lawn in protest, but her whole "right-wing conspiracy" defense of Bill went over the top. He unzipped his pants. No conspiracy there.

Now she does her thing in Congress, he does his thing in Harlem. She noshes on turkey with the troops overseas, while he -- who knows? Who cares?

Why people think Hillary could ever be president astounds me until I think back to 1992. I never dreamed Bill Clinton would get elected president early in that first campaign, but toward the end I had joined the chorus of those thinking about tomorrow. He inspired a new American way of thinking about the possible -- a third way not tied to the inflationary liberalism of the 1960s or the free-market-at-all-costs elitism that created more have-nots in the 1980s.

By the time the Monica scandal broke, I was calling for Clinton to do the honorable thing and step down. But once it became clear Republicans had orchestrated the Starr Chamber to dig up dirt, any dirt, to impeach the president, and the holier-than-though crowd, led by Newt Gingrich and Henry Hyde, turned out to be as sleazy with their own affairs to hide, well, the hypocrisy was bipartisan.

So here we are in the midst of all this Hillary-mania. I don't know what to make of it. America's first female president Hillary Rodham Clinton? Pigs will fly first. Dinosaurs will roam the Earth again. W. will put down his ax and hug a tree at his Texas ranch before that ever happens.




Myriam Marquez is an editorial page columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. Her e-mail address is mmarquez@orlandosentinel.com.

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