Copyright © 1999 Henrietta W. Hay
July 16, 1999
If I could choose my lunch partner this week, I'd make a date with
Hillary Rodham Clinton.
It's official. Hillary is almost surely going to run for the United
States Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of Daniel Patrick
Moynihan of New York. I wouldn't want to bet the farm on whether she
will win, but I'm in her cheering squad.
Earlier columns of mine about Hillary have brought more negative mail
than those on any other subject except abortion. It would be an
understatement to say a lot of local folks don't like her, and the
national hate campaign has already started on the far right. But I
don't think she is much worried about that. She is often compared to
the last activist first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. Roosevelt was not
voted "Miss Popularity" during her lifetime, but is now recognized as
one of the great women of the century.
Even some of my feminist friends say, "Why is Hillary running? Why
would she want to put herself through that? It will be a brutal
campaign." Right. But my answer is, "Being Hillary, she has to." She
is an intelligent, energetic, ambitious woman who is at the height of
her abilities and her popularity. Now she wants to take back her own
Susan Estrich, who like Hillary is probably a baby boomer, said it first
while the idea was still rattling it around in my head. "There is an
entire generation of women in Hillary Clinton's shoes . . . who have put
their careers on the back burner and their professional dreams on hold
to raise their children, follow their husbands around the nation and the
world, entertain their husbands' colleagues, charm their competitors and
clean up the messes. Now it's their turn. We learned that you can't
have it all at once, but that doesn't mean you can't ever have it."
Hillary has paid her dues. She has done an amazing job of balancing her
role as a first lady with that of a professional, independent woman.
She followed her husband to Arkansas, followed him to Washington, did
the banquet and lecture thing and has been a dignified first lady,
despite the constant criticism. She been a good mother, and raised a
fine daughter. As Mario Cuomo commented, "Now her daughter is grown and
her husband is nearly grown." She has been publicly humiliated, but
has handled it with grace. She goes to church every Sunday. Now how
can the "family values" conservatives object to that? Even Dr. Laura
But this is new, uncharted territory -- a first lady becoming a
candidate, switching the pronoun from "we" to "I." As a presidential
spouse she is expected to be a cross between Mother Theresa and Madonna,
with a large chunk of Martha Stewart. As a candidate she is all alone
out there with a big round target painted on her back. It's going to be
tough, but what a challenge.
Hillary Clinton is an intellectual who studies issues carefully. She is
also a pragmatist. And she is highly articulate (In a woman it is
called assertive and is still a dirty word). Those are good qualities
for a politician, although one doesn't find them often in the Senate.
Ken Starr tried for six years without success to prove something --
just anything -- against her, and she kept her cool. She knows how to
control her anger and when to keep her mouth shut. She also knows when
to speak out, and she is doing it now.
In 2000 the presidential race is going to have to take second place in
excitement to the one in New York.
If the people of New York choose to elect Hillary to the Senate, who are
we to argue? I think she would make a fine Senator, but all I can do is
send her a buck or two, and take her to lunch.