New York Is Better Off Without
by Amy Ridenour
I hope Hillary Clinton doesn't run for Senate in New York.
First and foremost, the Clinton Age of Scandal should end. It isn't good for America and it's particularly bad for our children.
While Mrs. Clinton may not have been responsible for the President's misbehavior with Monica Lewinsky (although she was less than honest when blaming the affair on a "vast right-wing conspiracy"), Mrs. Clinton's hands are not clean. Her Rose Law Firm billing records vanished while under subpoena and then miraculously reappeared in the White House residence when it was legally convenient. Mrs. Clinton was implicated in Travelgate's shameful attempt to frame a government employee for a crime he didn't commit. She was involved in Filegate, when hundreds of FBI files on private citizens were pored through by Clinton operatives (back in the Nixon era, Charles Colson went to jail for mishandling just one FBI file). Her health care operation was fined and harshly criticized by a federal judge for brazenly violating open government laws, and perjury was likely committed in a failed cover-up attempt in that case. And let's not forget that Mrs. Clinton has never adequately explained how she managed to turn a 10,000% annual profit on cattle futures,1 or that she's the nation's first presidential spouse to testify before a grand jury about her own misbehavior.
Some Democrats may think it is more important to win a Senate seat than to elect a candidate with good character. That's not only untrue, but a false choice.
If Mrs. Clinton does not run, the likely Democrat Senate nominee is Rep. Nita Lowey. Lowey probably has as much chance to win as Hillary Clinton, if not more. Though a loyal Democrat, Lowey is more moderate than Mrs. Clinton on welfare, crime and tax cuts, and is more likely to appeal to needed swing voters. Lowey isn't known for ethical failings, and she's very good on TV. Lowey represents the New York suburbs, a critical swing area, while Mrs. Clinton, as a carpetbagger, has no geographical constituency. Republican voters will be unified against Mrs. Clinton as they would be against no other Democrat. And Mrs. Lowey has not made the politically unpopular announcement, as has Mrs. Clinton, that a Palestinian state is "very important" and would be "in the long-term interests of the Middle East."2
Some say that Mrs. Clinton is a stronger candidate than Mrs. Lowey because current polls show Mrs. Clinton doing better against possible GOP nominee Mayor Rudy Guiliani. This analysis ignores the advantage Mrs. Clinton currently enjoys in polls because she's well-known, and the fact that Mrs. Lowey would also be well known by the end of a $40+ million Senate race. Polls show Lowey already runs neck-and-neck with Guiliani in New York City. New York Democrats enjoy a 3-2 registration edge over Republicans statewide.3
Mrs. Clinton is also thought to be an effective candidate because a strong woman is said to appeal to women voters. Mrs. Lowey trumps Mrs. Clinton here, as Lowey is not only a woman, but one who rose to prominence on her own merits.
Advocates of a Hillary Clinton candidacy also assume that her current 9-point Quinnipiac College poll lead4 over Guiliani would last through a brutal New York campaign. It probably wouldn't. Famous frontrunners are famous for falling fast. Just ask Geraldine Ferraro, former Democratic vice-presidential nominee, who started 1998 with a double-digit lead for Senate,5 yet lost the primary to Charles Schumer. Celebrity Mayor Ed Koch started the 1982 New York gubernatorial race with a 17-point lead and still lost to Mario Cuomo.6 Mrs. Clinton will recall that George Bush had a 90% approval rating in mid-1991 and still lost to her husband in 1992.7
Ed Koch has said a Clinton-Guiliani race would be "so mean it would shock the country."8 Who needs that? Yet, Mr. Koch is probably right. A Senate race would be a referendum on Mrs. Clinton's character and her politics, which are to the left of her husband's. Mrs. Clinton couldn't respond to critics by acting above the fray and skipping press conferences, as she has for nearly five years.9
Those who promote Mrs. Clinton as the best the Democratic Party has to offer New York in 2000 are saying either that ethics don't matter or there aren't any Democrats more ethical than Mrs. Clinton. Both statements are false.
Hillary Clinton isn't the first First Lady to be encouraged to run for the Senate. Jackie Kennedy and Eleanor Roosevelt were also encouraged to run.10 They chose not to trade their influence as former First Ladies for the rough-and-tumble of electoral politics. It's my guess that Mrs. Clinton will make the same choice. Good.
1 Wesley Pruden, "Senator Rodham's Gotham Script-Tease," Washington Times, February 19, 1999.
2 Ken Fireman, "How Would a Run Play in New York?" Newsday, February 18, 1999.
3 John Machacek and Billy House, "Democrats Roll Out Red Carpet for First Lady Run," Gannett News Service, February 17, 1999.
7 Edward Benson, "Politicians are from Mars - And From Venus?" University Wire, February 19, 1999.
8 High Davies, "Guiliani Gets Set to Fight Dirty With First Lady," London Daily Telegraph, February 18, 1999.
9 Chris Bury reporting, Nightline, ABC News, February 17, 1999.
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Amy Ridenour is president of The National Center for Public Policy Research. Comments may be sent to [email protected]