Doesn't Anyone Want To Be Famous?

Doesn't Anyone Want To Be Famous?

Doesn't Anyone Want To Be Famous?

Political commentary and more.
Nov. 18 1999 3:37 PM

Doesn't Anyone Want To Be Famous?

Why doesn't some Democrat run against Hillary Clinton in the New York U.S. Senate primary? After all, a sizable chunk of the electorate, even the Democratic electorate, can't stand the first lady, and that number is growing every day. (In a recent Siena College poll, only 49 percent of Democrats thought Hillary was their party's best candidate. About the same number, 45 percent, thought she wasn't.) There is a swarming press corps ready to give an international platform to whatever politician takes Hillary on. The man or woman who does it with some wit and humor will become the repository of anti-Hillary voters' hopes and fears and reap a huge bonanza of favorable publicity.

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You wouldn't even have to raise money for campaign ads: The media will do most of the work for free. You could even make a point of running a shoestring campaign against the multimillion-dollar Hillary leviathan. Since Mrs. Clinton herself appears to have no sense of humor, plus an intense sense of entitlement, plus a ham-handed campaign operation, she'll make an ideal target--big, slow-moving, profusely bleeding.

True, thanks to New York's absurd election laws, it's hard to get on the ballot unless you have the blessing of the party establishment. But that issue could easily be turned against the anointed candidate--"Hillary and the bosses want to keep poor candidate X off the ballot," etc. It's also true that whoever runs against Hillary would infuriate that same party establishment. Gregg Birnbaum, a well-informed political reporter for the New York Post, knows of at least one Democratic elected official who was thinking of running but was then "leaned on by powerful people within the Democratic party."

Maybe a career Democratic pol would not want to risk angering party leaders, not to mention the first lady's husband (though he'll be out of office in a year). But if there's no Democratic congressman, assemblyman, or mayor ready to become an instant household name, what about everyone else? Businessmen, actors--even journalists! Who wants to be famous? Fred Siegel--think of the boost this will give your lecture fees! Walter Shapiro, come on down! Ron Silver--here's your big part! An obscure businessman named Ron Unz is now a powerful man in California because (in part) he ran against the leader of his party, then-Governor Pete Wilson.

And think of the upside: While Hillary would probably beat any primary opponent, just as Wilson beat Unz, there's a chance she'll abandon the race entirely if she doesn't have a clear field (something she may do anyway). That would leave you, Mr. or Ms. Ambitious Democrat, as the giant-killer. Then, if New York's Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, deprived of the chance to beat Hillary himself, opts out of the race, it would leave you with a clear shot at the U.S. Senate!

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The worst that happens is you get a ton of name recognition. This is, as they say, low-hanging fruit. Who will grab it?