I mentioned that Hillary Clinton might be a factor in my presidential vote. Here's why:
Hillary isn't running for president, of course. She's running for senator from New York. I have a say in that, as a New York resident, and I'm not undecided about it. I'll vote against her.
My friend Jodie Allen wonders, as do many Hillary supporters, what it is people don't like about her. I'll stop at 10. 1) She's an egomaniac who doesn't like to share the limelight. (Example: she allowed her staff to trash the free-lance writer who helped with her book in order to make her own role look bigger. Another example: health care reform.) 2) She's vindictive--White House aides learn quickly not even to send up the name of someone who has criticized her in public. 3) She gives extemporaneous, well-delivered, perfectly structured speeches in which she says virtually nothing, certainly nothing interesting and nothing that would provoke any useful public dialogue. She prefers the safety and flexibility afforded by a certain righteous vagueness. 4) She's overprotective of her carefully hyped reputation. 5) She shows few signs of original thinking. 6) She's surrounded by a secretive cadre of loyalists who seem willing to do practically anything for her. 7) She's tireless in pursuit of her own self-interest. 8) She likes money and status. 9) She'll betray her friends, if necessary, to maintain power--as she betrayed Marian Wright Edelman over welfare reform after trading on Edelman's respectable liberal cachet for decades. 10) Her marriage and personal life are in large part a phony façade.
In short, she has all the makings of a highly effective U.S. senator. (I'm told she can also be extremely charming.) Meanwhile, her opponent, Rick Lazio, is an ambitious, uninspiring House member of average competence and no special principle.
So why will I vote for him? Because, of course, Hillary won't stop at being senator. (Why should she? She's already exercised power from the White House.) If she wins and Gore loses, she'll almost immediately be the most famous Democratic politician in the country, a leading contender for the 2004 nomination.
As a Democrat, I don't want Hillary as the public face of my party. I want someone who says something--preferably something I agree with. I'm not saying Hillary's not a New Democrat like me. I'm saying I don't know what she is. She's Hillary! Friend of children! But why should the necessary debate over paleo- and neo-liberalism among Democrats be throttled and subverted in the cause of cautious, queenly ambition?
One way to forestall this possibility is for Hillary to lose her Senate race. But at the moment it doesn't look as if that will happen. Late polls show voters breaking against Lazio in an apparent backlash against Republican phone calls charging Mrs. Clinton with accepting campaign donations from a group that "openly brags about its support for a Mideast terrorism group--the same kind of terrorism that killed our sailors on the U.S.S. Cole." The election's still a long three days away--and I'll be checking the polls Tuesday morning--but even Dick Morris, who has been gleefully predicting Hillary's defeat, seems to be preparing the ground for a Rodhamite triumph.
The only other sure-fire way to prevent (or at least postpone) the Hillary nightmare is for Gore to win the presidency. Then Gore will tend to dominate the stage, and Hillary will only be an especially charismatic senator, a Bobby Kennedy to his Lyndon Johnson. As with RFK and LBJ, open staff hostilities would probably break out shortly after Inauguration Day. In the course of this fratricide some issues might actually get discussed.
Gore rises another 5 points.