Thursday, August 11, 2005

Her Park Name is Everest

Subject: Her Park Name is Everest
Date: 8/10/2005 4:18:35 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Every now and then, we depart from our mission of reporting on the competence and integrity of local public officials; either to delve into political or personal history, or to look at the larger world.

At the end of this article, there is an invitation to a free event this evening, a speech to the Libertarians of Manhattan.


By Henry J. Stern
August 10, 2005

Today's newspapers discuss the impending Senate race between Senator Hillary Clinton and Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro. This is not an area where we have inside information, but because of the importance of the election and its effect on the Presidential campaign, we venture a dozen observations of varying degrees of perspicacity.

1. Hillary Clinton has been a first-rate Senator for New York. She is both brilliant and disciplined. She tells as much of the truth as she can, and people who know politics realize that is a decent standard. On the other hand, there is a lot she won't tell, and some things she can't tell. Many of those omissions are not really her fault. They will be forgiven by people who believe her election is in the national interest. The unforgiving would not support her if she were Mother Teresa, a future saint with whom she is unlikely to be confused.

2. The Senator's ongoing ideological migration from the left to the center of her party (still to the left of middle America) is due in part to her sensitivity to the American people and their core beliefs. Howard Dean makes a perfect foil for her, an example of the yellow dog Democrat who cannot come to terms with the reality of how Americans feel about themselves and their country. Dean may not be able to raise much money for his party, but he inadvertently serves Hillary's purpose by making her appear moderate compared with him, without the Senator having to abandon traditional liberal positions.

3. One problem for Senator Clinton and the voters is that no one can be certain what she really believes, underneath the protection provided by precisely prepared public position papers that prudent politics postulates for its partisan participants. She is highly intelligent (most people know she is smart but don't realize just how smart, which is all right because they could be frightened off) and she is so careful and verbally gifted so that her views on a subject can evolve without her appearing to flip-flop. An open and inquiring mind takes new evidence into account, and does not remain frozen in a position which no longer makes sense. Sometimes it is hard for the public to understand this, especially if others plant doubt of your veracity or consistency. Still, we do not know what she would actually do were she not constrained by the political reality of satisfying the heart of America in pursuit of 270 electoral votes.

4. Jeanine Pirro is attractive, ambitious and moderate. She is hindered by her husband's sins, which are more serious than her opponent's husband's indiscretions. But even if Albert Pirro were a Boy Scout, his wife would still have an almost impossible race because Mrs. Clinton is wiser, knows far more about issues large and small, and has given distinguished service for five years, demonstrating her ability to reach out to people and her concern for their well being. What can Ms. Pirro do or say in the next fifteen months to match this towering talent?

5. One need not be paranoid to see the hand of Karl Rove in this ostensibly New York decision. As a supporter of a Republican in 2008 (Jeb Bush, if he can get away with it), Rove wants to minimize the strength of a rival. By sending a woman to oppose Hillary, the race will be seen to some extent, the New York Times (which is correct on this issue) notwithstanding, as a catfight, rather than as a warm-up for the Presidential race. The selection of Ms. Pirro is an attempt to undermine Senator Clinton's probable victory. And her matrimonial baggage will provide an excuse for the Republicans if she is overwhelmed at the polls.

6. Who cares whether Mrs. Clinton will serve two years or six? She promised in 2000 to serve a full term, and kept her word. In her second term she is entitled to seek promotion. If a Republican governor is elected in 2006, he will be able to select her replacement through 2008, when there will be an election for the remaining four years of her term. If a Democrat is elected, she will have to wait for his January inauguration to resign, but that will come well before her Jan. 20 speaking date in Washington, so that her Senate seat will be saved for the Democrats, at least through January 3, 2009.

7. If she should be elected President, that would only be helpful to the State of New York, which has suffered through Federal funding formulas that favor other states. It is an honor to have your Senator seriously considered for the highest office in the land. To project that as a negative is ridiculous.

8. Ed Cox would be a more authentic alternative to Senator Clinton's liberal philosophy, but he is not famous in his own right. The reputation of his late father in law, President Nixon, would not be particularly helpful or harmful. Cox is a gentleman, a successful attorney, and quite knowledgeable about government. He is also chairman of the State Council on Parks, which means a lot to us parkies. If Cox runs and loses, the race could seem to have been decided by ideological differences. The Clinton-Pirro duel is likely to be viewed as a popularity or personality contest, and the results will be easier to discount as unrepresentative of public sentiment on substantive issues. Since Pirro is viewed as a liberal (by national GOP standards), her loss will not be viewed as a blow to the conservative movement.

9. Running for the Senate did not do a lot of good for former Congressman Rick Lazio, the loser in 2000. He lost his House seat, had his 15 minutes of fame as a counterpoint to Hillary, and after being defeated by 55 per cent to 43 per cent, ( 3,747,310 - 2,915,730, to be exact) sank back into the obscurity whence he came. Note that Lazio did not receive a significant position in the Bush administration after his loss, while other Senate losers like John Ashcroft and Spencer Abraham were rewarded with Cabinet seats.

10. The New York Senate contest will be the race of the year in 2006, competitive with Governor Schwarzenegger's campaign for re-election (if he runs) and the Governorship of New York. The cost of these campaigns will approach, if not surpass, $100 million each. The contests all over the country will be a fund-raisers' delight. They will probably distract millions of people from important Senate and Congressional races with less prominent candidates in other states.

11. Which party will take Congressional seats from the other depends on events that have not yet taken place, notably the progress of the war in Iraq. The recent stories that Rumsfeld is chickening out of his own war will create new problems for President Bush. His popularity is down to 36 per cent, and there is widespread sentiment that the terrorists, although not winning, are wearing us out. We may be right to be there, but our guys keep getting blown up, many by roadside mines and suicide bombers. Is there no way to stop those losses?.

12. If we lived in the days of Caesar or Achilles, or even harked back to the time of Henry V at Agincourt (1415), the Commander-in-Chief would lead our troops on the field of battle, and the outcome of the war might be determined by his fate. That will not occur today. We could use W's experience in the Air National Guard to patrol the Iraqi skies, but that would require significant deployment of fighter planes to protect him. If the Iraq conflict is resolved satisfactorily, the President will be helped; if it goes badly, he may or may not be hurt, since people historically rally around their leaders in wartime, and cast them aside only when the battle is won (Cf. England, 1945).

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StarQuest will speak at a Manhattan Libertarian Party gathering this evening (Wed, Aug 10), at the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant, at 6:30 p.m. Listening to the speech is free. If you care to, you can buy dinner at the moderately-priced restaurant, whose name bespeaks its cuisine. AM New York reported yesterday that "he will speak about his role as muckraker, whistle-blower, cheerleader and insider of New York's public and civic life."

The address is 140 Second Avenue, between E 9th Street and St. Mark's Place. The phone number is 212-779-1873, but reservations are probably not necessary.

I don't want to impose on people by asking them to come, but I would feel worse if the event turned out well and I hadn't let them know about it. This is not a fundraiser for New York Civic.

Henry J. Stern
New York Civic
520 Eighth Avenue
22nd Floor
New York, NY 10018
(212) 564-4441
(212) 564-5588 (fax)

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