'Poor Hillary' a poor campaign plank

February 17, 2000

Normally I would not be writing about the U.S. Senate race in New York, but this week I got a letter from Hillary Rodham Clinton. Not a personal letter, of course, but a fund-raising communication in which Mrs. Clinton attempts to cast herself as an underdog.

"They can never stop me from speaking out for my beliefs. They can never deter me from working to help build the kind of future our families need and our children deserve. They can launch anti-Hillary websites. They can use their limitless war chest to run negative telvision ads. They can publish mean-spiritied books and press releases.

"But they can never stop me from standing up for what I believe in. They can never stop me from working to advance the values that we share," the letter says.

It goes on to say that as she goes around New York, people have told her they want the race to be about "the hopes and lives of working families, about health care and education and making sure economic prosperity reaches every community."


It's really a clever letter when you examine it. She manages to cast her opponent as a mean-spirited old moneybags who'll stop at nothing to shut her mouth, then says that she's above that sort of partisan battle because she wants to help families and children.

Spare me. After eight years in one of the most visible posts in the nation, where's the record that would suggest that she can persuade Congressional lawmakers - or citizens in general - to do things her way?

Given a shot at health care reform, she wasn't smart enough to realize that if she excluded some of the major players from the negotiations on the bill, they'd do their best to defeat it. As someone who worked with the Watergate committee, she can hardly use political inexperience as an excuse. What followed her health-care flop was the rise of the health-maintenance organizations, not what most would call a family-friendly development.

She wrote a book about children, but how has she changed their lives? The gap between haves and have-nots has grown, even as new laws pushed many from the welfare rolls into the workplace. The scourge of drugs is still being fought as if it's a battlefield enemy, instead of an infiltrator that much of the population is willingly collaborating with, or making money from.

In her column this week, Rhonda Chriss Lokeman, opinion editor of The Kansas City Star, notes that Mrs. Clinton's hero, Eleanor Roosevelt, lobbied for the minimum wage, public housing, women's rights and a shorter work week. Lokeman's column doesn't talk about what Mrs. Clinton has done, but what she might do.

Clinton's website - - notes that she has expanded children's health insurance and reformed adoption and foster care laws, but her performance reminds me of one of those poor Miss America contestants who comes out, announces that she's studied ballet for 10 years, then gives a performance that demonstrates her inability to leap over a toothpick. I can feel sorry for both of them, but their capacity to inspire pity isn't enough to delude me about either one's lack of ability.

It's over, Mrs. Clinton, and not because anybody wants to suppress your views, or because I am offended by strong women. I'd just rather have someone pushing reform on the national stage who's as good as creating change as they are at talking about it.

The Baltimore Sun reports this week that the there's a growing movement by an evangelical Christian lobby to display the Ten Commandments in schools and public buildings.

The article included the observation by Barry Lynn, director Americans United for Separation of Church and State, that if the presence of religious material could stop sin, "the presence of Gideon Bibles in hotel rooms would have stopped adultery long ago."

But it also noted that many politicians can't resist introducing legislation to allow such displays, while others can't vote against what they believe is the word of God.

The difficulty such displays involve was made clear in an Associated Press report from Altoona, Pa., where the school board dealt with a pastor's request to display the 10 Commandments by crafting a policy that allows submitted documents that meet certain critieria to be posted in glass cases in school libraries for 25 days at a time.

After the commandments were posted, a host of others, including humanists, atheists, gay rights activists and others submitted their own documents for 25-day postings. That may keep the school system out of court, but it doesn't satisfy those who want the commandments posted permanently.

Here's my proposal: In the interests of science, get one U.S. city to post the Ten Commandments in half the schools in the city, then monitor the number of disciplinary problems in all of schools. If the schools were evenly matched, demographically speaking, then the results would be interesting and enlightening, especally when compared to the predictable back-and-forth battles of the past few years. If each side would yield a bit to allow such a test, we might just learn something.

Bob Maginnis is editor of The Herald-Mail's Opinion page.

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