With her name recognition, celebrity status and ultra-safe policy pronouncements,
Hillary Clinton should be ahead in the early polls tracking next year’s New York Senate
race. Instead, she’s trailing her most likely Republican opponent, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani,
in nearly every survey. The Marist College Institute of Public Opinion shows her trailing
Mr. Giuliani by 6 points, while a Zogby International poll found the Mayor ahead of Mrs.
Clinton by 10 points
Clearly, New York already is tired of the First Lady’s act. And these polls were taken
before Mrs. Clinton’s cynical attack on her husband’s family in a much-hyped interview in
the Administration’s new house organ, Talk magazine. The First Lady said her husband’s
serial philandering was the result of “abuse” he suffered at the hands of his mother and
grandmother-two women who just happen not to be alive to defend themselves. It was a
remarkable assertion: Mrs. Clinton, feminist, told us that we shouldn’t condemn the
lecherous Bill Clinton for taking advantage of a young female employee. Instead, we should
save our outrage for the women who raised him. Sisterhood, anyone?
Her remarks should drive down her popularity even more, which would be a fine example of
justice served, since Mrs. Clinton no doubt calculated that by conferring “victim” status on
her profoundly arrogant husband she would get some sympathetic publicity. How dumb does she
think New Yorkers are?
Mrs. Clinton ought to get out of the Senate race now, before the gap with Mr. Giuliani
becomes embarrassing. As The Wall Street Journal suggested, she ought to take the job of
president of the World Bank, where she would not have to pass confirmation nor answer to
actual voters. If she withdraws now, she can do so with a semblance of dignity. More to the
point, her exit would give other Democrats like Representative Nita Lowey of Westchester or
State Comptroller H. Carl McCall a chance to get into the race before it’s too late. Of
course, a great candidate would be outgoing Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin.
One would think Mrs. Clinton is politically savvy enough to know that if she loses her first
run for office, her career in politics is virtually over.
No B.I.D.-ness Class
Cleaner, safer and leafier streets would seem to be three achievements of which any mayor
would be proud. And Rudolph Giuliani has made a name for himself by providing significant
improvements in these areas. Curiously, however, the Mayor insists on chipping away at the
city’s business improvement districts, or B.I.D.’s, those public-private partnerships that
have done a great deal to give New Yorkers those cleaner, safer, greener streets. His
distaste for the districts is all the more remarkable because they cost taxpayers nothing,
make the city more attractive to residents and tourists alike and represent the kind of
private-sector initiative that Republicans-especially those running for, say, Senate-embrace
Nonetheless, in late July, the Mayor turned down requests from 10 districts to increase
their budgets, despite the fact that the districts are completely financed by local property
owners and businesses. Since the 1980’s, the districts have enhanced neighborhoods like
those around Grand Central Terminal and Union Square, by picking up garbage, providing an
extra security presence and helping with landscaping. Their recent requests were reasonable:
The 125th Street district in Harlem wanted a $100,000 increase, from $275,000 to $375,000;
the Times Square district asked for a $1.4 million boost to its $6 million budget; the Fifth
Avenue Association, which lugs 500 tons of trash out of the Bergdorf-Tiffany corridor every
year, wanted to add $130,000 to its $1.8 million budget.
Underneath the budget freeze lies the city’s true position, that the districts are no longer
needed. Rudy Washington, Deputy Mayor for community development and business services, told
The New York Times that in the past, “There was inadequate sanitation and not enough
manpower in the Police Department.” Now, he says, things are so hunky-dory that we can all
relax. That is the kind of hubristic thinking that leads to declines in quality of life.
Ironically, by weakening the districts, the Mayor is ultimately undermining himself, because
as a rule the public is fairly oblivious to what a business district does, and it tends to
credit the current resident of Gracie Mansion with any improvements in city life. If the
streets get dirtier, of course, he will also get the blame.
Thank goodness the warmest July in history ended with a blast of dry, cool Canadian air just
as Manhattan’s psychotherapists, psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, psychopharmacologists and
social workers were packing their bags and hopping on the Long Island Expressway and points
north for their annual August furlough. For all of July, New York’s shrinks listened to the
heat-aggravated complaints of their sticky, cranky patients, every minor family slight
magnified by the broiling sun into a major life crisis, every sleepless, sweaty night an
excuse for doubling the medication. Had the humid, stifling weather coincided with the
shrinks’ vacations, well, one shudders to think what might have ensued.
Of course, your shrink is not far from where you are sitting: If you drive a few hours east,
you will find them all lolling on the white sands of Long Island. They clump together in
Water Mill, with a handful in Amagansett-those hamlets are tony enough, but not as expensive
as East Hampton or Southampton. And God forbid they’d ever be in Westhampton, where, as
author Steve Gaines once wrote, “divorced dentists buy homes for their second wives.”