Hillary’s Chutzpah

First she was a Yankee fan.

Then she was Jewish.

And now Hillary Rodham Clinton wants us to believe that despite her years of liberal activism, she’s actually a tough-on-crime conservative, thanks to her opposition to her husband’s offer of clemency to jailed Puerto Rican nationalists.

Give the First Lady credit for one thing: She doesn’t try to hide her contempt for her would-be constituents. She believes New Yorkers will believe anything she says. What next? Columbus Day is coming up. Maybe she’ll announce the discovery of a long-lost Italian great-grandmother.

In opposing her husband’s proposition of clemency, Mrs. Clinton tried to win over law enforcement officials who were outraged that members of the F.A.L.N., a group responsible for 130 bombings and six deaths in the 1970’s and 80’s, would walk free. Of course, the Clintons insist that they didn’t discuss the clemency issue, which was blatantly designed to win Mrs. Clinton the Puerto Rican vote next year. That assertion is yet another whopper. Is there no end to the lies these people will tell in order to keep their hands in the public till?

New York has attracted more than its share of unscrupulous power seekers in the past. But even some of our legendary crooks, charlatans and schemers could not approach Mrs. Clinton for sheer chutzpah. Even the bosses, shakedown artists and carpetbaggers of the past would have stopped short of claiming a lifelong devotion to the Yankees (we’re still trying to figure out what she’s going to do if the Mets, and not the Yankees, wind up in the World Series) or enlisting the help of dead relatives. Mrs. Clinton has perfected the art of the timely lie: Remember back in 1994, when she announced at a lunch for military women that when she was 27, she had really wanted to enlist in the Marines? This from someone who had worked on the antiwar campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern and organized anti-Vietnam War teach-ins at Wellesley College.

Mrs. Clinton, having spent the bulk of her professional and personal life in close contact with assorted bozos, hayseeds and ne’er-do-wells, figures that she can fool us as easily as she fooled them. What’s frightening is that she may yet pull it off. Imagine: There are some liberal New Yorkers who talk of Mrs. Clinton as the second coming of Eleanor Roosevelt.

Luckily, most New Yorkers are a good deal more skeptical about out-of-town careerists looking to use this city and state for professional advancement. Mrs. Clinton thinks she’s smarter than the average New Yorker. She’s in for quite an education.

Bon Voyage, Mr. Crew

If he had to write an essay, “What I Did on My Summer Vacation,” New York City Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew might scribble an account of how he became a powerless, lame-duck chancellor by foolishly revealing that he has been in serious talks about a new job on the West Coast. By letting the press know that he was shopping himself around, Mr. Crew has lost the confidence of city parents, the Board of Education and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The education initiatives Mr. Crew recently proposed-such as taking charge of the city’s 40 worst schools-will lie fallow, since Mr. Crew clearly does not intend to be around to see them through. And who will listen to him now?

The Chancellor has disenfranchised himself, and, since the city’s 1.1 million public schoolchildren deserve a committed chancellor, the most compassionate thing Mr. Crew could do would be to leave now, before his contract is up next June. Let the drawn-out, always-agonizing search for a new chancellor begin as soon as possible. Even if Mr. Crew was not 100 percent sure he was going to move to Seattle, where the University of Washington has offered him a job, his public musings have eroded his power base in New York. Mr. Crew has been a popular chancellor with the public, and he probably could have sustained any attempt by the Mayor and the board to deny him a contract extension. But by playing his hand too early, Mr. Crew can no longer claim to be an unwavering advocate for the city’s school kids.

Yes, Mr. Crew has been the longest-serving Chancellor in 16 years. But being around a long time doesn’t necessarily make him a winner. With all due respect, he’s no Cal Ripken.

The High Holy Days

This year the call of the shofar, the ram’s horn blown to herald Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, might be said to be coming from the Red Sea, on whose banks Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat signed an agreement on Sept. 5. The hopeful document foresees an end to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians one year from now, and perhaps contains the seeds of a genuine Mideast peace, especially given the new generation of leaders coming to power in Israel, Jordan and Syria.

The timing is fitting, given that the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, are a challenge to each person to look within and change his or her behavior, to discover where he or she must do penance and seek forgiveness, to find what is essential beneath the mindless hum of daily life. On the eve of Yom Kippur comes the emotionally overwhelming Kol Nidre service, a night of sadness, mourning and atonement. In their prayers on Yom Kippur, those of the Jewish faith ask that they be written into the Book of Life, God’s ledger of who shall live and who shall die, based upon who has been righteous and who has not.

If the leaders in the Middle East are currently inspired to put their past strife behind them, surely it is not too much for us to do the same, to heal our own conflicts. As families gather in New York, to celebrate new beginnings and symbolically cast sins into the water, we remember that our city is perhaps never so vibrant as when the streets are filled with the silence of reflection.

Hillary’s Chutzpah