Hillary’s Kiss-Off to Israel

More and more, it looks like the greatest threat Rudolph Giuliani faces in his quest for a U.S. Senate seat is if Hillary Clinton withdraws and a more competent candidate takes her place. Mrs. Clinton’s trip to the Middle East points again to her profound lack of political intuition and her lack of any core beliefs. Like her infamous husband, she cozies up to both sides of an issue and then crosses her fingers and hopes one side doesn’t learn that she’s been sneaking around with the other side.

The world watched in amazement as Mrs. Clinton didn’t raise an eyebrow while Suha Arafat, wife of Palestine Authority President Yasir Arafat, accused Israel of “the daily intensive use of poison gas … which has led to an increase in cancer cases in women and children.” Then she planted a kiss on her cheek. Twelve hours ticked away without a word from Mrs. Clinton. Only when she saw the public outcry did she call Mrs. Arafat’s words “inflammatory.”

Then she did what she and her husband have so often done when they screw up: She blamed someone else. First she blamed the nameless translator. How dumb does she think we are? It’s pretty safe to assume that the Palestinians would have assigned one of their most capable translators to handle a major speech by the wife of the Palestinian leader. She tried to blame the Americans traveling with her, who, she said, told her that Mrs. Arafat’s remarks were “not worthy of any particular comment.” She blamed her husband: If she weren’t First Lady, she could have spoken up sooner.

What in the world was she doing there in the first place? Her advisers told her that traveling to the West Bank in the middle of a dicey peace process and her own Senate race was to court disaster. But apparently the sumptuous trappings of overseas travel as First Lady won out.

When U.S. politicians questioned Mrs. Clinton’s actions, she responded with arrogance: “It is unfortunate that there are any questions about what was a very straightforward occasion.” Most Americans might not agree that public accusations that a U.S. ally was engaging in chemical genocide make for a “straightforward occasion.”

What does Ms. Clinton really think about the Middle East? No one knows, because she doesn’t know. Last year, she argued in favor of a Palestinian state. This year, she said Jerusalem must remain Israel’s “eternal and indivisible” capital. On this trip, as Tish Durkin reports elsewhere in this issue, she steadfastly refused to answer a question about what she thought of the idea of a divided Jerusalem.

Fortunately for New York, she is not yet a Senator. By accepting Mrs. Arafat’s barbarous statements about Israel, Mrs. Clinton, were she a senator, would have lowered the bar on what a New York senator will accept when it comes to others demeaning Israel. And if a New York senator, who represents the largest Jewish population in the country, accepts such denigrating remarks, what would senators from other states accept?

The Mayor Missteps

For years, the steps in front of City Hall have provided a stirring democratic forum for legislators and citizens to hold press conferences, protests and rallies. No matter if one agreed or not with the sentiments being voiced, there was something reassuring about the fact that taxpayers could gather in proximity to the seat of city government and be heard. But Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, claiming security risks, has been trying to turn the steps into a people-free zone (except for the Yankees and favored guests, fans and friends). This is an example of overkill, one that casts a shadow across the Mayor’s other fine accomplishments.

Most recently, City Council member Christine Quinn was initially prevented from holding a press conference on the steps. She had brought 10 people–hardly a dangerous mob. The purpose was to call attention to the killing of a 28-year-old gay man in Harlem. Those who turned up with Ms. Quinn were actually supporters of how the Police Department was handling the case. And yet Ms. Quinn was turned away; not until she asked City Council Speaker Peter Vallone to intervene was she granted access.

New York’s City Hall, where our Mayor’s office, City Council and City Hall press corps are located, is the center of the action. The building, its steps and park are an essential element in the city’s political ecology. It’s time for the Mayor to stop hiding behind the mask of “security.” The Police Department is smart enough to protect him and keep an eye on the steps. Mr. Giuliani would like to treat City Hall as his castle, but it’s not. New Yorkers elected him twice; it would be nice if he had a little more faith in the people he rules.

Why Men Can’t Retire

Is your retired husband driving you nuts by loafing around the house? Interrupt his puttering with some new facts from researchers at Cornell University. In a study of men and women ages 50 to 74, they found that retired men who went back to work–say, by doing part-time consulting–were happier and enjoyed their marriages more than their lazy brethren. But the researchers also found that retired women who went back to work were no happier than those who remained outside the work force.

Not surprisingly, the happiness of retired women depended mostly on how their marriages were doing. While retired men come to crave the embrace of an office, retired women prefer the embrace of their spouse. The study also showed that newly retired men are a happy bunch–the thought of all those wide-open fairways, unread Tom Clancy novels and 24-hour ESPN tends to make the fellas a little giddy. At least for a while. Meanwhile, newly retired women are subject to low morale and depression, especially if their husbands are still working. “Women seem to experience the retirement transition as a loss of roles and thereby experience more depressive symptoms,” said Cornell’s Jungeen Kim.

The irony is that women eventually adapt better to retirement in the long run. Especially, one assumes, once hubby has traded in his full-time pajamas for a part-time suit and tie.