The Schlocky Mr. Torricelli

Apparently the job of being a United States Senator is not nearly as time-consuming as we might have thought. New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli has found a way to attend to the annoying tasks of legislating while also functioning as a virtual day trader.

According to his financial disclosure statement, Senator Torricelli personally made more than 100 stock trades last year, earning $135,000 in capital gains, about the same as his Senate salary. To give you an idea of the enthusiasm he brings to his finances, some of the shares he bought last year he held for only a few days-or, in some cases, a few hours. He even found time to play around in the over-the-counter stock of a Las Vegas firm, On Stage Entertainment, which was delisted by the Nasdaq Stock Exchange in 1999.

What of the people’s business? Presumably that can wait until the bull market is over. In the meantime, there’s money to be made, especially in those high-tech offerings the senator favors. Senator Torricelli is not the brightest bulb in the U.S. Senate. But even he must realize that his shoddy dealings raise serious ethical questions. Even if there is no conflict of interest, his wheeling and dealing could leave the impression that he is on the take. A few years ago, after he made a killing on a bank investment, he promised to keep his portfolio in a blind trust. But he just couldn’t help himself-he dissolved the trust so he could resume personal control over his investments. If Mr. Torricelli is so enthralled with the risks of money making, he ought to resign his seat and become a full-time day trader. A U.S. Senator ought to be above suspicion. He should be thinking about the future of his state and nation, not checking on his investments between speeches.

At least it’s clear now why he regards Hillary Clinton, who turned $1,000 into $100,000 under questionable circumstances, as a worthy would-be colleague.

The Real Hillary Returns

Thank goodness, the real Hillary Clinton is back. It took several months, but, after eyeballing a New York Times –CBS poll which showed her running neck and neck with a virtual nobody-i.e., Representative Rick Lazio-Hillary Rodham Clinton ditched her warm, “issues-oriented” identity like some frumpy summer frock and resorted to her more familiar habit of attack and destroy. Within 24 hours, the First Lady’s sunny, optimistic campaign descended into a mean-spirited assault on her opponent, as she accused him of being everything from an enemy of women and children to a maniacal gun nut. The listening tour has become the blistering tour. Voters are now getting a more accurate picture, much closer to the haughty Hillary Clinton of the last eight years than the G-rated version New Yorkers have been shown so far.

One wonders if, now that she has chosen to attack Mr. Lazio’s record, she will finally be willing to discuss her own. Will she finally answer questions about her failed health care program, which would have devastated New York’s world-class research hospitals? Or her role in the firing of White House Travel Office employees? Mrs. Clinton likes to dodge such questions by rolling her eyes. But even if the independent counsel, Robert Ray, has chosen not to indict her, there remain legitimate questions about her abuse of power while occupying the White House. If Mr. Lazio’s record in Washington, D.C., is fair game, hers is too.

The real Hillary is refreshing. The woman who blamed a “vast right-wing conspiracy” for the Monica Lewinsky affair, the woman whose law firm billing records made mysterious disappearances and reappearances, was never convincing as a warm-hearted public servant in the mold of Robert F. Kennedy or Daniel Patrick Moynihan or her hero, Eleanor Roosevelt. In fact, if she wants to win New Yorkers over, she might do better evoking a certain aggressive, ethically challenged senator from New York, one whom she resembles more than a little. And after all, Al D’Amato was elected three times.

Rudy Shocks His Critics

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has surprised his critics by announcing that he is going to do what it takes to enroll almost 1 million uninsured New Yorkers in Medicaid and other health care programs. In his detractors’ eyes, this Mayor wasn’t supposed to care about the poor. But just as Mr. Giuliani’s war on crime was always intended not simply to lock up bad guys but, on a deeper level, to bring new prosperity to all New York neighborhoods, his health care initiative, partly inspired by his struggle with cancer, is based upon his wish not just to tinker with the city, but to transform it.

About 1.8 million city residents have no health insurance, many because they simply don’t know they are eligible, and Mr. Giuliani wants to find them. His plan, called Health Stat, will break the city up into eight areas, each run by a manager who will be held accountable in weekly meetings. He got the idea from Compstat, the Police Department’s strategy in targeting specific problem areas. The program has “a level of intensity in terms of signing people up for public programs that we don’t see in many other parts of the country,” James Tallon, president of the philanthropic United Hospital Fund, told The New York Times.

Health Stat will benefit all New Yorkers. The uninsured create a drain on the health care system; with a million more people insured, it will become attractive for hospitals and doctors to take care of the poor. And health insurance encourages people to visit a doctor early, before they require costly hospitalization.

Those who think this is evidence of a “new” Rudy never understood the “old” Rudy. It is only because Mr. Giuliani cracked down on crime and quality-of-life issues that New York could attract new corporations and residents, which in turn created the affluence which can now help finance Health Stat. Compassion starts with common sense. The only question is, how much is this going to cost, and who is going to pay for it?