Hillary, in New York, Warns of the Return of Harry and Louise

Hillary Clinton dressed in New York black for her return home–or at least to Manhattan–for a low-dollar fund-raiser at the Town Hall theater off Times Square last night. "Wow, it's great to be in New York, it's wonderful to be home," she said after striding onto the stage.

She used the appearance to promote her newly unveiled health care plan, and talk again about the lessons she learned from her first, disastrous effort.

"I've thought about this for a long time," she said, adding that she had "replayed the video" of the 1993 and 1994 process over and over in her head. She wasn't exactly apologetic about the first try, saying that universal coverage "always seemed fair to me. I recommended it back in '93 and '94."

It was, for the most part, more of the same. She said the new plan, unlike the first, would not require any new bureaucracy, but acknowledged "we might have to hire some more people because we'll have more people in the system." That would be offset, she suggested, by a plan that was "going to save money for businesses and individuals."

Later, her preferred surrogate, former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, played a convincing talk show host as he sat Mrs. Clinton down next to her newest booster, Wesley Clark (whose appearance at the event she called a "surprise") for a Q & A.

Not surprisingly, the first question was about health care, and why she hadn't proposed a single-payer system.

She began by arguing–again–for the notion that she is the most experiened candidate in the race. "I have lived in the White House," she said. "I don't have to think about going back there."

She also took the opportunity to emphasize the choice component of her plan, which she said made all the difference from her first effort. "The fact is, in our country, people want choices. We are very choosy people," she said, adding, with surprising candor, that Americans want to think they have power over the choices they make. Americans, she said, were thus "uncomfortable with the idea of what they think of as government run health care."

But even as she reiterated that her plan was not "government run" that it allowed more choices than were currently available, she predicted a Republican offensive.

"They will go out and recruit Harry and Louise to come out of retirement," she said, referring to the devastatingly effective ads that insurance companies ran in opposition to her plan.

Of her guarantee to restore competence to the White House, she said, "It is hardly a rallying cry to say 'I will return competence to Americans government,'" but she added that she gets a big hand whenever she says it.

After some strong language about the direction she thinks America has taken since the Bush administration took power, and a shot at Russia ("We have Russia returning to imperialist, authoritarian ways,") she heralded the closing of the Bush tenure by saying "the era of cowboy diplomacy is over."