Hail Hillary Clinton! Praise Jeanine Pirro! New York politics has just gotten interesting again, and just in time.
The two women who seem likely to contest next year’s U.S. Senatorial election certainly have their faults, of course. To her detractors, Mrs. Clinton is cold and Machiavellian, taking a stand only on the safest of territory. Many people see Ms. Pirro as an insubstantial opportunist whose prime motivation in undertaking a Senate run is the boosting of her political celebrity.
But, like a classic boxing match, a Clinton-Pirro race would be much greater than the sum of its parts. It would at last give New York the kind of contest it both demands and deserves.
Clinton vs. Pirro would be for the highest of stakes. It would arouse the deepest of passions. And it would be pungently, gloriously cinematic in a way that no recent New York election has been.
Everything about the putative race seems to have been culled from the pages of a luridly melodramatic screenplay. In one corner, the woman who would be President, but whose hopes of making history could come undone in her adopted state. In the other, the glamorous D.A. who will begin as a rank outsider but who could yet wield the ax against a political giant.
One is the heroine of the Democratic Party; the other, the would-be savior of New York’s moribund Republican organization. One is a veteran of bitter political wars; the other, a relative ingénue on the national stage.
Then there are the husbands. On one side, an ex-President who also happens to be the most gifted political strategist of his generation—but whose reckless, libidinous enthusiasms are infamous. On the other, an enigmatic figure with a tax-fraud conviction and his own record of extramarital activity.
There will be very little subtlety about a Clinton-Pirro battle. Therein lies its appeal. For the first time since the glory days of Ed Koch and Mario Cuomo, New York looks set for a race that is as rambunctious as the city’s spirit and as big as its collective ego.
Patrician voices have expressed distaste at the way the Clinton-Pirro battle has been presented in some quarters. No sooner had Ms. Pirro announced her candidacy than the New York Post was trumpeting the “War of the Roses” in coverage replete with large photographs of the two women.
A New York Times editorial the next day noted disapprovingly that “in a place as theoretically advanced as New York, having two female candidates should be very stale news.”
There may be some insidious sexism in the way the race has been presented by the tabloids. But that is not the full story, nor even the greater part of it. Many in the media want Clinton vs. Pirro to happen for a more benevolent reason: It would be so much less boring than so many recent campaigns.
What seems like hype or subtextual sexism to some can more accurately be heard as a sigh of relief from the press corps. The dull-as-ditchwater contests on which they have labored for so long have sharpened the appetite for something more viscerally exciting this time around.
Just consider how poorly New Yorkers’ ardor for drama has been served by elections of late.
This year’s Mayoral campaign has yet to ignite interest only weeks from polling day. Michael Bloomberg, an incumbent notable mainly for his inoffensiveness, looks set to drift to victory over a soporific Democratic challenger.
Fernando Ferrer may stump in shirtsleeves and try to rouse the faithful with rhetorical appeals about hope and fairness. But he carries the overpowering whiff of political hackery all about him.
The last Senate race in the state was a non-event: Charles Schumer rolled over Howard Mills, a Republican lamb to the slaughter, in a fight that the G.O.P. evidently gave up as lost from the beginning.
Stretching further back, the 2001 Mayoral contest—bitter though it was on the Democratic side—inevitably came to be seen as a sideshow in a city that had just been hit by the cataclysm of Sept. 11.
Up in Albany, George Pataki has racked up election victories without once quickening the pulse since his ouster of Mario Cuomo more than a decade ago.
The high expectations for the Clinton-Pirro race could come to naught, of course. Ms. Pirro’s performance thus far has left much to be desired. If she keeps stumbling, lower-profile Republican rivals like Ed Cox and John Spencer could be in with a real shot at the nomination. Or Ms. Pirro could win the nomination only to be flattened by Mrs. Clinton’s formidable political machine.
But, for once, the most likely option is also the most captivating one: that of a bare-knuckle fight to the political death.
Let the battle commence. New Yorkers have waited a long time for a brawl like this.