Back in 2000, I was writing editorials for The Times Herald-Record, a daily newspaper based in Middletown, N.Y., Daniel Patrick Moynihan was getting ready to retire from an illustrious career in the United States Senate and Hillary Clinton was packing her bags to move out of the White House.
My activity was part of a well-established routine. Moynihan’s was the logical culmination of a long career in public service to the state of New York. Clinton's, in a way, was both. Her bag-packing was part of a well-established career plan and the culmination of eight adventurous years as First Lady. And, the story goes, it had nothing to do with any questionable behavior on her husband’s part.
It turned out the Clintons, in looking for a place to live when Bill’s final term as president ended, had found a cozy, little 11-room château in Westchester County, in New York. It was perfect for the ex-prez and the soon-to-be-junior senator from the state of New York. That was the next step in the well-established plan. Fulfilling the residency requirement.
The fact that neither Clinton had ever lived in New York was never a major problem in Hillary’s senate campaign since New Yorkers had famously welcomed that carpetbagger Bobby Kennedy when he decided he would like to be United States senator from New York before running for president. Now, I saw and heard Bobby Kennedy and trust me, Hillary Clinton never was and never will be a Bobby Kennedy.
Nevertheless, the Clintons were warmly welcomed in New York and Hillary was accepted as a candidate for the United States Senate. Her credentials as soon-to-be-former First Lady were enough.
Funny, in many ways that hasn't changed in 16 years. Her campaign for president today relies to a large extent on a hurry-up resume that sounds a whole lot better than it really is. It's not for nothing that the words “entitled” and “inevitability” are frequently attached to Clinton’s name.
In any event, there I was, pounding out editorials on a daily basis, there went Pat, as he was called, holding farewell audiences with newspaper editorial boards, and here came Hillary. Except that she never came. If you think elephants have long memories, beware of editorial writers who feel snubbed.
As part of her introduction to New York, Clinton conducted what was called a listening tour. She would travel across the state, she said, to find out what was important to people in the state she knew next-to-nothing about, but which she longed to represent in the United States Senate.
A routine element of most political campaigns is meeting with editorial boards of newspapers, to hear what’s on their minds, to get out the candidate’s message and maybe get an endorsement. In 2000, I had numerous telephone conversations with a woman in Clinton’s campaign who politely assured me, every single time, that “Mrs. Clinton definitely wants to meet with The Record. We’re just figuring out the scheduling.” Or words to that effect.
They’re apparently still figuring it out.
In a major break from the paper’s liberal tradition, The Record wound up endorsing Clinton’s Republican opponent, Rick Lazio, whom she soundly trounced in the election. (Lazio replaced Rudy Giuliani, who withdrew because of marital problems and prostate cancer.) The editorial board’s thinking was that: 1.) Lazio took the time show up; 2.) he answered all our questions apparently as honestly as possible and; 3.) as a member of Congress already, he knew he state’s issues and was capable of handling the job.
Then there was 4.) If Hillary was too important to meet with The Record, how could we be sure she would have the best interests of the residents of the Hudson Valley and Catskills in her consciousness. After all, we were the largest circulation newspaper in the region.
I can already hear the cries of “sour grapes” and that’s OK, because this is not about 2000. It’s about 2016 and the still overwhelming impression in much of the news media that Hillary Clinton regards having to answer questions and explain herself as a major insult, never mind inconvenience. You can be sure her meeting with our editorial board, had it occurred, would have been respectful, but not fawning. Indeed, if her crack staff was as good as advertised in doing its homework, I would not be surprised if they discovered a piece in the New York Post in 1990, in which a former gubernatorial candidate, Pierre Rinfret, called us the “most rude, obnoxious” group he had ever encountered. Or words to that effect.
That’s because Rinfret had no idea what he was talking about and was constantly asked to explain or clarify his remarks.
Hillary Clinton, in my experience, does not like being asked to explain herself. She appears to want to be accepted as is simply because she is. Has she changed sides on an issue? Don’t ask.
A major talking point among her supporters in this presidential campaign is that she knows how to get things done. (The implication being that Bernie Sanders, with a lifetime in government and public service, does not.)
Well, as First Lady, she totally blew Bill’s attempt at universal health care. She supported his tough anti-crime bill, which she now take pains to point out was signed by him, not her. Welfare reform? Same thing. As secretary of state, she helped Barack Obama make Libya a mess, but again, he made the decisions, she reminds us, not she. That Pacific trade bill, Madame Secretary? Barack’s baby.
Which brings me back to New York state, where I still live and write, though not on a daily basis any more. Hillary Clinton served one six-year-term as senator and two years of a second term. Then she quit to run for president because, well, there was a timetable to honor. (Obama messed it up. Now Bernie’s trying to do the same.) But, unless I was in a blackout for eight years, I cannot think of a single major “thing” she “got done” for New Yorkers in that time.
And to this date, I’m not aware that she has ever set foot in Middletown.