As the country emerges from the ashes of the impeachment saga, the latest gossip making its way around Washington circles has been that the First Lady may run for the Senate in 2000. Rumors are rampant that she may take advantage of the revered Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s, D-NY, decision to retire at the end of this term and his state’s relatively easy residency laws, by running for the Senate seat from New York.
Could this be true? A First Lady looking to be a U.S. Senator? Indeed, it may well be true soon: the White House issued a statement last week in which Mrs. Clinton said she is giving “careful thought” to a possible Senate bid and will announce her intentions “later this year.”
Her husband, the President, is quoted as saying he would be “thrilled” to see his wife become a Senator. He certainly has much to be thrilled about. The First Lady, despite all her flaws, has matured into a refined stateswoman over the past six years. In her work as a fabulous representative of America and an advocate for women and children around the world, Hillary Clinton has attained unparalleled international celebrity and respect.
On the policy front, the First Lady’s ideas and determination are needed in today’s Senate. Because she would no longer be constrained by White House protocol and her husband would be out of office, Clinton could be an independent voice for many social concerns that are all too often ignored in American politics.
She has a proven track record for being a voice for children, who in America suffer from an astonishing 25 percent poverty rate. She has also been an avid advocate for the millions of Americans who lack health insurance.
Senator Hillary Clinton would fill the much-needed niche as the Upper Chamber’s patron for the complex and grave social issues that affect millions of relatively disenfranchised Americans.
Also, Clinton could use her time in the Senate as a possible stepping-stone to greater things in the future: perhaps this could lead to a political career that will take her back to the White House. Imagine that. From being First Lady to becoming the distinguished Senator from New York to maybe even a future President of the United States.
There are some potential drawbacks, though, for the First Lady if she seeks to be the next Senator from New York. She has had some shady legal problems in the past (i.e. Whitewater), which unfortunately could be thrown as mud against her in a Senate campaign, especially in the current environment of dirty political smear campaigns. She also must be careful not to seem as if she’s using the many perks that she has as First Lady at her disposal to help her win a Senate race.
Furthermore, her potential rival could be New York’s popular and effective mayor, Rudy Guliani, a moderate Republican. Guliani has won much acclaim (including my own) in turning New York City around. The mayor’s successful efforts are credited with bringing crime down to an all-time low, cleaning up many once-decrepit neighborhoods, and making New York a more livable, and popular place to be today. The mayor has a legitimate record of achievement that he could use to his benefit.
Guliani’s abrasive and combative style could also prove intimidating for the First Lady in a Senate campaign. Although his style of governing and his controversial demeanor have offended the sensibilities of many Americans, he seems to be relatively popular with New Yorkers, whose votes will determine who will be their next Senator.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, though, should not be overly concerned. Despite such liabilities, the First Lady has a great chance at winning. Early poll numbers indicate that if she were to run for Senate she would win by a landslide (even against Guliani). Now, these numbers could change in the future, but with the First Lady’s dignified charisma, many ideas for social renewal, and the respect she commands around the world, especially in New York, the First Lady could pull off a victory.
The First Lady has what it takes to be an important architect for American social and political progress. She already has the stature to vouch for her positive and worthwhile agenda; with a Senate seat, Hillary Clinton will have the power and the independence to fight for and possibly implement some of her many good ideas regarding social equality in America.
So as the First Lady of the United States meets and consults with senior Democrats and advisors over the next few months, I, like the President and New York’s Democratic establishment, can encourage Hillary to pursue her plan to run for Senate.