By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
Harold Ickes, The Faithful Thug
What's not to admire about a guy who has now officially been investigated more than poverty kingpin Ramon Velez? And like the South Bronx's sleazy Fat Man, Ickes has, so far, escaped unscathed. The resurgence of Ickes (after he was treated to the presidential shiv and hurled overboard) is, of course, driving the GOP nuts, since the former White House aide seemed to be the maypole around which most of the Clinton-gates revolved. While Lani Guinier and other unrepentant lefties sunk like deck chairs, Ickes resurfaced once Hillary began to ramp up for the 2000 race. He clings to grudges, curses up a storm, and practices a brand of brass-knuckle politics that would make his former Teamster clients blush the perfect temperament for a New York rumble (you want Nita Lowey watching your back?). In fact, Ickes, unlike the perfidious George Stephanopoulos, offers no apologies for administration excesses like the unsavory campaign fundraising operation. In a matchup already steeped in Yankees references, Ickes is, as Reggie Jackson said of himself, the "straw that stirs the drink." And this, of course, brings to mind what Billy Martin once said of Reggie and George Steinbrenner "one's a born liar, the other's convicted" which also carries some Campaign 2000 parallels.
It would not be a New York campaign if some Hillary opponent failed to spotlight her affiliations with radical causes, specifically during her Yale Law School days. While that "too liberal for too long" stuff may have been played out by the D'Amato-Finkelstein team, somebody will have to dredge up Hillary's 1970 advocacy on behalf of Black Panther Bobby Seale, then on trial in New Haven for murdering a suspected snitch. (Seale was acquitted.) Might work well when Giuliani or Lazio is receiving the endorsement of some police fraternal organization.
The Health Care Disaster
Good idea, dreadful execution. Drafted amid the kind of paranoid secrecy with which Giuliani could relate, the health care plan was a titantic bust, a Hillary fiasco that surely contributed to Democratic losses in the 1994 midterm elections. In her first major legislative undertaking, the First Lady's stridency and miscues (coupled with Republican intransigence) derailed what could have been a monumental achievement.
The Welfare Deal
While she probably should not be saddled with her husband's mixed record, Hillary may have to answer for the White House's cold-blooded welfare reform. Maybe she'll buck the president on this one as she campaigns for Daniel Patrick Moynihan's seat, but that will be a bit late. For a former board member of the Legal Services Corporation and the Children's Defense Fund, the welfare reform package must have been repellent.
There is not much of a defense to this one, though New Yorkers are surely not as provincial as voters in Arkansas or Mississippi (burghs Jimmy Breslin calls "low IQ states"). Hillary could move into an old-law tenement on Thompson Street, shop at Balducci's, and weekend on Coney Island, but she will never be mistaken for a New Yorker. But that is probably okay, politically speaking, since it sometimes feels as though 75 percent of the city itself comes from somewhere else. Any voter who would use residency as a litmus test probably has far more serious problems with the First Lady. Of course, most operatives who will beef about this (while downplaying the RFK and James Buckley precedents) have probably been bused in from other time zones.
Two's A Crowd
Al D'Amato claimed last year that it would be in the state's best interest to keep a Republican in the U.S. Senate since the chamber is controlled by the GOP. And you know where that argument got The Fonz. Expect to hear how it will be critical to have a liaison to the Trent Lotts of the world, a task Hillary could not handle. This is a nonstarter, as the consultants say.
Vince Foster's Mysterious Demise
Since nobody not even Richard Scaife, the far right's Mr. Moneybags has yet been able to place Hillary in Fort Marcy Park on the July 1993 afternoon Foster expired, she appears in the clear on this one. As for the other 56 casualties of the Clinton administration the body count cited on several far-right Web sites the First Lady has yet to be caught with any smoking guns or bloody gloves.
Though she disavowed responsibility for sacking the White House travel office staff holdovers from previous administrations Hillary clearly directed the massacre, possibly with an eye toward awarding the lucrative business to a firm co-owned by Clinton family confidant Harry Thomason, the TV producer. The patronage grab was fiercely criticized, putting the Clinton forces on the defensive. They responded by claiming that the travel office personnel may have been corrupt and decided to sic the FBI on them. The imbroglio eventually triggered a General Accounting Office review, during which the First Lady told probers that she had no role in the firings. These assertions, though, were later directly contradicted by the testimony and notes of several White House advisers, proof that placed Hillary in the middle of the slimy episode. The evidence gathered by the GAO also highlighted the degree to which Hillary would try to distance herself from a messy situation in this instance, by lying to federal officials.