With a President Hillary . . .


Hillary Clinton may be mum on the subject, but that hasn’t stopped hoopla over her supposed next great campaign-not the one for Senate next year, but the one for the White House in 2008.

The latest example? Susan Estrich, of Fox News fame, has penned her own take on a Clinton presidential race in The Case for Hillary Clinton, which hit bookstores this week. As the title suggests, Estrich argues the finer points of electing a Clinton II presidency, and paints New York’s junior senator as a savior not just for the Democratic Party, but for all women. Herself the first woman to head a presidential campaign—for Michael Dukakis, in 1988—Estrich knows something about female precedent setters. She’s betting the only place for Senator Clinton to go next is to the nation’s top post. The Voice caught up with Estrich in L.A. on the eve of her book’s publication:

First things first: Is there any question Democrats will nominate a woman before Republicans do? No. Look at the Republican Party’s reaction to Harriet Miers. Here is a woman avowedly pro-life, a George Bush crony, and half the Republican senators say she’s not conservative enough. Now Republican primary voters are far more conservative than these senators. In 1992, I went to the GOP convention for ABC. I was in the early stages of pregnancy with my second child and someone comes up to me and says, “I know you. You’re a baby killer.” The idea that Republicans would nominate a woman—take Condi Rice, whose views on choice are unknown – I find wishful thinking.

So Hillary is it for the Democrats? Hillary is way ahead of the rest. The only way someone can beat Hillary would be to challenge her from the left. But Hillary has enormous support on the left. And it’s not ideological. She has support from blacks that has to do with the Clinton tradition. The other piece is her strength among activist women, who have major clout in the primary.

Given her hawkish ways, is she vulnerable to that kind of challenge? You could say the way to run against her is to come at her as the anti-war candidate. But there are two problems. First, there is nobody to do that. Second, the groups normally there for a left-leaning Democrat are Hillary’s strong suit—unions, women, minorities.

Is a Hillary presidential race really good for all women? Once President Hillary is elected, gender inequities will change. There is a great quote from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in which she says she wants a woman on the court, but not any woman. She wants a woman who’d advance women’s rights. The same could be said for a woman president. I used to sit in the West Wing and watch groups of men go in and out, seven at a time. With a President Hillary, they’d have to get themselves a dame.

But feminism has become such a bad word in politics. Feminism has been defined in a negative way. But I was watching “Desperate Housewives” the other day and there was a scene involving a poor, working mother, a housekeeper who wanted to be there for her child’s first day of school, and, of course, she couldn’t be because of her mean boss. Well, feminism was supposed to be about making changes in the workplace so women could be there. President Hillary, I’m sure, would create more family friendly policies.

Have you seen “Commander In Chief”? I certainly have. I had a bunch of people over for a house party as part of the White House Project’s premiere night. The show has become a hit. In fact, I just came from ABC studios, where I did a segment on how big this show is and what it all means.

See any similarities between Geena Davis and Hillary? Geena Davis is tall, and I don’t know her policies. But she did take on human rights, which Hillary has done for decades.

Your book assumes Senator Clinton will win re-election next year. I’ve been in politics for 26 years and have never seen numbers change this dramatically for a politician. In five years, her New York numbers have gone up 30 points. It’s the reason the GOP is struggling to come up with a strong candidate.

What do you make of the senator’s female challenger, Jeanine Pirro? I don’t think Jeanine Pirro is all that strong. It’s a bit of a stunt candidacy because of her husband’s problems. People wonder what the big payoff is for Pirro, and that’s not a great way to begin a campaign. And there are a lot of guys standing around her, pushing her to run. That’s not exactly the feminist spirit in action. I have nothing against Pirro, but you wonder how much respect those guys have for her, or whether their prime agenda is simply to hurt Hillary.