Hillary Clinton Avoiding Spotlight

NY Times - January 26, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) -- When her husband left the White House, Hillary Rodham Clinton was supposed to take center stage with her Senate career. So far, it hasn't worked out that way.

Instead of outlining her views on education and health care this week, New York's junior senator found herself pursued in Capitol hallways by reporters asking about her husband's last-minute pardons and the sofas, tables and rugs she and the president received as gifts just before Senate ethics rules kicked in.

"She'd rather be setting out her own legislative agenda right now and instead she's forced to answer questions she'd rather not be," said political analyst Stuart Rothenberg. "She's finding, I would guess, that there are no real fresh starts in politics."

Mrs. Clinton's spokesman said she was unaffected by the attention.

"I think New Yorkers saw during the campaign that Hillary has a remarkable ability to focus on the issues that matter in their lives," Howard Wolfson said.

Mrs. Clinton headed to her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., on Friday, where she and her husband were staying out of sight.

She had been scheduled to meet with Rudolph Giuliani, but the New York City mayor abruptly canceled, saying he was still too upset with President Clinton's 11th-hour pardon for fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich. As a federal prosecutor, Giuliani gained indictments against Rich for tax evasion, fraud and racketeering before Rich fled to Switzerland.

Giuliani suggested Thursday that campaign contributions by Rich's ex-wife, Denise, to Democrats -- including Mrs. Clinton -- may have paved the way for the pardon.

Earlier this week it was revealed that Mrs. Clinton sat in on a White House meeting in December between the president and supporters of clemency for four Hasidic men from New Square, an ultra-Orthodox community in Rockland County, N.Y. New Square gave Mrs. Clinton 14,000 votes to 12 for her opponent, former Rep. Rick Lazio. On the day he left office, President Clinton shortened the sentences of the four men, who were convicted of stealing $40 million in government funds for the community.

Mrs. Clinton has said she had no role in her husband's pardon decisions and offered no opinion on any of the cases.

Mrs. Clinton also skipped an appearance Friday in New York City with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, an event that would have been sure to attract substantial media coverage.

There was disagreement over whether Mrs. Clinton had ever committed to attending the event. The Clinton camp said she didn't but her name appeared on the program.

Jackson, who counseled the Clintons when the president's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky emerged, recently admitted fathering a 20-month-old daughter out of wedlock.

  • See Also: The Clemency Page