caught in two roles
Some think she should continue her job as first lady in White House
By Nick Anderson / Los Angeles Times, The Detroit News-January 9, 2000
|Newspaper and Journal Articles-Quoted|| WASHINGTON -- On the
same day that Hillary Rodham Clinton unpacked boxes at
her new home in New York -- another milestone in her
unprecedented move to run for the Senate while still
serving as first lady -- Ron and Mavis Barth were
marveling at the Christmas decorations she had put up in
her other house on Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Barths, from Eugene, Ore., interviewed after a White House tour, were united in their antipathy toward the Clintons. But they were split -- like much of America -- on the first lady's move to Chappaqua, N.Y., with more than a year left in President Clinton's final term.
"If she needs to be at that address ... to run, it's appropriate for her to do that," said Ron, a 63-year-old pastor. "She wants to establish her own political career. He's had his chance. Now it's her chance."
His wife, a 62-year-old homemaker, disagreed: "I'd like to see her finish her term as first lady. 'Commitment' is a big word in my vocabulary. Finish it out."
Just how far Clinton is committed to serving as first lady during her husband's waning presidency remains a mystery. Until now, she has been deeply involved in both the ceremonial duties of the job, such as planning state and official dinners, and in the nitty-gritty of steering presidential policy.
Her own public comments on the subject have been limited. Late last year, Clinton said she planned to scale back her White House obligations to make time to seek the seat being vacated by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y.
While her candidacy is still unofficial, Democratic officials have cleared the primary field for her. New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani is her expected GOP opponent.
Current and former aides note that both Clintons have long experience at combining campaigns with government duties as first couple both here and in Arkansas. They say Mrs. Clinton can manage matters from the road by fax or e-mail.
But a virtual first ladyship is not the same thing as being there. And while there is precedent for first-lady absenteeism -- Eleanor Roosevelt kept an apartment in New York City, for instance, and Bess Truman often stayed home in Missouri -- Americans are sure to debate Clinton's attempt to distance herself from a job she has reshaped.
"She's spent seven years trying to argue that the first lady isn't just this anachronistic throwback to the Victorian era but is in fact an important, substantive job," said Gil Troy of McGill University in Montreal, an expert on presidential couples. "Having tried to make it important, it's also very hard to abandon it. Being first lady is not just about the responsibilities, it's about the expectations of the American people, which won't go away."
Mary Regula, founder of the National First Ladies' Library in Canton, Ohio, and wife of a Republican congressman, predicts the the public will cut Mrs. Clinton some slack.
"Why do we expect that this is a role she must play?" Regula asked. "When we have a 'first gentleman' at the White House, will we expect him to drop everything and be the official host and take care of all these duties? Or will we say that his responsibility to his profession is even more important? This is an exciting time. It shows that a first lady can move on with her life."
Web Design-Bonnie K. Goodman-2001-03