Hil Has No Room for Error

September 14, 1999 - Sidney Zion - NY Daily News

The way this clemency deal backfired on Bill and Hillary, you don't need a wire to hear them crying, "Dick Morris, where the hell you been?" If Bill Clinton's release of a few Puerto Rican terrorists was designed to put his wife in the Senate, somebody forgot to run a poll. Morris would have nixed this hands down.

An old Tammany pro like Morris wouldn't even need a poll to let the First Family know that you don't pick up votes here by letting loose felons who are part of an organization that has maimed cops and killed civilians.

Of course, you don't need Dick Morris to understand that what Hillary did was idiotic. First, she backed the clemency, next she opposed it, last heard from she allowed as how she should have "consulted" with Hispanic leaders who favor clemency.

What did she think they'd say, other than she was right the first time and wrong the last time?

The political question is this: How bad does her flip-flop hurt her in her race against Rudy Giuliani for the Senate? I think all it does is reduce her margin for error, almost to point-zero. She looked like an amateur, and she can't afford to look like an amateur again.

But it's not the same as Vinny Testaverde going down on opening day. The Jets have 15 games to go; Hillary has 14 months to go before election. Bill Parcells would rather manage Hillary than the Jets right now, bet me.

The polls have it even, with Hillary maybe losing two points to Rudy over the flip-flop on the Puerto Ricans. What this indicates is that the issue has no legs, will probably be forgotten by Election Day.

If the Hispanic vote is the game, where have the Hispanics to go? Rudy was totally against clemency — and in the end Bill Clinton granted freedom to those who renounced terrorism.

Note well that the Hispanic leaders who denounced Hillary did not endorse Rudy. He has had support for mayor in the Hispanic community, but note well again that Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx), who dropped his support for Hillary, did not come out for Rudy — and he backed Al Sharpton for mayor against Giuliani.

But if the Hispanics can't turn to Rudy, what about the suburban and upstate vote? This is where Hillary was hurt by supporting the release of the terrorists.

And the question is, what if she didn't switch, what if she stuck with supporting clemency? This is the definition of being middled, and the man who middled her was the President of the United States.

He ain't exactly known as Clemency Clinton — the last thing he ever does is let people out of the can. Jonathan Pollard has been sitting in prison for 14 years , and nobody says he killed people. But Clinton has refused to send Pollard to Israel — all he says is it's being studied.

Well, we never heard about any "studies" on the FALN terrorists — this clemency came on like Hurricane Dennis. The Justice Department opposed it, and only Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu want them free.

This is not to say the sentences were not overly severe — up to 90 years for people who were never convicted of directly killing Americans. What's hard to say is that Bill Clinton suddenly felt compassion for them without regard to his passion for Hillary for Senate.

It'll pass, but Hillary had better understand that this is the last error, else she's Vinny and the Jets.

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