Hillary Rodham Nixon

Posted: Jun 19, 2003 12:00 AM

Hillary Clinton cut her teeth on the Watergate scandal. As a counsel for the House Judiciary Committee impeachment inquiry staff, she made it her mission to topple President Nixon. Hillary helped drafted a document that would provide the legal basis for three articles of impeachment. The House Judiciary Committee's former chief counsel, Jerome Zeifman, later revealed that the Hillary-penned document changed the existing impeachment protocols in order to burn Nixon. According to Clinton biographer David Maraniss, Hillary believed Nixon was "evil."

Yet more than any other political personality, Hillary resembles her nemesis. Not in policy matters: Nixon was a center-right politician, while Hillary is a far-left radical posing as a centrist. But in terms of career path, Hillary has clearly patterned herself after the man she loved to hate.

Nixon's entire career consisted of disastrous circumstances followed by miraculous recoveries. He was the ultimate survivor.

His career truly began in 1948, when Nixon bullishly pursued Alger Hiss, correctly suspecting that Hiss was working for the Soviets. Nixon's prominent role catapulted him to national prominence.

In 1952, two years after Nixon won a Senate seat, Dwight Eisenhower selected him as his running mate. After serving two terms with Eisenhower, Nixon narrowly lost his bid for the presidency in 1960 to John F. Kennedy.

In 1962, Nixon met his lowest point to date: defeat in the California gubernatorial election. "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore," Nixon famously told the press, "because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference." His image was in tatters. For the next six years, Nixon held no elected office.

In 1966, Nixon's hard campaigning for Republican candidates garnered him widespread popularity within his party. In 1968, Nixon's rejuvenation earned him the Republican presidential nomination and then the presidency. It was an astonishing political turnaround.

The Watergate scandal of 1974 seemed to put Nixon down for the count. But once again, Nixon was able to rehabilitate his image, playing a substantial role in U.S. foreign relations until his death in 1994.

Hillary's career has followed a similarly up-and-down path. She claims to be the ultimate survivor. But she is not. While Nixon regained his political standing through his own efforts, Hillary has survived because of her power merger with Bill Clinton.

Like Nixon, Hillary began her career by targeting a public figure: Nixon himself. Hillary's involvement in Watergate launched her career, but it was her marriage to Bill Clinton in 1975 that truly ensured an upward trend. Bill was elected Arkansas attorney general in 1976 and governor of Arkansas in 1978. Meanwhile, Hillary was appointed by Jimmy Carter to the board of the Legal Services Corp. in 1978.

Hillary's career languished during the two years that Bill Clinton was not in office. She was relegated to borrowing money from Clinton's business partner, James McDougal, until her husband's re-election in 1982.

The early 1990s were Hillary's lowest point. With questions about Whitewater surfacing, Hillary finally exploded, blaming the press for sullying her image. "You know, I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas," she railed, "but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life." It wasn't quite Nixonian, but it was close.

Hillary's greatest defeat came in 1993. After her husband appointed her head of the Task Force on National Health Care, Hillary recommended nationalizing the health care industry. Her plan was completely rejected and led to the first House Republican majority in decades.

But there was Bill, helping Hillary climb out of the pit once again. The Monica Lewinsky scandal helped Hillary rehabilitate her image. At first, she denied Bill's wrongdoing and blamed the "vast right-wing conspiracy." Then, she played the innocent wife cuckolded. Her popularity soared. Her election to the Senate in 2000 confirmed that her fortunes were rising, and fast.

But finally, Hillary has hit her Watergate. Her new book, Living History, is a cover-up in purely Nixonian fashion. She says that the purpose of Whitewater was merely "to discredit the president and the administration and slow down its momentum … (Whitewater was) investigation as a weapon for political destruction."

Most egregiously, Hillary claims that she was completely ignorant of her husband's sexual adventurism. "I could hardly breathe. Gulping for air, I started crying and yelling at him, 'What do you mean? What are you saying? Why did you lie to me?’" Yeah, right.

Hillary has become what she most hates: a scandal-ridden politician enmeshed in a series of cover-ups. Like Nixon, she will fall. Unlike Nixon, she does not have the personal strength to rise alone.