Too hot to think about Hillary

Michael Elliott

IF YOU want to know what we New Yorkers think about Hillary Clinton deciding to run for the Senate from the Empire State (that's what we call it, y'know), I can tell you: we hardly think about it at all. We have bigger things on our minds - principally, how to get through the most hellish heatwave that the city has known since records were kept.

On Monday, it was 101F in Central Park; that night, I had some neighbours over for a barbecue - except that it was so blisteringly hot that we cooked and ate indoors. It's so hot (this is the only good thing about the heatwave) that the Sunrise Highway, which leads to the Hamptons on the end of Long Island, melted on Monday, giving New York's super rich an extra few hours of misery on the ride home. (The super-super rich, of course, weren't bothered - they helicopter to their weekend places.) It's so hot that even on a holiday weekend, our beloved Yankees played to only a half-full stadium.

That's another thing that is on our mind; the Yankees, and the appalling slight just meted out to Derek Jeter, the team's superstar shortstop. Jeter, who is to baseball what David Beckham is to football (supremely talented, dates babes) has been edged out in the fans' balloting for the All Star game by some guy from - it hurts to have to write this - Cleveland.

When we think of anything half-serious at all, it's got nothing to do with the Senate race, but more, say, with the opening of Spike Lee's new film Summer of Sam. Set in the city in 1977, and during another hot summer when a serial killer was on the prowl, power cuts led to riots, and the south Bronx (right outside Yankee stadium) went up in flames every night, the film might as well take place in another country. New York is going through its most sustained burst of prosperity since - I dunno, since LaGuardia was mayor, as we sometimes say around here.

Brooklyn is hot (that's where Tina Brown is about to have the big launch party for her new magazine Talk), the Bronx is back, Queens has been revitalised by a wave of entrepreneurial immigrants from Jamaica to Jalilabad, and the city fairly hums with self-confidence. And now you want us to think about - 'scuse me - politics? Nobody in America wants to think about politics - in all my years here, I can remember no time when the political scene was less a topic for conversation, or the strange stuff that happens in Washington of so little moment.

Even less do we want to think about the two main contenders for the Senate seat held with distinction for 24 years by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the Greatest Living American; the man who, before going to Washington, travelled the longer distance from Hell's Kitchen on the West Side to the UN headquarters on the East, with stops at Harvard and India on the way.

His likely successor will be either Mrs Clinton or our Mayor, Rudy Giuliani. Both are doubtless admirable in their way - but both have been around so long that they passed their sell-by date long ago. Giuliani has been Mayor for six years, and (with his police chiefs) deserves some credit for the revival of the city in the Nineties. But he has been a fixture of New York politics for more than a decade, and to all but a shrinking number of fans, his incessant finger-wagging - don't drop litter, don't jaywalk - has become tiresome.

As for the First Lady (how to put this delicately), is the world really begging for yet more Clinton stories, even if the Clinton in question doesn't wear pants? You can make the case that Hillary always had a more focused and consistent political philosophy than her husband. Nor is she a whit less ambitious; some who claim to know insist that she has her eye on the White House herself. But, whatever Hillary's virtues, it is hard to believe that the nation really wants to spend another generation parsing the tangled syntax of the Clinton's marriage. Bill as First Husband - even the thought of it gives me the shivers.

Anyway, in my neck of the suburban woods, all this has passed us by. We don't condemn Hillary for being a carpetbagger; hell, everyone in New York is from somewhere else (more than half of the city's population is now an immigrant or the child of one). We just don't particularly want to think about a Senate race that won't take place until November next year. Will the Yankees win the World Series again? Why does the West Side Highway end at 57th Street? How can I get some stock before its IPO? How long will the heatwave last? That's what's on our minds. Politics? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Michael Elliott is the editor of Newsweek International. He lives in Westchester County, New York

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