Down on the farm, Hillary is listening to America

THE POLITICAL scene was one that may be remembered in America for having the surreal air of a fantasy Hollywood script. Down an ordinary dirt road, through ordinary hay fields in the foothills of the Catskill mountains, strolled the first lady of the United States with something not at all ordinary to announce about her future life. And waiting for her, far from their familiar desks and studios, were the world's press.

There was no suspense in the moment but almighty anticipation even so. Finally, with the slow-walking Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan at her side, she reached the single microphone before two solid oak trees. Mrs Clinton was embarking on a venture that would have seemed outlandish only a few months ago: shedding her role as ceremonial first spouse and running herself for office.

Thus, in deepest cowpat country and under a bleaching summer sun, Mrs Clinton indulged in her coming-out as a prospective candidate for the US Senate seat that Mr Moynihan will vacate, after four terms in Washington, at the end of next year. She has not formally declared yet - that may not come until the autumn - but few are now left in any doubt that she is determined to run the race and, if she can, to win.

And so, through myriad camera lenses and 20 or so satellite dishes - sprouting from trucks parked where, two days earlier, the tall grass had been mown - she made it official.

On Tuesday, she had filed notice in Washington that she was forming the exploratory committee that allows her to raise money for a putative campaign. This was her first official outing as a candidate-in-waiting. Her opponent, as yet also undeclared, is likely to be the hard-punching Mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani.

The symbolism was lent by Senator Moynihan, whose 900-acre farm, Derrymore, we had all motored four hours out of New York to reach. A critic of the Clintons in the past, he offered his unimpeachable support in the present. "I hope she will go all the way, I mean to go all the way with her and I think she's going to win," he intoned in his schoolmasterly way. "And I think it will be wonderful for New York."

But this was Mrs Clinton's moment to explain herself, to answer, first of all, the most obvious question that she will be forced to face a thousand times over. What gives her the right to use her celebrity as first lady to swoop down on New York, a state she has never lived in, and snare a Senate seat that might otherwise have gone to a native politician?

This very awkward carpetbagger question was asked, though not orally, by the protester, awaiting her at the airport when she landed at nearby Binghampton yesterday, who was holding aloft a piece of carpet cut out in the shape of Arkansas. And again by the woman with a large sign at the bottom of the road to the Moynihan farm declaring: "Queen Hillary. Go Home!"

"I think that is a very fair question," she ventured. "I fully understand people raising it." Then she tried this: "I think what I'm for is as important, or more important, than where I'm from." And what is she for? "All I can say is that I care deeply about the issues that are important in this state." Yes, and they are? And she listed them: education and healthcare and, "New York getting its fair share from Washington".

She admitted that even she was perplexed when talk of her running first surfaced last December. "But the more I listened, the more excited I became as I saw the possibilities of what we could do for the people of New York." Excitement was her theme. "I'm very excited about this." "I'm very excited at the prospect of considering this race." "I'm very excited." "I'm excited about it and I'm looking forward to it."

And she was excited about listening. Indeed, yesterday marked the beginning of what has been billed as a four-day "listening tour" of cities in central New York, including Cooperstown, where the Baseball Hall of Fame is, and Albany and Oneonta. The purpose is to portray a first lady stripped of the usual White House hoopla, to connect with "regular" folk and to talk over their problems. (All under the keen observation of the 200-odd journalists in her wake.)

The event was more than the rushed walk-by the reporters had expected. One Japanese news crew arrived, all the way from Manhattan, aboard a stretch limousine that almost became beached as it roared from the road on to the field. There was none of the security sweeping the Secret Service normally does for a member of the first family and Mrs Clinton answered questions for about 15 minutes.

She was asked the difficult ones, too, such as whether she expected women to vote for her out of sympathy over Monica Lewinsky. She did not really answer that. "I'm looking forward to hearing a lot of New Yorkers and I think they'll have a lot to tell me and what they think about me."

By the roadsides, yesterday, they already were. The competing gaggles of pro and anti-Clintonites at the entrance to the farm offered a foretaste of how incendiary a contest this is likely to be. One woman voter on whom Mrs Clinton cannot count is June Swisher, manager of a nearby auto-salvage shop. "Normally you choose the best person, but just the background of both the Clintons - well, I just don't like them," she admitted.

But for now, New York, all of America and Mrs Clinton herself, must savour the sheer novelty of her debut as candidate as well as first lady. "What's new to me is being on this side of the microphone," she confessed, smiling brightly. "Talking for myself and talking about what I believe in." Not, of course, that she has been all that silent until now.

Too hot to think

about Hillary,

Review, page 4

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?