Hillary's Bilingual Blues?
She Could Be Damaged If She Shuns Unz
Posted Thursday, September 16, 1999
Ron Unz, the businessman who promoted the successful initiative to end California's bilingual education program, is thinking of doing the same thing in New York. Several months ago, he commissioned a poll from Zogby International showing that his proposal -- which would place non-English speakers in a one-year program of intensive English immersion, instead of classes taught in their native-language -- is extremely popular in New York City, on the order of 75 percent for/18 percent against. (Seven percent were undecided.) In New York state as a whole, the percentage in favor approaches 80.
If Unz goes ahead and gets an anti-bilingual-ed charter amendment on the city ballot, won't that put Senate candidate Hillary Clinton in an interesting spot? If she opposes the measure (as did all the major Democratic gubernatorial candidates in California) she pleases the bilingual lobby, which is part of her natural coalition -- but she comes out on the wrong side of that 75/18 split, and (more important) reinforces the idea that she's a rigid interest-group liberal.
The more intriguing possibility, of course, is that she would endorse an Unz initiative. Unz says he hopes she would. He also notes that teachers' unions, a major Democratic interest group, are not monolithic in their support of bilingual education. But, he says, bilingual-ed's backers are fervent, almost religious in their support, and would kick up a huge fuss if Hillary abandoned them.
She would still be mighty tempted. And she has an impressive history of deserting the left when her political survival is at stake -- most obviously on the 1996 welfare reform, but also on a series of issues in Arkansas, all chronicled in Connie Bruck's excellent New Yorker profile several years back. (For more on Hillary's sellout of the left on welfare, click here.) ... Meanwhile, Hillary's likely opponent, New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, has already been critical of bilingual-ed programs, saying they often "retard" the learning of English, and has proposed limiting them to two years. But he hasn't made a big deal of it. Yet.
Paranoid's Corner: Sometimes a question is so obvious it doesn't get asked. Here's an example: Does Hillary really want Al Gore to win the presidency in 2000? Knowledgeable Democrats suggest her plan is to win a Senate seat next year, and then run for president in 2004. How does she do that if, in 2004, Gore is President? She needs a Republican in the White House to run against. A President Gore, or President Bradley, could tie up the White House until 2008. And either one will come with a vice-president who will want to run for the president, and who'll be unlikely to graciously step aside for Mrs. Clinton. ... If Hillary doesn't want Gore to win, what about her husband? He seems very eager to please her these days. ... Take it away, Dick Morris!
Karma-Building Item: There's a great Matson cartoon in the current New York Observer. It features Mayor Giuliani, dressed as Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now, directing the assault of insecticide-spewing helicopters on Manhattan's terrified residents, and saying (of course) "I love the smell of malathion in the morning." . . .
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Copyright 1999 Mickey Kaus.