Does Hillary Clinton Have the Fight Stuff?

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It took the First Lady's own political ambitions, rather than the much-televised reprising of her husband's scuffles with Monica Lewinsky, to finally prompt Hillary Clinton to move out of the White House — but it may take more than a change of address to beat out Rudy Giuliani. Mrs. Clinton announced Tuesday that she is soon to take the historic step of leaving the President home alone to start campaigning for New York's Senate seat from her new Westchester home (she says they'll rejoin each other on the weekends). The First Lady said she'd make a formal declaration, including the announcement of her platform, early in the new year.

The announcement was designed to end speculation that the media brouhaha over anti-Israeli rhetoric uttered in Mrs. Clinton's presence during her Middle East trip would torpedo her campaign. Despite New York's large Jewish vote and the tabloid media's best efforts, Suha Arafat's remarks are hardly likely to turn into one of those "-gate" tropes that could doom her campaign (the Palestinians hate the Israelis — who knew?), especially after Prime Minister Ehud Barak gave her a ringing endorsement as a friend of Israel. But what the incident may have shown is that the trappings of First Ladyhood, which had given her campaign its original bounce, have now turned dysfunctional — the West Bank, after all, isn't exactly a traditional whistle stop for New York political candidates.

Having switched hats, though, Hillary Rodham Clinton has shed some of the protective skin that attaches to the dignity of her office, making her fair game for the street-fighting political instincts of New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, her presumptive rival. With Giuliani ahead in the polls, it may take more than a definite decision to run for Mrs. Clinton to win next November. New Yorkers are a cynical lot, and Mrs. Clinton's apparent flip-flopping on Middle East questions — and her carefully scripted exchange with teacher's union president Randi Weingarten Monday, in which Weingarten supposedly cajoled Clinton into announcing — aren't likely to impress. So the real question isn't where Hillary lives, but whether she's ready to rumble.