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Out of the Woods / The trajectory of 'Planet Hillary' has traversed Westport

Published 8:07 am, Wednesday, January 29, 2014
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The "I'm ready for Hillary" compaign for 2016 is off and running in Westport. Last weekend it celebrated its first anniversary. Coincidentally, the cover of the The New York Times Sunday Magazine was an illustration labeled "Planet Hillary," with prominent people in orbit around her face.

"The gravitational pull of a possible 2016 campaign is bringing all the old Clinton characters into her orbit," the cover type said. "Can she make the stars align, or will chaos prevail?"

Indeed, while it is much too soon too make any predictions, there is a certain feeling of inevitably about Hillary Clinton at this point. Even though this writer is just another veteran political observer and a registered Independent, I have been receiving numerous e-mails from the Clinton people soliciting money -- anywhere from $5 to $2,500. I also received a red, white and blue bumper sticker with the already familiar phrase, "I'm Ready for Hillary." I do not plan to affix it to my car -- not yet.

The emails also list a website -- www.readyforhillary.com -- you can get more information about the campaign.

The cover story, written by Amy Chozick, is a thorough assessment of 66-year-old Hillary Clinton's past, present and future. It is recommended reading if you want unbiased background information. It is neither a puff piece nor hatchet job. I found it an excellent overview, warts and all.

It offers a realistic account of the pluses and minuses of a Hillary Clinton campaign rarely found in the everyday press. It closes with a perceptive observation: "Hillary Clinton's truest challenge, it would seem, is not to make the country glimpse who she was 40 years ago; it's to recognize that for all the layers that have been added to the onion, there's still something at the center that's aching for the rest to be peeled away." She will also face the tough job of melding two staffs into one -- Obama's and her own.

The Clintons both have strong connections to Westport that go back more than two decades.

Bill and Hillary Clinton came here as guests of Ann Sheffer and her husband, Bill Scheffler, to host a fundraiser in 1992. Ann Sheffer served on the President's Committee and the Arts and Humanities, and has long been a Democratic powerbroker in town as well as sponsor and backer of the arts programs in Westport. Her late father, Ralph Sheffer, a pillar of the community, served as a member of the RTM and was considered one of the "wise" men of the Democratic Party here. Ann Sheffer ran for the state Senate against incumbent Judith Freedman and lost in 1992, but she carried Westport 55 to 45 percent.

In 1998, Bill Clinton returned to Westport for another fundraiser at the TV-studio home of Martha Stewart and Bob Rose, a FOB (Friend of Bill's) and a major Clinton fundraiser for many years together with his wife, Yvette.

In 1999, Bill Clinton made a third appearance here at the Judy Point home of Sandra Wagenfeld and Judy Goldstein. They were joined by former Westport First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell, a Democrat, who has since left for Washington to pursue an international trade and business career.

At another fund-raising session at National Hall, Rose hosted a luncheon for Bill Clinton and told the crowd attending the affair that Clinton was only the third sitting president to come to Westport -- after George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Clinton, with a broad smile, replied: "I can't imagine why only Washington and Roosevelt have been here. The other presidents must not have known what they were missing!"

On a personal note, this writer had an opportunity to meet both Clintons here. The president was what I had expected -- smiling, garrulous, warm, eyes fixed on me as if I was the only person in the room, He does give you that feeling for the few moments you talk with him.

Hillary is different. Serious with an occasional smile, somewhat tucked in, a little reserved, looking around the crowd when talking with you. I was struck by how short she is, yet at the same time, burning with energy, enthusiasm and curiosity, a force to be be reckoned with. Likeable on first meeting.

Woody Klein is a Westport writer, and his "Out of the Woods" appears every other Friday. He can be reached at wklein11@aol.com