"You think Buffalo's too obvious?"
"Yes," I replied.
"How about Long Island?"
"Okay, but North Shore," I said in mock seriousness.
We were talking, of course, about where Hillary Clinton could or should live when she moves to New York state and pretends to be a New Yorker. The person I was speaking with was not one of the first lady's advisers, but it is not too much to say that he advises those advisers. I advised him that Buffalo would seem a patently political choice. Also, it's cold in the winter.
Now, though, the search has shifted from a residence to a vacation spot. We are told it cannot be Martha's Vineyard, where the Clintons have vacationed in the past, since it is not in New York state. It cannot be, either, the Sodom-and-Gomorrah-ish Hamptons because they bespeak all that is morally decadent in America: movies, records, books, magazines and arugula salad. The Hamptons send the wrong message.
So attention has been paid to the Adirondacks, the foresty-primeval wilderness of New York state. This is a wild and wonderful area, so pristine that even the ascetically inclined Bill McKibben lives there, but it is sort of famous for its flies and for the fact -- beyond dispute -- that it is not on the water. What's more, Steven Spielberg doesn't live there -- and, given the alleged fly situation, who could blame him?
One is tempted to say, "Enough!" In fact, I will. What we have here is the unauthentic search for authenticity. It is well known that Hillary Clinton does not live in New York state and never has. It is further well known that, given her druthers, she prefers to vacation on Martha's Vineyard. Why all this play-acting? Why this pretense that the voters of the Empire State will not notice that she has not been one of them -- and that all will be forgiven if, perhaps, she spends a bit of August swatting flies while canoeing on Saranac Lake?
It's hard to say whether these leaks about the Clintons' vacation and residence plans reflect serious thinking within the White House or whether they reflect nothing more than the prattling of people pretending to have inside info. But two things have to be said. The first is that nobody's denying anything; the second is that this sort of thing is typical of the Clintons, at least of the one named Bill. Too often, he finds his convictions in the polls. He inhales oxygen and exhales insincerity.
Dick Morris, the former first pollster and campaign consultant, recounted in his book how he tried to get the Clintons to shun the Vineyard for a Western camping vacation since that played better in the polls. Clinton responded with commendable sarcasm -- "What if I hike, set up my campsite, and go fishing but don't catch anything? Will that be OK?" -- but he did not go to the Vineyard that year. The president, saying he was "a big national parks person," went west. For enough votes, he would have said he was a big Bert Parks person.
It's not known whether Hillary Clinton has polled as to where she should vacation or live. It is known, though, that she strains credulity in attempting to portray herself as, well, sort of a New Yorker. She always was a Yankee fan, she asserted recently. That's odd. She grew up in Chicago, once confessed to being a Cubs fan. Now she says that she always felt an obligation to root for an American League team as well. Sure.
Around the same time, Mrs. Clinton said she had been to Elmira, the town in New York where Mark Twain summered and now lies buried. Funny. No one could remember her ever being there -- and in Elmira you would notice. Turns out, she passed through on a family trip some 40 years ago -- or so she says.
But why bother to say anything? Why this compulsion to be someone she's not? No one would expect her to be a Yankee fan or know anything much about Elmira. A D'Amato-ish talent for knowing every sewer commissioner is not what the voters expect of Clinton anyway. What they should expect is a woman who knows who she is and is not afraid to be that person. Instead they are seeing a parody of the prepackaged politician, her husband's wife down to the last lip bite of insincerity. What kind of person is she, anyway? What does she believe?
Where should Hillary Clinton live? Where should the Clintons vacation? The answers are easy: She should live where she wants and vacation where she likes and stop trying to be anyone other than herself.