The Breakfast Table

A Poem for Hillary

Dear Neal,

It’s been a most enjoyable exchange, and all too short. By the way, I forgot to answer your earlier question about vouchers and the public schools. I think the idea is that if vouchers are introduced, public schools will be forced to become more competitive, since they will be threatened with the loss of funds if students vote with their feet and go elsewhere.

About the Senate race in New York: Do you really think Moynihan has it in him to serve another six years? He is a great man, no question about it, but his age is beginning to show–a couple of times when I saw him on TV last year, he seemed barely coherent–and it would be sad if he were to spend his final years on the national scene as a mere shadow of his former self. I must say, though, that so far I find most of the possible contenders for his seat disappointing. I like much of what Rudy has done as mayor; I’m not one of those people who think junkies, hookers, and beggars on street corners gave New York a wonderful vitality. And I certainly want to see pro-choice Republicans gain more power in the GOP. The problem is that Giuliani still has too much of a prosecutorial temperament, with occasional lapses into Big Brotherism (for instance, his suggestion, as part of his war on smut, that concerned citizens take photographs of people coming out of sex shops and other “adult” establishments). He certainly doesn’t seem to have the right disposition for the Senate, which requires collegiality–Rudy is essentially a one-man show–and where not giving a damn what other people think is not an asset.


How delightful of you to bring Emily Dickinson (one of my favorite poets) into the discussion. It’s a beautiful poem, and I think you are right to interpret it as Dickinson’s vision of the sacrifices that a woman of spirit and intellect would have had to make in a traditional marriage–the narrowing of her sphere to the domestic circle. I would venture the guess that “Himself” refers to God … in the kind of conventional union that she’s describing, it is unlikely that wife reveal any of her hidden longings to the husband.

I wonder–has Hillary Clinton ever tried to imagine what life would have been like if, instead of following Bill to Arkansas, she had pursued a career on her own in Washington?

I wish we could go on, but the deadline draws near. Enjoy the weekend, and have a wonderful summer!

Best wishes,