Letterman on Best Behavior With Hillary
January 13, 2000
The evening may not have been as loose as when presidential candidate Bill Clinton tootled his sax on Arsenio Hall's show, but often-cranky talk show host David Letterman was on his best behavior Wednesday night for first lady and expected U.S. Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Before introducing her, Letterman mentioned his running on-show campaign to get Clinton on his late-night talker. Her presumed opponent in the Senate race, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, has the hometown advantage and has already appeared on CBS's Late Show dozens of times.
"We have to give the woman a tremendous amount of credit just for showing up," Letterman told the audience. "She looks sensational."
In answer to the first question, Clinton said she was "just a little" nervous, and Letterman replied, "Yeah, me too." He followed up by jokingly asking the first lady to "tell us a little bit about yourself."
And when Letterman noted that all the publicity surrounding the Clintons' purchase of their new home in suburban Chappaqua, N.Y., might mean "every idiot is going to go by honking now," Clinton wasted no time in replying, "Was that you?"
Clinton's appearance was not all jokey chatter, as Letterman tossed in a few serious questions, including why she had decided to seek the U.S. Senate seat from New York when she had never lived in the state. Clinton answered that she had always planned to move to New York after leaving the White House, so it was a logical choice, adding, "New York has always attracted people from all over the world. That's what makes it such a great place to live."
Letterman also gave Clinton a New York quiz, on which she scored five for five, and gave her some campaign advice: Attack Giuliani on his hair or what the comic called his "millennium comb-over."
Clinton conceded that Giuliani has "done a lot of stuff as mayor," but said, "The Senate is an entirely different kind of job. As senator, you can't go and arrest a homeless person," a reference to a recent, controversial City Hall policy on New York City's homeless population.
Both Clinton and Letterman also supplied their versions of the show's famous "Top 10" lists. Clinton's "10 reasons that I … finally decided to appear on The Late Show" included, "If Dan Quayle could do it, how hard could it be?"; "I lost a bet with Tipper"; "I needed an excuse to get out of dinner with Donald Trump"; and No. 1, "If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere."
Letterman's "10 questions dumb guys would ask the first lady" included, "If elected senator, would you please, please bring the strip clubs back to New York City?" and "Have you ever met my dad, George Bush?"
Prior to the first lady's appearance, news veteran Walter Cronkite made a cameo appearance on the show and gave Letterman some advice on the Clinton interview: "Try not to be a jackass, will you?" Cronkite said.
When it was all over, Letterman presented the first lady with a gift sure to come in handy for Chappaqua — a riding lawn mower.
Clinton said Tuesday she will formally declare her Senate candidacy in early February and hopes to have the president and daughter Chelsea at her side.