Clinton works quietly in Senate

The Associated PressMarch 23, 2008 

— Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in the Senate before she had even surrendered the title of first lady.

An anything-but-typical freshman, she surprised skeptics with how well she fit in to a chamber where reputations are usually built over decades.

She didn't big-foot colleagues. A junior senator in the minority party, she put her head down and went to work. She waited her turn to speak, and when she did talk, it was clear she had done her homework.

By most accounts she was seen as a serious legislator who tended to her state's interests. She was re-elected in 2006 in a cakewalk.

But there is no blockbuster legislation to her name. No soaring oratory still rings in the ears.

Some campaign promises went unfulfilled, notably her promise to create 200,000 jobs in upstate New York.

Her vote to authorize the Iraq war and other moves toward the center caused liberals to grouse that she had betrayed her roots.

And the skills that make for a successful junior senator are not necessarily those that shout presidential leadership.

Citing the "cumbersome" Senate rules, Clinton told an Associated Press reporter last year, "I'm somebody who just gets up every day and tries to push that decision a little bit further every day."

For all her hard work, she brought baggage to the Senate that could not be shed.

Clinton points to her role in putting together $20 billion in aid for New York after the Sept. 11 attacks as one of her greatest Senate achievements.

Yet when the deal was in danger of falling apart, Clinton stepped aside during final negotiations. She waited outside the office of then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., for fear her presence would inflame the opposition.

Nonetheless, former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota gives Clinton good marks for her years in the Senate.

"She surprised people," Daschle said. "There was a lot of skepticism among many of her colleagues about the degree to which she would be a team player. ... She was sensitive to that concern and tried to address it."

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