Throngs 'Listen' with the First Lady in Day One on Campaign Trail, Hillary Clinton Survives Trick Questions, Media Horde

Article excerpt

At the only traffic light within miles of this country intersection, Katherine Engert is holding a "Go-Home" sign for Hillary Rodham Clinton. As a long black limousine slides past, Ms. Engert and others around her start waving their signs in the hope Mrs. Clinton will get the message.

But she is not in the stretch limo: The occupants are, of all people, members of a Japanese television crew.

Yes, Japanese television crews, not to mention 250 other journalists, gathered Wednesday in a hayfield to watch Clinton start her "listening tour," a prelude to her formal candidacy to run for a US Senate seat in New York State. Only a few days earlier, bales of hay had been rolled and shrink- wrapped outside of retiring Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's farm, where Clinton kicked off her tour. Now, the field is sprouting trucks with satellite antenna. White House reporter Andrea Mitchell from "NBC News" is soiling her shoes along with local reporters from "Inside Albany." This spectacle of both celebrity and local reporters comes during a slow news week in Washington. The media horde has come to a place so small - it's not even a dot on local maps - to get the ultimate sound bite as a first lady finally embarks on a campaign trail for herself. "Will someone come down here and turn me on?" Clinton says after her microphone failed during her first listening session. "She's such a character," says Osmau Sorimachi of Japan's Fuji television network. "In Japan, there are not so many women - none - who are so ambitious." That ambition has nearly every political reporter in the nation salivating. They are analyzing, looking for nuance, trying to trip Clinton before she even leaves the gate. They need to find something to write about, after all. Does she have an opinion on the design of the Peace Bridge at Niagara Falls? asks one local reporter, knowing the candidate would rather talk about Medicare reform and changing the education system. "I'll leave that to the experts," Clinton says as Sen. Moynihan quickly moves to another reporter at a first-day press conference. In fact, at the end of the day many reporters were left scratching their heads, looking for a second-day news story. Would it be Mrs. Clinton's visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown? Would she wear an Oneonta Tigers baseball cap? How would she care to rate the barbecued chicken at Brook's House of Bar-B-Q in Oneonta? …