For a Host of Reasons, Their Hearts Seem to Be Hillary's
[New York Times,
By RICHARD MORGAN
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's name in Mandarin Chinese, Xi Lai Li, means, roughly translated, ''good luck is on the way.'' In Chinatown, many people fervently hope that in the coming election, the phrase comes true for her.
''The Clintons are a dynasty,'' said one fan of the family, Frank Chin, as he mulled the menu posted outside a restaurant on Kenmare Street. ''I like Hillary because her family is winners.''
He Sheng Jun, a sidewalk merchant on Catherine Street, added: ''Bill Clinton is powerful, and Hillary has great power, too.''
He continued, ''It is better when the husband and wife are both strong.'' The opinion seemed to be directed toward his wife, who squatted in silent boredom under a parasol near the straw hats, jewelry and water he was selling. ''This George Bush wife today is not strong.''
For John Zogby, an independent pollster, such declarations are not surprising. ''There is no question of her remarkable popularity among the Chinatown population,'' he said. ''I mean, she is a former first lady and current U.S. senator, and she bothers to go to Chinatown. That is huge. Republicans may write it off. Democrats may presume they have it. But Mrs. Clinton does not leave any stone unturned.''
This apparent popularity -- Chinatown leaders pledged to raise $100,000 for the senator at a fund-raiser in July -- stems from her efforts for the neighborhood, said John C. Liu, a Democratic City Council member from Flushing, Queens. ''The senator was right out there from the beginning of 9/11 and got people to realize that it wasn't just about Wall Street,'' he said, referring to her pressure for Chinatown-specific business loans and grants and her success in getting the Federal Emergency Management Administration to reconsider its rejection of 7,000 applications for post- 9/11 aid.
Mrs. Clinton also won Chinatown hearts, Mr. Liu added, by addressing the SARS scare of 2003 as ''not just a health issue, but also an issue of public perception and stereotyping about Chinese restaurants.''
Another factor is demographic. The Chinatown population, as opposed to the Chinese communities in Flushing or Sunset Park, Brooklyn, is composed mostly of relatively recent immigrants who arrived after the 1989 uprising in Tiananmen Square, Beijing. Primarily from the southeastern province of Fujian, those Chinese have always lived in an America where someone named Clinton has held much power.
But for some, Mrs. Clinton's power is personal. ''It's hot that she's a woman and isn't afraid to be kind of bitchy sometimes,'' Molly Chen said as she traipsed on Canal Street sipping bubble tea. ''Really, the Clintons are awesome.''
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