2006_10_hillclinton.jpgHill-arious! Republican Senate hopeful John Spencer denied telling Daily News reporter Ben Smith that he thought opponent Hillary Clinton was ugly and probably had plastic surgery. Spencer did admit to noticing how Clinton's style had changed, but says he never questioned Bill Clinton's decision to marry.

Well, Ben Smith explains how the conversation came about:

Spencer and his wife, Kathy, by chance, sat beside me on a Friday morning JetBlue flight to Rochester. Spencer read The New York Times, I read The New Yorker, and early in the trip, Kathy opened New York magazine to its cover story on Al and Jeanine Pirro, the troubled state attorney general candidate.

The story prompted John Spencer to offer his opinion that Jeanine was a smart woman with potential, but who listened too closely to her consultants.

He also said that, as a recovering alcoholic, he understood and sympathized with Al's psychological problems.

The casual conversation then turned to a black-and-white picture of Pirro, dated to 1978, that appeared in the magazine. The three of us remarked on how much her looks have changed, and speculated (fairly cattily, on all sides) on whether she'd had "work" - that is, plastic surgery.

"Work?" Spencer interjected. "What about Hillary?"

Spencer then launched into an unprovoked riff about Clinton's appearance.

"You ever see a picture of her back then? Whew," he said of Clinton's youth. "I don't know why Bill married her." He speculated she'd had "millions of dollars" of plastic surgery, and added that she looks good now. Spencer observed that "both of them" [Clinton and Pirro] must have had work done.

The candidate also dwelled on his own comparison between his unvarnished willingness to speak the truth and the heavily managed campaigns of Clinton and Pirro.

The other thing Smith points out is that Spencer's campaign manager didn't even deny the quotes prior to publication - campaign manager Rob Ryan only asked Smith to leave out the part about the Pirros. And a Westchester Journal News columnist Phil Reisman told WCBS2 about a pre-debate exchange with Spencer: "He was being facetious and said, 'As long as I don't call her a lesbian, I'm OK.'" Yeah, but saying she's had plastic surgery doesn't help either! Reisman also thinks the words are "classic Spencer".

Clinton took the high road (easy, in this case), saying that she thougth her high school picture was cute and joked, "Do you want to check for scars?" We have to agree with Gawker - it's unlikely Clinton had plastic surgery as you could only call the surgeon shoddy. But, honestly, it's much easier for men to age - women are compared to movie stars and models all the time and are under much greater scrutiny and propaganda to look younger.