While Hillary Rodham Clinton was having her problems with international politics last week, the folks in her future New York neighborhood were engaged in a summit conference of their own, over one of the most explosive issues in American suburbia.

Geese."These are God's creatures. They have every right to be here!" cried a speaker at the Westchester County Goose Symposium.

"Every right has responsibilities that go with it," retorted another.

Aha. Somebody's been listening to campaign speeches. I can imagine George W. Bush walking -- gingerly -- down the goose-infested bikeways and beaches of the New York commuter towns, telling the birds that it's time to stop living for the moment and take charge of the goslings they bring into the world.

The goose overpopulation issue is one of those critter crises that pit the people-first crowd against animal lovers from California (coyotes) to New England (beavers), and all the places in between (deer, deer, deer). The biggest complaint about geese is their guano -- a single bird can produce a pound of droppings a day, and some lakefront areas have up to 200 geese in residence. They also eat farmers' seeds and attack passers-by during nesting season.

"Of course they're pests. They should be treated as pests. I'm all in favor of killing the Canada geese," said a man who described himself only as "a resident." The opposition rumbled ominously.

Like the president, geese are especially attracted to golf courses. Westchester County, where the Clintons have purchased a $1.7 million home, has more than 60 courses. This is an area under siege by fowl who appreciate the virtues of waterfront property and well-manicured lawns.

Many of the first lady's future neighbors seemed ready to follow any politician who would promise to make the resident waterfowl go back to migrating, like their virtuous relatives who fly hard and play by the rules. This seems like an opening for Hillary Clinton's prospective Senate opponent, Rudolph Giuliani. Neither candidate has taken a specific stance on the goose situation yet, but the mayor is one politician who doesn't quail before the animal-rights army. During a recent war with ferret-lovers, Giuliani counseled one of the critters' defenders to see a psychiatrist about "this excessive concern -- how you are devoting your life to weasels."

It's easy to imagine Hillary Clinton aligned with the moderates, who champion nonlethal but rather expensive solutions, such as hiring border collies to chase the birds into someone else's back yard.

If she had attended the symposium, she probably would have smiled politely during the "kill-the-geese" speech, given the man who made it a peck on the cheek, then called a news conference to denounce him.

Bill Bradley would certainly have wanted to tackle the problem with a big plan, while Al Gore would hint that he had urged the president to be more proactive on the goose front.

Bush would say that while it is conservative to kill off excess geese, it is compassionate to give the meat to the poor, preferably through private charities that march in the armies of compassion.

Sen. John McCain would find some way to blame the whole thing on campaign contributions by the goose lobby.

The people who actually did attend the symposium represented practically every facet of modern American politics.

A federal bureaucrat explained the mind-boggling series of permits required to do anything about the geese, which are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act even though they never go anywhere. A conspiracy theorist charged the government with encouraging goose overpopulation in order to make more money from an excise tax on bullets.

The moderator continually begged the rancorous participants to "communicate with one another."

A farmer complained that even after he received goose-elimination permits, eradication was a tough job. "We'd like your staff to do it," he told the bureaucrat hopefully but futilely. If only the farmer lived in Iowa or New Hampshire, he could have gotten a half dozen presidential candidates to call for a special Agricultural Goose Relief Initiative. New York has its primary in March, but that's still not early enough in the election season to qualify for full-scale pandering before Thanksgiving.