A Happy St Patrick's Day to all our Irish readers at home and abroad. Leaving New York after my telly exertions last night, I got momentarily caught up in the parade line-up, but managed to extricate myself before having to sing "If You're Irish, Come Into the Parlor".
But enough about me; what could be more Irish than Hillary Clinton? Three years ago she was inducted into the "Irish America Hall of Fame". I'm not sure I'd ever heard of that until today, but as an authentic son of Erin I strongly object to the Hall of Fame helping Hillary put the sham in shamrock. She has English, Welsh and Scottish blood coursing icily through her veins, but not a drop of Irish. Perhaps that's why her blarney is so clunky and heavy-handed. At any rate, it's seventeen years since Mrs Clinton's first political campaign - when a sitting First Lady decided to run for the Senate in a state she'd never lived in. In that time, she's gone from presidential spouse to senator to president-presumptive to Obama roadkill to State Department airmiles queen to deleter extraordinaire and and president-presumptive 2.0 to world-touring sore loser.
After her comments in India, I see that even Dems want to leave her over there - she's already got all the Nehru jackets. But, with hindsight, a lot of her subsequent foot-in-mouth campaign style was visible in this St Patrick's Day column from 2000, back when she was having difficulty juggling gay and non-gay Irishmen. (That turn-of-the-century Hibernohomophobia seems to have abated somewhat - the current Taoiseach is a gay guy from India. Not sure what the Wolfe Tone types would have made of that, but Trump seems to dig him):
As my favourite 1970s McDonald's jingle put it:
Hey, come on down
The weather's getting better
Have a big thick shamrock shake
We'll welcome in the spring together...
Ah, St. Patrick's Day was so simple back then: In the "Irish Alps" of Massachusetts, they'd be skiing on green snow; in Buffalo, they'd dye the Niagara River green, instead of its usual toxic orange (a tad too Unionist). All you had to do was just colour everything emerald. But Ireland's multi-hued greens are not enough to embrace the exotic tints of the "rainbow coalition," and so, with each successive St. Patrick's Day, the annual Irish-American show of strength loses a little of its muscle.
The reason is a recurring dilemma: Should gay and lesbian Irish-Americans be allowed to march in the parade? They already can, say the organizers; they can march with the heterosexual Irish-Americans behind the banners of their home counties from the auld sod. But, instead, the auld sods insist that they be allowed to march in one huge gay phalanx. In Boston, rather than accede to the queering of the green, the Paddy homophobes wound up cancelling the parade. In New York, the annual gay protest has gradually become its own St Patrick's Day tradition, with defiant groups of gay Gaels taunting their fellow Celts: "We're Irish! We're queer! We'll be here every year!" They may well be, but others won't. Borough presidents, city comptrollers and other municipal grandees whose absence from the parade would once have spelt political suicide now find it more convenient to steer clear. True, Mayor Giuliani still shows up, but then he'll go anywhere: It's only a couple of years since he made a public appearance at the Gay Pride parade with Julie Andrews wearing a blonde wig, sequined gown and fishnet stockings - Giuliani, I mean; Miss Andrews wore a tuxedo.
No one knows quite how Irish and gay politics got so comprehensively entwined, though personally I suspect it's something to do with the homoerotic frisson of Lord Of The Dance. Anyway, because the official parade declines to add a tasteful Tinky-Winky lilac to its 40 shades of green, St. Paddy's is no longer just a Day but an entire season, stretching lazily back through March and late February with a panorama of more "inclusive" events. The other day, ILGO — the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization — took time out from its hectic schedule of suing to get into the main New York parade and marched in Queens (please, no tittering) between a Buddhist group and an RV belonging to Abe Hirschfeld, the property developer who gave Paula Jones a cheque for $1 million. Mr. Hirschfeld said he was running for Senate. So, too, was another marcher among this motley crew: Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Senator-elect Rodham did not have a happy time. The crowds were sparse. Pretty much everyone who wanted to see an alternative St. Patrick's parade were marching in it, so that left the sidewalks mostly to the dissenters. "Deliver us from evil!" cried John Kaldde, throwing himself in front of the marchers. "Go back to Arkansas, carpetbagger!" yelled an Irish-American. "Hillary. Not here. Not now. Not ever," read the placard of an Iranian-American. The First Lady cruised by with her famous rictus grin.
Mrs. O'Clinton was only marching in the gay Irish parade because she'd accidentally agreed to march in the straight Irish parade before her nursemaids had a chance to inform her that bigshot Dems these days give the Fifth Avenue gig a wide berth. So, having offended ILGO by agreeing to march in the straight parade, Hillary felt obliged to offend the Ancient Order of Hibernians by agreeing to march in the gay parade. For the First Lady, New York has become a kind of Panderer's Box: the minute you open it all kinds of competing identity groups fly out demanding you kiss up to them, and you can never get the lid back on again. The only parade she should be marching in is the one for Tone-Deaf-Americans: not for the first time, she's demonstrated her amazing tin ear for electoral politics.
Anyway, even after she'd marched with ILGO and Abe and the Buddhists, the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats still heckled her in Greenwich Village and demanded she explain herself. The Irish Question is proving as intractable for Mrs. Clinton as it was for Gladstone, reducing her St. Paddy's pandering to a kind of roadshow Riverdance, where at every stop on the tour the Lady of the Pantsuit faces the same old questions and, like Michael Flatley, furiously tap-dances around the issue, looking increasingly sweaty. With the GLID crowd she upped the ante. "I have worked very hard over the last six years or so in every way that I could to further the peace process in North Ireland," she explained. "Like Gerry Adams and so many others who know how important this process is, I want to continue to lend my support to it, and I think marching in the parade here is one way of demonstrating that."
It's true that, with the IRA refusing to decommission and the Belfast Assembly suspended, these are precarious times for the soi-disant "peace process." Nevertheless, many of us still believe that two sides, riven by years of hatred, fear and mutual suspicion, can learn to co-exist, even on a small island: Look at Bill and Hill's post-Monica vacation on Martha's Vineyard. But, aside from that sterling example, it's not precisely clear — in Belfast, London, Dublin or Greenwich Village — quite what aspect of the peace process the First Lady has been so busy with these last six years. At any rate, ILGO weren't about to be fobbed off with irrelevant hooey about minor fringe concerns like ending generations of sectarian violence. They immediately issued a press release blasting the First Lady: "Saying you stand for inclusion and then marching in a parade whose recent history has been all about gay bashing is outrageous."
Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, there are those who'd like the Hibernian homophobia extended to embrace Hillaphobia. They're planning a 'Stop Hillary Now' protest during tomorrow's parade.
So if there's tears in my eyes it's not because Brian Mulroney's been singing "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling", it's because I'm weeping with laughter. For conservatives, the hardest part of this Senate campaign is keeping a straight face: Remember, these are all Democrat constituencies Hillary's offending. And, if she's learned anything, it must be that gay-Irish-American-hyphens-R-us-identity-group politics is far more complicated than anything in the Emerald Isle. It seems barely a moment since the First Lady was able to fob off deferential network interviewers with vague allusions to vast right-wing conspiracies. You can't blame the Queen of the Blarney Stonewall if she's pining for the old days.
~from The National Post, March 16th 2000. If you enjoy Steyn's Clinton columns, don't forget his classic "When Harry Met Hillary" is anthologized in his bestseller The [Un]documented Mark Steyn, personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from the SteynOnline bookstore.
~The many Irish and Indian members of The Mark Steyn Club are welcome to lob their own brickbats at Hillary in the comments section. For more on The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and anybody looking for the perfect St Patrick's Day gift is reminded to check out our special Steyn Club Gift Membership.