As we announced earlier, SteynOnline is marking the official launch of Hillary 2016! by rerunning some favorites of mine since I first started writing about Mrs Clinton back in the Nineties. So, as we pitch base camp on the Hill to die on, here's my review of her memoirs, Living History, from Britain's Sunday Telegraph of June 16th 2003. That was a long time ago, but, as you'll see towards the end, this piece marks the moment when I began to discern just where her ultimate ambition might lie:
WHO IS Hillary Rodham Clinton? We all know her husband. He's a hard guy to be non-intimate with. Early in his presidency, he was asked on television what kind of underwear he wore and replied that he mostly preferred boxers but occasionally wore briefs. Then his penis was officially examined by a US Naval surgeon when its curvature became a matter of legal dispute. Next his semen was analysed by the FBI crime lab.
Now go back to that early revelation: boxers or briefs. Imagine asking Hillary what kind of bra she wears, underwired or not. You can't do it. In inverse proportion to her pants-dropping husband, Senator Clinton has become ever more swathed in protective clothing. For years we've wondered: What's she really like? What's going on deep inside, under that I-Speak-Your-Weight-machine voice?
Now in this searingly intimate portrait, the most intriguing woman of our time finally tells all. You'll marvel at her painful candour as she reveals: France's Bernadette Chirac is "an elegant, cultured woman"!, Nicaragua's Violeta Chamorro is "an elegant, striking woman"!!, Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto is "a brilliant and striking woman"!!!, Canada's Aline Chrétien is "intelligent, sharply observant and elegant"!!!! ...but Russia's Naina Yeltsin is merely "personable and articulate about children and their health care needs".
Hmm. As for Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky, they aren't in the least bit elegant, cultured, striking, elegant, brilliant, elegant, striking, elegant, sharply observant and elegant, so Senator Clinton has less to say about them. No one will ever confuse Living History with oral history, that's for sure. And Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick aren't even personable and articulate about health care needs, so they don't get mentioned at all.
Somewhere in this book, 300 or 400 pages in, the Senator reveals, apropos Whitewater or some such, that "I've always believed in a zone of privacy" for public figures, but that it's increasingly difficult to maintain in an era of the "politics of personal destruction". Yet Mrs Clinton - courtesy of her publisher's advance - has created a fabulous $8 million zone of privacy, an impregnable stockade from behind which she lobs over an unending barrage of woozy platitudes.
By my calculations, for that five-word description of the Prime Minister of Canada's wife, Simon & Schuster paid 200 bucks. You might think they got ripped off, but I'm not so sure. Hillary's constituency doesn't want soul-baring, they want dullness - the dullness that reassures them that there remains an alternative Clinton history without interns and Gap dresses and whether the deponent touched the adumbrated parts - but with lots of important accomplishments on serious matters.
As it happens, there's as little in here about the specifics of Hillary's health care plan as there is about the specifics of Bill's penile curvature, but no one will ever know because no one who isn't being paid to will get that far. Hillary's fans will buy the book, open Chapter One, and read, "I wasn't born a First Lady or a Senator. I wasn't born a Democrat. I wasn't born a lawyer or an advocate for women's rights and human rights. I wasn't born a wife or mother . . .", and think, well, that's just like the early bits of the Old Testament, all the begetting, or in this case all the things she wasn't begot as, so I'll just skip ahead to Chapter Two, and I'll bet it's really cracking along by now.
And Chapter Two begins:
'What you don't learn from your mother, you learn from the world' is a saying I once heard from the Masai tribe in Kenya.
And you think, well, isn't that just wonderfully diverse, and she heard it from an actual tribe in Kenya! Any tribesman in particular? Or did they all yell it out in unison as her motorcade passed by? Either way, it's the sort of soothing multicultural sentiment that separates enlightened Democrats from rabid redneck Clinton-haters, and that's all you need to know. So you put the book up on the shelf and never open it ever again.
The main victim of this approach is Bill Clinton. From the moment they met, she knew he "had a vitality that seemed to shoot out of his pores", but not a lot shoots out in these pages. One reason is that Monica got to all the personal details first in her interviews with Andrew Morton for Monica's Story: Bill and Hillary's song was "I'll Be Seeing You", and so was Bill and Monica's. He gave Hillary Walt Whitman's Leaves Of Grass after their first date and he gave it to Monica after their first "date". The Leaves Of Grass quote that opens Monica's Story - "All these - all the meanness and agony without end, I sitting look out upon . . ." - would be much better for Hill's, but Monica's book came out first, and to be honest it captures Bill's oozing pores better than his wife's does.
Monica's Bill is the Lounge-Lizard-In-Chief:
He undressed me with his eyes.
Hillary's Bill is a clunky wonk:
While I was challenging discrimination practices, Bill was in Miami working to ensure McGovern's nomination.
Monica says, "The irony is that I had the first orgasm of the relationship." Hill's account reads like she's still waiting.
In Monica's Story, the intern's continuing contacts with her previous adulterer drive the President of the United States into paroxysms of jealousy: "He's such a jerk!" rages the leader of the free world over his rival - high school drama teacher Andy Bleiler. In Hillary's version, you feel only the absence of Bill's much vaunted "passion".
For anyone who still cares, there are two versions of events. Either Hill is Bill's co-conspirator and, in the furtherance of their own ambitions, they used the Democratic Party the way Bill uses women. Or there's this book's version, in which she's the last person on the planet still willing to believe Bill's version of events - not the smart, savvy operator her fans claim but such a poor judge of character, who'd want her as president?
But time and again the Clintons have survived setbacks that would have clobbered lesser politicians. And the more one reads between the unreadable lines of this book the more one begins to wonder if using gregarious Bill as the advance man for chilly Hilly's own ambitions wasn't all part of the plan. I can see her running, and I can see her narrowly winning. History repeats itself: first, trouser-dropping farce; then, pantsuited zombie horror.
~from The Sunday Telegraph, June 16th 2003. Many of Mark's best columns on the Clintons can be found in his anthology Mark Steyn From Head To Toe. Personally autographed copies are exclusively available from the SteynOnline bookstore, and go to support his pushback against serial litigant, Big Climate enforcer and fraudulent Nobel Laureate Michael E Mann.