Mrs Clinton continues her tour of her future subjects, in which selected pre-screened "everyday Americans" are graciously permitted into the van to commune with the ultimate non-everyday American. The effusions of the US media's court eunuchs over Mrs Clinton's ability to pass as an "everyday American" and actually visit a Chipotle suggest this is going to be a very long 18 months.
The last time a Clinton was in the White House it was what he was doing outside the White House that dominated the press coverage. Sixteen years ago, Bill Clinton celebrated beating the rap at his impeachment trial with what appeared to be some desultory bombing of the Serbs, but boy, it was a big bang for Bill and Hill. This was my Sunday Telegraph column of August 1999:
In 1997 Bill Clinton's "distinguishing characteristics" became the first First Penis in White House history to have a formal statement issued on its behalf - in terms of its "size, shape, direction, whatever", as Clinton's lawyer Bob Bennett put it - and the first to be photographed by a naval surgeon as Exhibit A in a sexual harassment case. Last week the 42nd presidency chalked up another historic first, with the news that the First Penis has returned to home base - or, as the First Lady's Chief-of-Staff, Melanne Verveer, puts it:
We've slowly seen a physical passion come back into their lives.
Great news! Air Force One is back in the hangar.
According to Ms Verveer, the First Couple's dormant sexual relationship was rekindled by their late-night discussions during the Nato strikes against Milosevic. So, if it's any consolation to those bombed-out Serb rail commuters, Chinese Embassy employees and Kosovo refugee convoys, the earth moved for Bill and Hill, too.
One explanation is that the President did her a favor by cheating on her. Her ordeal, writes Lucinda Franks, "has given her a certain glamour, almost a regal look. Her husband has noticed this, with some surprise… 'Doesn't she look beautiful?' he has been heard asking friends."
Wow! If he put her through the stress of a couple more interns, she could end up a really foxy babe.
Churlish presidential scholars may argue that previous administrations have never felt the need to announce that the executive branch is no longer furloughed; and national security types may point out that, if anything ought to be classified on a strict need-to-know basis, this surely is it; and the American people may be pulling the covers over their heads and wondering just what it's going to take to stop the First Couple inflicting the weird dynamics of their freaky marriage on everyone else. But the Clintons are now in the puffier, pastier Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman Thighs Wide Shut phase of their relationship: they spend hours simulating sex in public and then give interviews saying what a very private couple they are.
We can all be happy for the Clintons if they're getting it on. Many of us would be a lot happier if they'd just get off. America, according to the latest received wisdom, is suffering from "Clinton fatigue", but we'll see how that plays out in the New York Senate race. The title of her interview in Talk was "The Intimate Hillary", but, if Hillary gets intimate with anyone, it's certainly not with magazine profile writers. Her remarks about the President's adultery were not "painful" or "unguarded", only the latest round in the calculated trade-off of Mrs Clinton's life. Her husband's presidency is no longer worth arguing about, but the last week has provided a compelling case for why his wife is unfit for office, even by the feeble standards of New York Senate candidates. Her position in 1992 was that "all these lies being told about Bill" were the doing of embittered tramps who couldn't be trusted. Her position in early 1998 was that it was the work of a "vast right-wing conspiracy", and in mid-1998 that it was because of "prejudice against our state" (in those days, "our" state was Arkansas rather than New York).
Her latest position is that she's known all along, but that she had hoped her husband had "conquered" his "weakness" a decade ago. So she chose to lie to the American people and inflict a "dysfunctional" man "scarred by abuse" on the entire nation. Today she compares herself to Jesus betrayed by Peter. But, in 1992, no one worked harder to ensure that, if anyone was going to be nailed to the cross, it wouldn't be her or her husband: she told campaign staff she would "crucify" Gennifer Flowers. According to a new book, Bill And Hillary: The Marriage by Christopher Andersen, the First Lady has known about Miss Flowers since at least 1982, when she hired a former FBI man, Ivan Duba, to trail her husband and find out who "the other woman" was: he reported back that there was not only Miss Flowers but seven other "other women" whom Governor Clinton was seeing on a regular basis. Andersen's book is a now standard Clinton biography, whose flavor is most easily distilled by the index:
Clinton, Bill: marital infidelities of, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11-12, 16-17, 20-21, 33…
Hang on: what on earth was he doing on pages 22-32 that was so important that he stopped screwing around for a full 11 pages? As it turns out, he was only taking a brief break from his current marital infidelities to discuss with aides how to break the news to his wife of his previous marital infidelities.
Now it's possible Andersen is making it all up. But we know for certain Mrs Clinton is. "He was so young, barely four, when he was scarred by abuse," she said, "that he can't even take it out and look at it" - not the most felicitous choice of words in the context of Mr Clinton, who's passed most of his adult life taking it out and letting all and sundry look at it. Nevertheless, the President, insisted his wife, was "scarred by abuse".
On the following day, the White House Press Secretary clarified that there was no "abuse". But there was some sort of argument between four-year-old Bill's mom and gran'ma, and this is apparently why he gropes Kathleen Willey, drops his pants to Paula Jones, rapes Juanita Broaddrick (add your own "allegedlys", I can't be bothered anymore). The first modern feminist in the White House is falling back on the oldest scapegoat of all: blame your man's failings on his mother. Oh, and toss in gran'ma, too. Bill Clinton isn't so crude as to sell his own grandmother, but, if you're in need of an easy scapegoat, he's happy to rent her to you for the duration of a magazine interview.
No one can know the truth of the Clintons' marriage, though increasingly I'm inclined to think my taxi-driver in Washington during the impeachment trial might be on to something: he reckoned Bill and Hillary got turned on by the way they were putting one over on us. Frankly, that sounds more plausible than getting the hots from bombing Milosevic. But, whatever her real feelings for him, she needs him to be there for her politically - to treat her like dirt, to wipe his feet all over her, to humiliate her with white trash and beauty queens and thong-clad interns. Hillary has learned that the only act that works for her is as the nation's beloved First Doormat. When she's the health-care policy-wonk, her poll numbers are in the basement. When she's the wronged woman, she shoots up into the stratosphere.
So the problem for her Senate campaign is that the more she acts like a politician, the less likely she is to become one. At the climax of the impeachment trial, when the idea of her running in New York first surfaced, the polls showed her beating Republican rival Rudy Giuliani by 11 points, 53-42. By April they were even. By last week, after her "listening tour" of the state, she was down ten points. When the Talk interview hit the streets, Democrats and Republicans alike said it was a mistake: people were sick of the scandal, they'd moved on. But, on Thursday, amazingly, a new poll showed that Mrs Clinton had drawn even with Mayor Giuliani again. Hillary The Long-Suffering Wife might just make it into the Senate. So, if Bill's keeping his pants buttoned, and the Clinton-haters have gone fishing for the summer, and the media are too busy with other scandals, Hillary's shrewd enough to take out the errant First Penis and wave it around herself.
At a campaign appearance at a furniture factory upstate, one woman was cheered for telling the assembled reporters, "I would appreciate it if the press no longer brings up things in the past."
"I've said all I'm going to say on that," said Mrs Clinton, prissily, but to sustained applause. Isn't there a limit to how many times you can cry that your husband's a wolf? The one Democrat candidate immune to Clinton fatigue is the one who by rights should be the most thoroughly fatigued of him. Instead, the First Lady's spokeswoman has let it be known that she and her husband are now sharing a bed for the first time in seven years. Congratulations. They've made their bed; it's Al Gore and the Congressional Democrats who'll have to lie in it.
~from The Sunday Telegraph, August 8th 1999. 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.