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Jewish World Review June 16, 2003 / 16 Sivan, 5763

James Lileks

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The real story behind Hillary's book | If the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon truly changed the world, why are we talking about Bill and Monica again?

Nothing sums up the curdled frivolity of that bygone reign of abasement like the tale of the thong-snapper and the priapic narcissist she loved. Move on! we were told. Move on! they cried. Well, we have. But look who's still trotting alongside singing me me me me me.

One can't blame Hillary for wanting to tell her story -- and to get it out of the way now. This brief blurt of publicity might signal the official end of the Clinton Wars, as least as far as she's concerned.

But who expects to hear the entire story? Of course Hillary Clinton isn't going to tell us everything about her relationship with President Bill; you'd be appalled if she did.

Nevertheless you cannot help wondering if her descriptions leave something out -- when she says that his late-night admission of the affair left her gasping for breath, you think: Well, yes, if you're out of shape, thrashing someone within an inch of his life is going to leave you a little winded. It makes you wonder whether Bill installed an automatic pitching machine in the White House basement, rigged it to fling glass ashtrays, and spent an hour practicing his dodging maneuvers before breaking the news.

So no matter what she admits, questions remain. If you're inclined to care. The real issue her book raises is the extent to which the Clintons still polarize the nation. To some they're Mother Teresa and Harrison Ford; to others they're Ethel Rosenberg and Carrot Top.

The reason is simple: They are the ultimate boomers. They're embraced by those who regard the '60s generation as the finest manifestation of humanity. And they're cursed by those who read the demographer's description of the "pig in a python" and rooted for the python.

To the former group, hearing Hillary and Katie Couric giggle about the sensuous nature of Bill Clinton's hands is proof of their generational bona fides. You wouldn't hear Mamie Eisenhower talking about Ike's cute butt, after all. To the boomer-haters, hearing the senator from New York simper about Bill Clinton's elegant digits is slightly preferable to having cottage cheese dumped down your trousers.

It is difficult to reconcile these two reactions. And that's why Hillary Clinton probably won't be president. It's not that she's not smart enough, or tough enough. But too many people just plain hate her guts. To many, her smiley, kindly book-tour persona is a Botox mask, a meek and mild cookie-baking Hillary who says "my goodness" and "gosh."

Plus she has baggage. Six-plus feet of steel-haired, sax-playing, intern-grabbing baggage. As she once remarked, buy one, get two -- but now the equation works in the other direction. Does America want Bill Clinton back in the White House?

For that matter, does Bill Clinton want Bill Clinton back in the White House? He wouldn't get to sit in the big chair. He'd be down the hall with nothing to do, drumming his fingers on the desk. Paparazzi would freeze every moment he looked wide-eyed at a sweet young thing. Those high-buck speaking fees? Forget about it. One can easily imagine him putting the kibosh on Hillary's presidential bid: Honey, it would just plain cramp mah style.

Her reaction to that remark will be in her second autobiography, "On My Own," by Hillary Rodham, published in 2029. If the interviewers ask why she no longer appends "Clinton" to her name, the longtime, much-loved senator from New York will issue a steely smile -- and kindly suggest that we all just move on. After all, she did, when she legally shed his name in 2014.

She can still see his hands signing the divorce arrangement. Those long, lovely hands.

JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


06/09/03:America's new mission was and remains: Extirpating the flaming nutballs and the societies that nurture them
06/03/03: The Constitution as gag order
05/23/03: Sometimes the theme of world events is chaos itself
05/16/03: Newspapers are only human, after all
05/13/03: What McCarthy messed up
05/06/03: Still think the International Criminal Court was a good idea?
04/03/03: The world is ending, the world is ending! Doesn't anybody care!? Why won't anybody listen!?
03/14/03: Kerry and the Dems are banking on American electorate's tendancy to forget history
02/28/03: Roadmap to peace?
02/13/03: We live in an age where the poet has been cast out from the halls of power --- sob, sob
02/10/03: Found: League for International Justice and Peace talking points
01/30/03: The US can go to war whenever it likes for its own reasons, and all the UN can do is pass more worthless paper
01/23/03: People who'd volunteer for the Iraqi army if they saw Saddam wearing a "Free Mumia" button
01/16/03: One of those head vs. heart things
12/27/02: Whistleblowers?
01/06/02: The second year of this jangled millennium
11/16/01: Attack of the 'Patriotism police' and other Hollywood fare
11/12/01: From the bleats of dismay
10/30/01: Osama and the Genie
10/08/01: "We can stop the Bush Death Juggernaut"
11/04/01: America, loathe or it leave it
09/25/01: Do the Europeans actually think that the war on murderous zealotry will be furthered by undercutting America?
08/27/01: If the economy is in a funk, why aren't we dancing?
08/14/01: Dubyah's embarrassing presidential vacation
08/10/01: Hail to our co-chiefs?
08/03/01: Constitution: George the Uniter picked a doozy to unify detractors
07/25/01: The real reason why we need missile defense (What those uppity policy wonks won't tell you!)
06/18/01: Paining the egalitarian soul
06/01/01: One of the stranger indexes you'll ever hear about
05/21/01: One man's toke is another man's snort
05/08/01: Republicans want poisoned water
04/23/01: We bleat as we're sheared
04/10/01: Boys will be boys. And that's the problem
04/06/01: Pity the anti-American Left, they're gonna have a hard time on this one
03/26/01: You've been warned
03/16/01: The GOP's inexplicable desire to fold
02/23/01: Will the Jeb Bush administration attack Saddam in 2011?
02/09/01: In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family
02/06/01: Can you say 'Ayatollah Bush'?
01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2003, James Lileks