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Jewish World Review July 24, 2000 / 21 Tamuz, 5760

Mona Charen

Mona Charen
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In Hillary's defense --
THE SAD THING IS, no one has stepped forward to say that the accusations against Mrs. Clinton contained in a new (another?) biography are utterly ridiculous. No one has said, "The very idea that Mrs. Clinton ever used language like that or insulted certain ethnic groups is simply so wildly out of character as to be laughable on its face." Imagine someone leveling such a charge at Barbara Bush! Now, that really would be absurd.

No, with this lot, you never can rely on the character defense. Mrs. Clinton, like her husband, is known for pyrotechnic temper outbursts -- complete with sailor's language.

That much having been said, this particular accusation -- that she turned on a Clinton aide in 1974 and called him a "f------ Jew bastard" seems to lack credibility. Three of the people present at the time support the charge by author Jerry Oppenheimer that she made the statement. But curiously, none of these figures mentioned the incident to other researchers preparing books on the Clintons. Then there is the fact that the person against whom the epithet was supposedly thrown was not Jewish. Hmmm. Well, we are told, he had a Jewish grandparent. And did Hillary know that? Are we quite sure we want to spend even a minute contemplating this?

Of course, both Mr. and Mrs. Clinton have stepped forward to defend the First Lady (the war room lives!), and this is where it gets interesting. Neither saw fit to mention that only a few months ago, Mrs. Clinton discovered that she had a great-grandparent who was Jewish. They missed an opportunity. Surely, Mrs. Clinton could have mentioned at her press conference that, as Jew herself, sniff, sniff, it is deeply hurtful to be accused of hurling such an epithet.

The President interrupted negotiations at Camp David between the Israelis and Palestinians to place a call to the New York Daily News. Hopping mad, he told Michael Kramer, the paper's managing editor, that his wife "is so straight, she squeaks." She doesn't use racial or ethnic slurs, he insisted. "She might have called him a bastard," he acknowledged, "I wouldn't rule that out." Oh, now that's helpful.

But pay close attention to what President Clinton said next, because it is vintage Clinton -- and just the sort of icky, detestable thing we will be so glad to be rid of next January.

"This is part of a pattern. They couldn't defeat me politically, and they can't defeat her politically, so they go after us personally. Every Jew in America is nervous about the Middle East, and this comes out at this time. There was a New York Times story last week where (Congressman Rick) Lazio's people said if she can be made the issue, maybe we can squeak by by 20,000 votes. They know if they have to go head-to-head with her on stature, on accomplishment and on her record, they lose. So, the only thing they have left is character assassination."

They didn't name him Slick Willie for nothing. Note the sly jujitsu. In the space of a few sentences, the President went from defending his wife against an unfair and false accusation to aiming a false accusation at her opponent.

And it was only a matter of proximity. He didn't actually say that Lazio was responsible for this story coming to light now, but the implication was quite clear. And the truth is, of course, that Lazio had absolutely nothing to do with it.

As with any story about the Clintons, one is obliged to reach conclusions as to their credibility without reference to their denials. Bill Clinton cannot be believed on any subject -- large or small. And let's not forget Mrs. Clinton's stellar performance on the "Today Show: just after the Monica scandal surfaced. If it were to be proved that her husband had actually done the things alleged, she said, it would be serious. But it will never be proved because it isn't true, she reassured the nation. It was all a vast, right-wing conspiracy. Or if that's too hackneyed by now, remember her explanation of how she earned such a killing in the futures market? Studying the Wall Street Journal.

Well, perhaps she'll have more time for the Journal come November.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate