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Jewish World Review Aug. 10, 1999 /28 Av, 5759

Ben Wattenberg

Ben Wattenberg
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Hillary's Twinkie defense -- TINA BROWN, the editor and entrepreneur of the new Talk magazine is a genius.

She has now received major news headlines -- twice! -- for the same profile of Hillary Clinton in the first issue of her new magazine! Twice! First, Rudy Giuliani canceled her party, and then Hillary bared her soul, or part of it.

Moreover, Ms. Brown has sold the notion that a piece of unabashed journalistic idolatry is in some way a candid expose, a peek behind the White House drapes.

"In the Middle East, throngs of villagers come out to cheer her," writes Hillary's friend Lucinda Franks. "Hillary's popularity is rooted in something more than her celebrity status. She has actually changed people's lives." That's not all. "In Belfast, Hillary helps dedicate a project she spearheaded, a playground where Catholic and Protestant kids can throw balls instead of rocks." Perhaps she has, perhaps they do. But, as they say in New York: This is a candid interview?

Hillary Clinton candidly acknowledges her husband's marital infidelities, and ascribes them to childhood "abuse," by which she apparently means a mother and grandmother who often yelled at each other. (According to her husband, who was there.) She forgives. Fine. Glad they have patched things up. Glad, too, that the "physical passion" between them is back again.

(According to her press spokesperson, who was not there.)

But such candor is indistinguishable from the spin of the Clinton apologists through most of the impeachment crisis. That spin, recall, was that marital infidelities, however inappropriate, are private. If Hillary forgives him, that should be the end of it. And now Hillary has very publicly and explicitly forgiven him.

But -- her husband was not recently fined $90,000 by Judge Susan Webber Wright for marital infidelity, but for lying under oath in the Paula Jones case.

And the House did not impeach the president for cheating on his wife, but for lying to a grand jury and obstructing justice.

And Paula Jones did not sue him for sexual harassment because he betrayed his marriage vows, but because, she claimed, the Arkansas governor exposed himself and demanded oral sex from her, a virtual stranger and state employee.

And Kathleen Willey did not accuse him of adultery, but of conducting her into a hallway where he kissed and fondled her without her consent, after she had come to him in financial desperation to ask for a job.

And Juanita Broaddrick did not accuse him of a little fling, but of biting her lip until it bled, forcing her onto a bed and raping her.

Gennifer Flowers did in fact claim no more than a consensual extra-marital affair with Clinton. But while the Clinton War Room sliced her and diced her, Mrs. Clinton fantasized about cross-examining Flowers on the witness stand where she would "crucify" her. Mrs. Clinton now candidly acknowledges that there was an affair with Flowers.

The scandal was not just about sex. The president of the United States stood accused of perjury, obstruction of justice, smearing his accusers and suborning much of his staff into lying for him, of dragging the nation through almost a year of tawdriness that made family-hour news programs make Jerry Springer look like Ozzie Nelson.

Recall that there was a considerable public debate about those public issues. What does Mrs. Clinton, herself a lawyer of considerable talents and an early and aggressive champion of sexual harassment law, think about that now that she's running for public office? What about perjury? Obstruction of justice?

Nothing. She says nothing and/or is asked nothing. Weird. The spin doctrine has been "it's private." But Mrs. Clinton speaks out on the private matter and ducks the public matters, while running for public office.

A keystone to her husband's campaign for the presidency in 1992 was "personal responsibility." It worked well, and indeed some of his public policy initiatives, like welfare reform, were driven by such a lodestar. But Mrs. Clinton has another theme: "The Devil Made Him Do It."

If self-deluding developmental-psych speak helps Mrs. Clinton keep her eyes wide shut and her troubled marriage together, good. But shouldn't she answer for the public policy implications of her Krupkesque I'm-depraved-on-account-of-I'm-deprived approach to moral transgression? She has given new ground for every mindless legal defense rooted in liberal psycho-babble. Did the teen-ager mug the old woman? Did the embezzler take the $10 million? Did the day-trader in Atlanta shoot up the joint? Alas, yes, but there must be root causes. He ate the Twinkie. Sentence: Probation.

This is not a great rock upon which to base your political church, certainly not in New York City, a tough place, where there are 8 million stories. It all may lead to a follow-up piece in Tina Brown's Talk magazine: "How I Lost to Rudy Giuliani Because My Childhood Experiences Taught Me To Slug Bullies."

. Ben Wattenberg is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and is the moderator of PBS's "Think Tank." You may comment by clicking here. Daniel Wattenberg is a contributing editor for and George.

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