Jewish World Review March 30, 2000 / 23 Adar II, 5760
"To understand her you have to understand him" is the thesis of "The Case Against Hillary Clinton," Peggy Noonan's slender, scalding book--a broadside, as such polemics were called when Tom Paine and Emile Zola penned them. It answers with a resounding "No!" the question of whether the passions swirling around New York's Senate race are disproportionate.
Noonan, a speechwriter for President Reagan and now a Wall Street Journal columnist, calls Mrs. Clinton's candidacy an act of "mad boomer selfishness and narcissism" shocking even in a Clinton. Noonan concedes that there is something admirable in Mrs. Clinton's "toughness." But a Noonan compliment, like a scorpion, has a sting in its tail: "Never has the admirable been so fully wedded to the appalling, never in modern American political history has such tenacity and determination been marshaled to achieve such puny purpose: the mere continuance of Them."
There is an almost magnificent banality to Mrs. Clinton's campaign. ("Our children are our future." "Governments must put children first." "Every time we pay tribute to art, particularly to art in a public place, we know it will cause a lot of thoughts to be thought and words to be spoken and ideas to be sparked.") But the banality echoes the utter emptiness of the record of what she calls her lifetime of "public service."
The service includes being a rainmaker for a remarkably dodgy Little Rock law firm, representing interests in front of regulators appointed by her husband. Her "public service" does not include any public accomplishment other than making a baroque (600 people in 38 subgroups, operating in illegal secrecy) debacle of health care reform.
Noonan's diagnosis of Mrs. Clinton's emptiness (of everything but staggering self-importance) accords with Elizabeth Kolbert's unenthralled report in the New Yorker ("Running on Empathy," Feb. 7) in which Kolbert says Mrs. Clinton's "listening tour" of New York state "tried to elevate nodding into a kind of political philosophy." Her candidacy, Kolbert writes, is based on "the quality of her concern, the heartfeltness of her convictions, and the depth of her feelings." By basing her campaign on an attitude ("sincerity"), Mrs. Clinton reduces questions of policy to questions of her disposition.
Noonan's book is not "balanced" and does not contain fresh facts. But it is no more imbalanced than "Common Sense" or "J'accuse," and her worthy purpose is to distill the meaning of the acid rain of facts about the Clintons' behavior with which we have been deluged.
"This highly credentialed rube," says Noonan in summing up, is "too corrupt for New York; she is too cynical for the place that gave birth to Tammany Hall." Noonan is one angry New Yorker, and although anger can be, and in this case is, a whetstone for sharp writing, it can subvert judgment. Did Noonan's anger do so? Consider.
Mrs. Clinton (like her recently announced Jewish step-grandfather?) is a longtime Yankees fan. She did not even know who Craig Livingstone, keeper of the FBI files, was--although a White House intern told House investigators that he heard her address Livingstone by name, in a friendly manner. Never mind staff notes indicating otherwise, she had nothing to do with the travel office firings, smearings and groundless prosecutions. She says she talks to her husband about everything--but had no inkling of his offer of clemency, over the vehement objections of the FBI and Bureau of Prisons, to 16 Puerto Rican terrorists.
Like the photograph of two Clinton friends holding hands as they jump up and down on Lincoln's bed, images of Clintonian vulgarities are vivid, and more are being produced. Recently there was the sheer fakery of Mrs. Clinton's successful struggle to answer David Letterman's questions about New York--questions she had been told in advance. Today Mrs. Clinton, who put Chelsea's nanny on the Arkansas payroll as a security guard, is chiseling taxpayers by her use of government planes for campaigning.
Will it--Clintonism--ever end? As the song says, it's up to you,
03/27/00: How new 'rights' will destroy freedom