Saturday, June 23, 2007

Hillary’s Traction

We often say here in America that politicians with a past are carrying a lot of baggage into office with them. Hillary Clinton’s baggage, as everyone who has not slept through the past two decades may have realized, is husband Bill. And no, I am not referring to what the press used to call in Bill’s Monica Period the president’s sexual “peccadilloes.” We like to turn our pages on our pasts, and America is after all the land of second chances. Most Americans were quite willing to forgive Bill his “indiscretions” about five minutes after the cigar incident. The few women in Bill’s past who were crying “infidelity” – and in at least one case “rape” – were dismissed, even by the feminists, as implausible publicity hounds.

No, all that lies in a past that, despite William Faulkner’s misgivings, is over. Faulkner said the past was not over, “It is not even past.”

Hillary’s big problem is with husband Bill’s warmongering.

In a review of two recent books on Hillary, “Hillary Clinton: Her Way” by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr. and “A Woman In Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton” by Carl Bernstein, Christopher Hitchens briefly remarks on the problem.

“The candidate herself seems determined to redisprove Scott Fitzgerald’s much-exploded dictum that there are no second acts in American lives. Unfortunately for her, this involves both taking the credit for her husband’s administration, while avoiding the less adorable aspects of the couple’s political and personal relationship. Thus, Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta suggest – correctly in my view – that her relatively hawkish position on Iraq is to be explained by the fairly hard line that Clinton and Al Gore (then) took on Saddam Hussein…”

Hillary cannot quite denounce President George Bush in the tone used by his most virulent opponents without also throwing a brick at husband Bill. How to defend Bill’s hawkish analysis of Middle Eastern jihadists, and even the incorrigible Saddam Hussein, while denouncing Bush is a conundrum that other politicians running for the presidency have settled by making the requisite public confession, which begins with “Regrettably, I voted for the legislative bill that gave George Bush authority to prosecute the Iraq war,” contains a grudging admission of fallibility, “But I was wrong,” and proceeds to the now ritualistic denouement, “Therefore I propose a timeline for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq by…,” and here it is best to leave the date of surrender hanging upon some reasonable condition – just in case.

This now well worn path has been trodden by lesser presidential luminaries such as Chris Dodd and others, but Hillary has refused to join in the fun, some suppose, because Bill’s and her own past -- she was, after all, the co-president -- is standing in the way of her ambition.
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