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Sleaze, the sequel
By George Will
March 30, 2000 - The Washington Post

bill clinton-sm

WASHINGTON--Bill Clinton may not be the worst president America has had,
but surely he is the worst person to be president. There is reason to
believe that he is a rapist ("You better get some ice on that," Juanita
Broaddrick says he told her concerning her bit lip), and that he bombed a
country to distract attention from legal difficulties arising from his
glandular life, and that. ... Furthermore, the bargain that he and his
wife call a marriage refutes the axiom that opposites attract. Rather,
she, as much as he, perhaps even more so, incarnates Clintonism.

"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 Mrs. Clinton 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, New
York.

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