The Clintons, a horror film that never endsAndrew Sullivan
- From: itsall_bull <itsall_bull@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sat, 8 Mar 2008 18:09:11 -0800 (PST)
The Clintons, a horror film that never endsAndrew Sullivan
It's alive! We thought it might be over but some of us never dared
fully believe it. Last week was like one of those moments in a horror
movie when the worst terror recedes, the screen goes blank and then
reopens on green fields or a lover's tender embrace. Drained but still
naive audiences breathe a collective sigh of relief. The plot twists
have all been resolved; the threat is gone; the quiet spreads. And
then . . .
Put your own movie analogy in here. Glenn Close in the bathtub in
Fatal Attraction - whoosh! she's back at your throat! - has often
occurred to me when covering the Clintons these many years. The Oscars
host Jon Stewart compares them to a Terminator: the kind that is
splattered into a million tiny droplets of vaporised metal . . . only
to pool together spontaneously and charge back at you unfazed.
The Clintons have always had a touch of the zombies about them:
unkillable, they move relentlessly forward, propelled by a bloodlust
for Republicans or uppity Democrats who dare to question their
supremacy. You can't escape; you can't hide; and you can't win. And
these days, in the kinetic pace of the YouTube campaign, they are like
the new 28 Days Later zombies. They come at you really quickly, like
bats out of hell. Or Ohio, anyway.
Now all this may seem a little melodramatic. Perhaps it is.
Objectively, an accomplished senator won a couple of races - one by a
mere 3% - against another senator in a presidential campaign. One
senator is still mathematically unbeatable. But that will never
capture the emotional toll that the Clintons continue to take on some
of us. I'm not kidding. I woke up in a cold sweat early last
Wednesday. There have been moments this past week when I have felt
physically ill at the thought of that pair returning to power.
Why? I have had to write several columns in this space over the years
acknowledging that the substantive legacy of the Clinton
administration (with a lot of assist from Newt Gingrich) was a
perfectly respectable one: welfare reform, fiscal sanity, prudent
foreign policy, leaner government. But remembering the day-to-day
psychodramas of those years still floods my frontal cortex with waves
of loathing and anxiety. The further away you are from them, the
easier it is to think they're fine. Up close they are an intolerable,
endless, soul-sapping soap opera.
The media are marvelling at the Clintons' several near-death political
experiences in this campaign. Hasn't it occurred to them how creepily
familiar all this is? The Clintons live off psychodrama. They both
love to push themselves to the brink of catastrophe and then
accomplish the last-minute, nail-biting self-rescue. Before too long
the entire story becomes about them, their ability to triumph through
crisis, even though the crises are so often manufactured by
themselves. That is what last week brought back for me. The 1990s -
with a war on.
Remember: Bill Clinton could have easily settled the Paula Jones
lawsuit years before he put the entire country through the wringer
(Jones sued Clinton for sexual harassment alleged to have occurred
while he was governor of Arkansas).
Recall: Hillary Clinton could have killed what turned out to be the
White-water nonstory at the very outset by disclosing everything she
could (the scandal centred on a controversial Arkansas property
Consider: the Clintons could have prepared for primaries and caucuses
after February 5 - so-called Super Tuesday, when 24 states held their
presidential nomination vote - as any careful candidate would. They
chose not to do any of these things. Not because they are incompetent.
But because they live to risk.
Politics is also their life. They know nothing else. Most halfway
normal people in politics could at some point walk away. Reagan seemed
happy to. Not the Clintons. In the words of the American-based British
writer Christo-pher Hitchens, these are the kind of people who never
want the meeting to end. Hillary Clinton will never concede the race
so long as there is even the faintest chance that she can somehow
They endure all sorts of humiliation - remember the taped Clinton
deposition in the Ken Starr investigation (in which Clinton admitted
to the inquiry headed by the far-right prosecutor that he had had an
"improper physical relationship" with Monica Lewinsky)? Hillary's
dismissal of the Lewinsky matter as an invention of the right-wing
conspiracy? - because they know no other way to live. They have been
thinking of this moment since they were in college and being a senator
or an ex-president or having two terms in the White House are not
sufficient to satiate their sense of entitlement. Even if they have to
put their own party through a divisive, bitter, possibly fatal death
match, they will never give up. Their country, their party . . . none
of this matters compared with them.
The patterns are staggeringly unaltered. Last Thursday The Washing-ton
Post ran an article reporting on the almost comic divisions within the
Clinton camp: how chaotic the planning had been, how much chief
pollster Mark Penn hated all the other advisers, how even in the wake
of a sudden victory most of the Clintonites were eager to score rancid
points off each other.
The secrecy and paranoia endure too. Releasing tax returns is routine
for a presidential candidate. Barack Obama did it some time back. The
Clintons still haven't - and say they won't for more than another
month. Why? They have no explanation. They seem affronted by the
When you look at the electoral map if the Clintons run again, you also
see a reversion to the old patterns of the 1990s - the patterns that
cynical political strategists such as Karl Rove and Dick Morris have
been exploiting for two decades. The country - scrambled by the post-
baby-boomer pragmatism of Obama - snaps back into classic red-blue
mode, with the blue areas denoting Democratic-leaning states around
the edge and true red Republican states in the heartlands.
The Clintons are comfortable with this polarisation. They need it.
Even when running against a fellow Democrat, they instinctively reach
for it. Last week, in response to the Obama camp's request that they
release their tax returns, Clinton's spokesman called Obama a new Ken
Starr. For the Clintons, all Democrats who oppose them are . . .
Republicans. And all Republicans are evil.
And evil means that anything the Clintons do in self-defence is
excusable - even playing the race card, and the Muslim card, and the
gender card, and every sleazy gambit that the politics of fear can
come up with. This is how they have arrested the Obama juggernaut.
It's the only game they know how to play.
One is reminded of the words of Bob Dylan: "And here I sit so
patiently / Waiting to find out what price / You have to pay to get
out of / Going through all these things twice."
- Prev by Date: Re: Liberals want a gay president............
- Next by Date: You get a Pink Slip & forclosed and ISRAEL, Americas GOD, gets another 30 billion
- Previous by thread: Re: Liberals want a gay president............
- Next by thread: You get a Pink Slip & forclosed and ISRAEL, Americas GOD, gets another 30 billion