Image by © Dreamstime
by Sydney Williams
Despite our republican heritage, we Americans have a love affair with royalty. We flock to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard. We adored Diana and love the idea of the royal family. We are, perversely, attracted to dynasties. Bushes run wild; Clintons would like to. This love affair with royalty and dynasties knows no Party. Americans quickly accepted “Camelot,” as the proper term to define the thousand days of John F. Kennedy’s Presidency.
But Camelot, like Brigadoon, Shangri-La and El Dorado are mythical places where facts have no place – where there is room only for one’s imagination to determine how a time and a place should be remembered. That sense of escapism suits Bill and Hillary who live in Clinton-land, a place unbounded by rules that apply to the rest of us. They are, in their minds, entitled to be treated differently – to run roughshod over those who disagree with them, to ruthlessly get what they want and then, if laws have been violated, to deny and to obfuscate: “Everybody does it.” “It depends on the definition of is.” “It is not technically illegal.” “What difference, at this time, does it make?” “I fully complied with every rule I was governed by.” The Clintons have found that stonewalling works. People eventually tire of scandals. Most media dresses the Clintons in Hans Christian Anderson’s “Emperor’s new clothes” – nothing to see here! – so abets their cause.
Of the two, Bill is the more exculpatory. He has a roguish charm that beguiles; so is excused for his transgressions – a bad boy, but an endearing one. He is charisma personified. He smiles, looks you in the eye, grips your right hand, while with the other removing whatever he can from your wallet. He is, perhaps, the most magical politician of our age. Most of us, had we done the things he did, would have disappeared into the mists of shame, or would have been ridden out of town on a rail. Nevertheless, he remains, bigger, richer and omnipresent as ever. Over the past few years, business cronies and governments – many so poor that the majority of their people live in deep poverty – have paid over $100 million just to bask in his presence. Unlike Harry Truman, with Mr. Clinton the Office of the President has been for sale, and at a fancy price.
But it is Hillary who concerns us today. Where Bill takes to politics like a billy-goat to nannies, Hillary must be scripted and stage-managed. She is not relaxed; in fact she is not even likeable. She is smart, but awkward in unfamiliar situations and ones she does not control. She is also relentless, merciless and vindictive. A prime example was her throwing to the wolves the innocent, though delusional, Egyptian-born Coptic Christian Nakoula Basseley Nakoula who had produced an anti-Islamic video, “The Innocence of Muslims.” She claimed the video caused the attack on Benghazi. She knew differently, but truth did not matter. It did not fit her story line. Columnist Eugene Robinson typifies the Left’s reaction. Recently he wrote that the Benghazi scandal has been gone over with a magnifying glass and that “there is no there there.” What he misses is that the lie has been exposed, and yet there is no sense of shame, no apology. Susan Rice lied when she went on TV, explaining the cause was the video. So did the President. And so did Hillary Clinton. We can ignore the truth, but that says as much about our character as hers.
According to the BBC’s “ethics guide,” lying is “one of the most common wrong acts that we carry out.” They suggest that a lie has three essential features: it communicates some information; the individual intends to deceive or mislead, and they understand that what they are saying is not true. Quintilian, the First Century Roman rhetorician, famously declared that a liar must have a good memory. In his epic poem “Marmion,” Sir Walter Scott wrote: “O what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” While lying is common (we are all guilty of telling lies), there is such a thing as public trust, and some lies are just ridiculous. Why, for example, did Hillary Clinton claim to have come under fire on a runway in Bosnia? “I remember coming under sniper fire…we ran with our heads down to get into vehicles to get to our base.” She was not alone; others were with her, including the committee that greeted her on the tarmac. She had to have known that the lie would be uncovered.
It is the regular practice of deception, of operating in the grey zone over several decades that is most worrisome about the Clintons, especially as they function in what we once quaintly called ‘public service’: Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate, the Rose law firm billing records, the suicide of Vince Foster, commodity trading, a “vast, right-wing conspiracy,” Benghazi, the acceptance of funds from foreign governments by the Clinton Foundation while she was Secretary of State, and the questionable use of a private e-mail account with its own server while serving as Secretary of State. These activities speak to her character, and not in a flattering way. In 1994, David Wells wrote a book, “No Place for Truth.” In it he wrote a sentence that is more relevant today than when it was written twenty years ago: “In our postmodern culture which is TV dominated, image sensitive and morally vacuous, personality is everything and character is increasingly irrelevant.” Yet character is what differentiates good people from bad, the virtuous from the immoral, those we can trust from those we cannot. J.P. Morgan once said he first looks to a man’s character.
Hillary’s press conference on Tuesday, following her speech at the UN on gender equality, was classic Clinton-speak. She listed four things she wanted the public to know – all self-serving: that she opted for a private e-mail for “convenience;” that the “vast majority of her e-mails went to State Department employees; that she had responded with 55,000 pages of e-mails, after “we” went through an exhaustive survey, and that she had taken the “unprecedented” step of asking the State Department to make public those e-mails. What came out in the questioning was that the server will “remain private,” so will not be available to any third party investigator, and that she had deleted the 32,000 e-mails “she” deemed private.
It has long been my opinion that Hillary will not run. There is no question that she would like to be President (and surely feels it is her due). However, the prospect of running and losing would be more devastating to her ego than not running at all. Her ambition and sense of self are far greater than we can imagine. She once lost to a man for whom she appears to have only minimal respect and the idea of losing to some thick-headed, insensitive, rube-like Republican would be more than she could bear. At the end of 2012 Ms. Clinton suffered a stomach virus. She fell, hit her head, suffered a concussion and subsequently developed a blood clot on her brain. While all the facts about her fall were never released, it conveniently delayed her appearance before the House committee investigating Benghazi. Expect something similar.