Back in Clintonland 

Back in 1993, a Washington Post reporter asked me which Clinton was smarter, Bill or Hillary. As a magazine journalist long-residing in Arkansas, I'd never covered state government and would have described the President and First Lady as friendly acquaintances, nothing more.

I said that we had a saying in the Central Arkansas Beagle Club that you can't train no dog that's smarter than you. Since both Clintons clearly topped me in the IQ department, I had no way to judge their relative brainpower.

Needless to say, this was the wrong answer, deeply violating journalistic protocol. Making glib pronouncements about near strangers is what we do.

So when I read that Hillary told her friend Diane Blair that the press has "big egos and no brains," I'm neither shocked nor offended. Is there anybody in politics who doesn't think that?

Anybody in the world?

Nor was I astonished that Hillary admitted to her friend during the 1996 Whitewater media feeding frenzy that "I know I should do more to suck up to the press ... I know it confuses people when I change my hairdos, I know I should pretend not to have any opinions, but I'm just not going to. I'm used to winning and I intend to win on my own terms."

And so she did.

If you've forgotten, 1996 was the year all the best minds in the Washington press, heeding Kenneth Starr's leak-o-matic prosecutors, were predicting her imminent criminal indictment. To publicize an excerpt from James B. Stewart's Whitewater book "Blood Sport," Time published a cover photo of the First Lady that looked like a vampire movie poster.

Maybe you remember Stewart, the eminent financial journalist who appeared on Nightline, NPR and anywhere else they'd have him, gravely accusing Hillary of bank fraud — all based, as it turned out, upon his own failure to read the second page of a two page loan document.

Last I heard the eminent Judge Starr, once ticketed for the U.S. Supreme Court, was president of some Texas bible college.

So yeah, Hillary won on her own terms.

Now something called the Washington Free Beacon, which unearthed these nuggets from the collected papers of the late Diane Blair, the accomplished University of Arkansas professor who was Hillary's dearest friend and confidante, pronounces her "ruthless" and a "cutthroat political strategist."

This because she'd confided to Blair that President Clinton's inability to "fire people, exert discipline, punish leakers," and his lack of a strategy to deal with Whitewater, Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Arkansas state troopers and other partisan mercenaries made her crazy.

"Inability to organize, make tough choices," Blair wrote "drives her nuts."

Indeed, history records that it was Hillary, who once served on the staff of Watergate independent counsel Leon Jaworski, that warned her husband it would be a terrible mistake to agree to an open-ended inquisition to finesse a temporary political problem.

No independent counsel, no Monica Lewinsky, no Linda Tripp, no Lucianne Goldberg, no blue dress. None of it. So if that's ruthless, cutthroat political strategy, the Clinton White House could have used a lot more of it.

So do I buy Hillary's rationalization for Bill's infamous sexual misbehavior? First, let me repeat something I wrote back then: Other people's marriages are a foreign country where you don't know the language.

Second, this whole business of pundits hiding their own naughty secrets while moralizing about the sins of others is both hypocritical and sadistic.

That said, no I don't put much stock in that psychologist who told her that Bill's infidelity had its roots in his childhood, and that "most men with fidelity problems [were] raised by two women and felt conflicted between them."

I'd suggest it had its roots in his pants.

Truth to tell, Bill Clinton's behavior wasn't so different from men in other occupations — athletes, musicians, actors, even the occasional professor — that attract groupies. (Journalists, of course, are universally known for their virtue.)

Did she privately call Monica a "narcissistic loony toon?" Most wives would have said much worse.

Bill Clinton once described the White House to a mutual friend as "the jewel of the federal penitentiary system." At the time, I remember thinking: Well, you asked for it, pal. But then a politician's life is incomprehensible to me.

Blair summarized Hillary's thinking in September 1998: "Ever since he took office they've been going thru personal tragedy ([the death of] Vince [Foster], her dad, his mom) and immediately all the ugly forces started making up hateful things about them, pounding on them."

"[Hillary] didn't realize toll it was taking on him," Blair continued. "She thinks she was not smart enough, not sensitive enough, not free enough of her own concerns and struggles to realize the price he was paying."

Well, she loves the man, is all I can say.

And he's damned lucky to have her.

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Gene Lyons

  • Opposing Obama with no context

    If you pay too much attention to opinion polls, as most people do, doubtless you've heard that a plurality of voters has judged Barack Obama the worst president since World War II. Thirty-three percent, to be precise, which as it coincides almost exactly with the number of hard-core Republicans, merely tells you something you already knew: GOP partisans dislike Obama with irrational zeal.
    • Jul 10, 2014
  • Lyons: Media hating on Hillary Clinton

    Exactly why the Washington press clique has always had it in for Hillary Clinton has never been entirely clear. Only that their collective sneer has been the single constant in her political career ever since she and Bill Clinton descended upon the capital from darkest Arkansas more than 20 years ago.
    • Jul 2, 2014
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Low taxes, big problems

    When H. L. Mencken said that for every complex problem there is one explanation that is clear, simple and wrong, he had in mind the idea that spills from the lips of every Republican politician and that preoccupies the fevered brain of every tea partier and protester
    • Apr 1, 2010
  • Lyons: What Obama should learn from Tom Cotton

    Fat lot of good it's done Barack Obama to pose as The Great Compromiser. The more "Grand Bargains" he's proposed, the further Republicans have fled in the opposite direction. Is it really possible that Obama mistook the U.S. government for the Harvard Law Review, where his reputation as a fair-minded mediator earned him universal respect?
    • Aug 8, 2013
  • What socialism?

    Scary times always breed popular delusions and this season's is socialism. Creeping government control demolished the economy and now the socialists are using the crisis to finish the conversion from capitalism to a socialist state.
    • Jun 10, 2010

Latest in Gene Lyons

  • Opposing Obama with no context

    If you pay too much attention to opinion polls, as most people do, doubtless you've heard that a plurality of voters has judged Barack Obama the worst president since World War II. Thirty-three percent, to be precise, which as it coincides almost exactly with the number of hard-core Republicans, merely tells you something you already knew: GOP partisans dislike Obama with irrational zeal.
    • Jul 10, 2014
  • Lyons: Media hating on Hillary Clinton

    Exactly why the Washington press clique has always had it in for Hillary Clinton has never been entirely clear. Only that their collective sneer has been the single constant in her political career ever since she and Bill Clinton descended upon the capital from darkest Arkansas more than 20 years ago.
    • Jul 2, 2014
  • Into the morass

    Remember the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush? It happened on Dec. 14, 2008, near the end of the president's second term. Bush had traveled to Baghdad for a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki. The two announced the signing of the U.S.-Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement promising that all American soldiers would leave Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011.
    • Jun 26, 2014
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31  
 

© 2014 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation