Con­ser­va­tives will buy any­thing

The Covington News - - OPINION - COLUM­NIST

They had a term for her, but I’ve for­got­ten it. It was a name ap­plied to a per­son who could not say no to a door-to-door sales­man. The one I re­mem­ber from my brief ca­reer sell­ing mag­a­zines was to­tally up­front about her in­ten­tions. “I’ll buy what­ever you’re sell­ing,” she said. I sold her Esquire and two other sub­scrip­tions. Sales­men back then had a name for such people. To­day, I would call them con­ser­va­tives. They, too, will buy any­thing.

The cur­rent ev­i­dence for this is Ed­ward Klein’s lat­est book, “Blood Feud: The Clin­tons vs. the Oba­mas.” It has just jumped over Hil­lary Clin­ton’s own book, “Hard Choices,” on The New York Times best-seller list and zoomed past it on Ama­zon. The prob­lem with Clin­ton’s book is that it doggedly pre­sents her as she re­ally is. The virtue of Klein’s book is that it pre­sents a Hil­lary Clin­ton who is a right-winger’s har­ri­dan, ob­scene, dis­hon­est and likely to say the most as­ton­ish­ing things. You did not know, prob­a­bly, how foul-mouthed and in­dis­creet she is.

Not too many pages into the book, Hil­lary pur­port­edly tells a re­union of col­lege friends what she re­ally thinks of Barack Obama. The time is May 2013, the lo­ca­tion is a Westch­ester County restau­rant called Le Jardin du Roi, and the wines are Chateau Hyot Castil­lon Cotes de Bordeaux and Croix de Bas­son, cheap stuff. Obama, Clin­ton tells about half-adozen women, “has turned into a joke.” “In­com­pe­tent and feck­less,” she adds.

And then, with the wine pos­si­bly loos­en­ing her tongue, she does a spo­ton im­i­ta­tion of my ba­sic train­ing drill sergeant. There’s “no hand on the [cen­sored] tiller.” “And you can’t trust the [cen­sored]” be­cause “his word isn’t worth [cen­sored].” As for her hus­band, she told her friends, should she be­come pres­i­dent and he get to think­ing she’s re­ally just the first lady, “I’ll have his ass thrown out of the White House.”

These pas­sages do not pass the smell test. They trig­ger deep cyn­i­cism and read like raw, un­treated gos­sip. Mat­ters are not im­proved by the in­ter­jec­tion of the sup­pos­edly com­pelling de­tail, such as the la­bels of the wines or, later on, the sofa in the Clin­tons’ Wash­ing­ton liv­ing room. It’s “cara- mel Rose Tar­low vel­vet,” should you won­der.

With the ex­cep­tion of the oc­ca­sional an­o­dyne anec­dote, none of the gamey stuff is sourced. Ev­ery­one is anony­mous, and some­times one or more times re­moved from the ac­tual event. The di­a­logue is so wooden that even Rush Lim­baugh, no fan of the Oba­mas or the Clin­tons, de­tected the tell-tale sound of the wooden nickel: “Some of the quotes strike me as odd, in the sense that I don’t know people who speak this way.” Nei­ther, I would guess, do the Oba­mas or the Clin­tons.

The rea­son I started with that woman who just had to buy what­ever mag­a­zine I was sell­ing is that by night­fall the sale had been can­celed by her hus­band. As I re­call, this was a pro­vi­sion in the law to pro­tect people who were in­ca­pable of say­ing “no thanks.” I lost a nice com­mis­sion, but that was all right with me. I was ashamed of how I earned it.

Now, I feel some­thing ought to be done for the poor, in­no­cent con­ser­va­tive. What I rec­om­mend is a federal agency — the Con­ser­va­tive Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sion (CPC) — with an ap­pro­pri­ate head­quar­ters in Wash­ing­ton and, of course, a fair num­ber of re­gional of­fices, more in the South than, say, the North­east for ob­vi­ous rea­sons. I rec­og­nize that this is a lib­eral so­lu­tion to a con­ser­va­tive prob­lem, but — truly — these people need help. They will buy any­thing.

Klein clearly knows this. He is a for­mer edi­tor of The New York Times Mag­a­zine and a one-time mem­ber of the Man­hat­tan literati. Yet, to the dis­may of his friends, he has turned out books de­signed — or so it seems — to pick the pock­ets of the gullible. In a pre­vi­ous book on Hil­lary Clin­ton, he man­aged to find what other au­thors have not — sap­phic sex, for in­stance. He has writ­ten about Ted Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy and Katie Couric, but it is the Oba­mas and the Clin­tons that are his spe­cial­ties. They em­body race and sex, Amer­ica’s twin ob­ses­sions.

Writ­ers and pub­lish­ers must look upon the con­ser­va­tive book mar­ket in the way drug deal­ers see junkies. Con­ser­va­tives will buy any­thing be­cause any­thing is lit­er­ally what they be­lieve of the Clin­tons, the Oba­mas and, of course, lib­er­als in gen­eral. I can’t re­mem­ber the name the sales­men had for that woman of so long ago, but I know what to call these con­ser­va­tives: suck­ers!

Richard Co­hen is a writer with the Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group. He can be reached at co­henr@wash­post.com.

RICHARD CO­HEN

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