Clin­tons will be Clin­tons

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Tony Blank­ley

Cato the Elder, the great Ro­man sen­a­tor, stood for the propo­si­tion “Carthago de­lenda est” — we should de­stroy Carthage. Thomas Jef­fer­son ran for pres­i­dent to pro­tect the yeo­man farm­ers from Hamil­to­nian big gov­ern­ment. James Polk promised to steal Texas from the Mex­i­cans. Abe Lin­coln stood to pre­serve the Union. FDR promised to de­feat the Great De­pres­sion with bold ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. Ike would end the Korean War. Ron­ald Rea­gan promised to build up our mil­i­tary strength, de­feat Soviet com­mu­nism and cut taxes and spend­ing.

And last week­end Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton pre­sented her­self for elec­tion to the pres­i­dency of the United States with the time­less, clar­ion call: “So let’s talk. Let’s chat, let’s start a di­a­logue about your ideas and mine, be­cause the con­ver­sa­tion in Wash­ing­ton has been just a lit­tle one-sided lately, don’t you think?”

The ju­nior sen­a­tor from the Em­pire State may not be lead­ing with her strength with the theme of “a time for chat­ting.” Of all the politi­cians who have strode, minced, am­bled or marched across the stage of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics over the years, Hil­lary may be the one least likely to in­duce the de­sire to be chat­ted up by.

I can imag­ine want­ing to chat with Bill Richard­son (in fact I have — he’s good com­pany). Hil­lary’s hus­band is ob­vi­ously a world­class chat­ter — among other things. Harry Tru­man would be a ball to chat with — pre­sum­ably over a few bour­bons. One could have gos­siped with FDR over mar­ti­nis and cig­a­rettes for hours. Even Barack Obama looks like an ami­able con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist. We could com­pare our dope-smok­ing days, or the mer­its of dif­fer­ent south sea beaches — if that isn’t the same topic.

But whether with politi­cians or the gent or lady at the next bar stool, the essence of chat­ting is light­ness and spon­tane­ity. And, while Hil­lary Mill­house Rod­ham Clin­ton may have many ster­ling qual­i­ties — light­ness and spon­tane­ity are so not among them that she ought to con­sider fir­ing the staffer who sug­gested that “let’s chat” line.

She is about as spon­ta­neous as the old Soviet Polit­buro. One has the sense that she has been plan­ning this mo­ment since about 1957. And she only com­pounded the prob­lem with that clos­ing ob­ser­va­tion that “con­ver­sa­tion in Wash­ing­ton has been a lit­tle one-sided lately, don’t you think?”

Can you imag­ine Hil­lary hav­ing a sin­cere, two-sided con­ver­sa­tion with you — a to­tal stranger? She would have that huge painted-on smile aimed at your eyes, while her eyes would be look­ing over your shoul­der to her han­dler with the ex­as­per­ated “get me out of here” look.

And who can blame her. No politi­cians wants to chat with the pub­lic about the is­sues. Does any­one think that Hil­lary wants to get a to­tal, ig­no­rant stranger’s view on health-care pol­icy, when she has spent years per­fect­ing a com­pre­hen­sive gov­ern­men­tal struc­ture to de­liver health care ac­cord­ing to strict Swedish prin­ci­ples of gov­er­nance?

One can pic­ture her hav­ing to lis­ten to some sim­ple-minded sug­ges­tion about health care while think­ing to her­self (once again with that painful-to-lookat smile she forces on to her cold lips) “un­less this clown can de­liver a seven-fig­ure cam­paign con­tri­bu­tion, why is he wast­ing his breath?”

I am harp­ing on this pre­pos­ter­ous chat­ting gam­bit be­cause it is part of an emerg­ing pat­tern. In her first cam­paign for sen­a­tor in 2000, she launched it with a “lis­ten­ing tour” of her newly adopted state. There was some­thing both unc­tu­ous and con­de­scend­ing and also eva­sive about it. It was a cal­cu­lated strat­egy of false in­ti­macy.

Now, in this sec­ond stage of her plan to rule the world she has es­ca­lated from lis­ten­ing to chat­ting. And in her first “chat” with her pub­lic she pre­sented her­self in a tableau sur­rounded with a rain­bow of other peo­ple’s chil­dren in an at­tempt — I sup­pose — to re­late to all those house­frauen of whom she was, of late — so con­temp­tu­ous.

She, who fa­mously was not go­ing to hang around the house and bake cook­ies, now can’t get enough of such false images. Not to be seen was her ac­tual daugh­ter, now work­ing for a hedge fund (if ever a child has found a pro­fes­sion in keep­ing with the fam­ily in­stinct, a hedge fund for the Clin­tons is it).

What makes all this vac­u­ous and phony im­agery so curious is that Hil­lary is a se­ri­ous and pow­er­fully di­rected per­son. She has strong, in­formed and con­sid­ered poli­cies on many of the great is­sues of our day. While a con­ser­va­tive will not usu­ally agree with them, I have re­spect for her se­ri­ous­ness of pur­pose.

But the com­pul­sion to false self-pre­sen­ta­tion is a dis­qual­i­fy­ing char­ac­ter trait for the pres­i­dency. And un­like her hus­band, she lacks the light­ness and dex­ter­ity to hide that fa­tal flaw.

Tony Blank­ley is edi­to­rial page ed­i­tor of The Times. He can be reached via e-mail at tblank­ley@wash­ing­ton­

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