- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 15, 2003

Who is Hillary Rodham Clinton? We all know her husband. He’s a hard guy to be non-intimate with. Early in his presidency, he was asked on TV what kind of underwear he wore and chatted away merrily about how he mostly preferred boxers but occasionally wore briefs. Pandora’s boxer shorts, once opened, are not easily buttoned up again. He remains the only president to have his, ah, distinguishing characteristics officially examined by a Navy surgeon when they became a matter of legal dispute. And not long after that his, er, DNA wound up getting analysed by the FBI crime lab.

Now go back to that early, almost coy revelation: boxers or briefs. Imagine asking Hillary what kind of bra she wears, underwired or not. You can’t do it. In inverse proportion to her pants-dropping husband, Sen. Clinton has become ever more swathed in protective clothing, ever more veiled. For years we’ve wondered: What’s she really like? What’s going on deep inside, under that inscrutable exterior? Now in this searingly intimate memoir, the most intriguing woman of our time finally tells all. You’ll marvel at her painful candor as she reveals:

• France’s Bernadette Chirac is “an elegant, cultured woman.”

• Nicaragua’s Violeta Chamorro is “an elegant, striking woman.”

• Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto is “a brilliant and striking woman.”

• Canada’s Aline Chretien is “intelligent, sharply observant and elegant.”

• But Russia’s Naina Yeltsin is merely “personable and articulate about children and their health care needs.”

Hmm. As for Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky, they aren’t in the least bit elegant, cultured, striking, elegant, brilliant, elegant, striking, elegant, sharply observant and elegant, so Mrs. Clinton has less to say about them. And Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick and all the rest aren’t even personable and articulate about health care needs, so they don’t get mentioned at all.

Presumably if you looked hard enough you could find someone somewhere on the planet who’s been scouring the bookstores in search of 500 pages of woozy platitudes on foreign dignitaries he’s barely heard of. But that demographic would hardly cover the $8 million Simon and Schuster shelled out to Mrs. Clinton. Hey, it wouldn’t even cover the cost of that five-word description of the prime minister of Canada’s wife, for which, by my calculations, her publishers paid Hillary $200.

But S&S; are betting that there’s a larger market out there, and that torpor is sleeping history’s unique selling point. Hillary’s constituency doesn’t want soul-baring — that’s playing on Ken Starr terms. They want dullness — the dullness that reassures them that Hillary, once you dig her out from the cigars and Gap dresses of posterity, is still the serious thinker and feminist icon they told us she was in 1992. “The woman is stronger than Queen Elizabeth I of England, a greater strategist than Catherine the Great of Russia, braver than Boadicea or the Amazons of old,” wrote Erica Jong — just this week.

I am woman, hear me recite long lists of overseas receptions I attended. As it happens, there’s as little in her book about the specifics of Hillary’s health care plan as there is about the specifics of Bill’s pick-up technique, but no one will ever know because no one who isn’t being paid to will get that far.

Hillary’s fans will buy the book, open Chapter One, and read, “I wasn’t born a First Lady or a Senator. I wasn’t born a Democrat. I wasn’t born a lawyer or an advocate for women’s rights and human rights. I wasn’t born a wife or mother,” and think, well, that’s just like the early bits of the Old Testament, all the begetting, or in this case all the things she wasn’t begot as, so I’ll just skip ahead to Chapter Two, and I’ll bet it’s really crackling along by now.

And Chapter Two begins: “‘What you don’t learn from your mother, you learn from the world’ is a saying I once heard from the Masai tribe in Kenya.” And you think, well, isn’t that just wonderfully diverse, and she heard it from an actual tribe in Kenya. Any tribesman in particular? Or did they all yell it out in unison as her motorcade passed by? Either way, it’s the sort of soothing multicultural sentiment that separates an enlightened progressive from rabid knuckle-dragging redneck Clinton-haters, and that’s all you need to know. So you put the book up on the shelf and never open it ever again.

The main victim of this approach is Bill Clinton. From the moment they met, she knew he “had a vitality that seemed to shoot out of his pores,” but none shoots out in Hillary’s leaden prose. I’ll bet he had a better time reading Monica’s story, which captures Bill’s oozing pores better than his wife’s book does. Monica’s version at least captures the boy president at his most endearingly adolescent, as his girlfriend’s continuing contacts with her previous adulterer drive the president of the United States into paroxysms of jealousy: “He’s such a jerk,” rages the leader of the free world over his rival, high school drama teacher Andy Bleiler. In Hillary’s version, you feel only the absence of Bill’s much vaunted “passion.”

Monica’s Bill is the lounge-act-in-chief: “He undressed me with his eyes.” Hillary’s Bill is a clunky wonk: “While I was challenging discrimination practices, Bill was in Miami working to ensure McGovern’s nomination.” Monica says, “The irony is that I had the first orgasm of the relationship.” In Hillary’s book, there are no orgasms, ironic or otherwise.

As for the two-paragraph “controversy” of this 500-page yawn, who cares? Either Hillary is Bill’s co-conspirator, and, in the furtherance of their own ambitions, they used the Democratic Party the way Bill uses women. Or there’s this book’s version, in which she’s the last person of the planet still willing to believe Bill’s version of events — not exactly Catherine the Great or Elizabeth I, but a gullible shill who by rights should have just put herself out of the running for president.

But time and again the Clintons have survived setbacks that would have clobbered lesser politicians. And if using gregarious Bill as the advance man for chilly Hilly’s own ambitions wasn’t the original plan, it is now. Whatever she says, I can see her running, and, in certain circumstances, I can see her narrowly winning. Another Clinton presidency, and a disaster for the country. History repeats itself, but in defiance of the usual order: first the trouser-dropping farce, then tragedy.

Mark Steyn is a senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group and North American editor for the Spectator.

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