Is it not a thing of wonderment that the two leading families of the Party of the Poor and Down-and-Out are ending the summer in Martha’s Vineyard? Both the Obamas and the Clintons are renting spacious mansions, probably from Wall Streeters, on that enchanted isle and playing golf and tennis, and — who knows — croquet, just like the Rockefellers or Vanderbilts. Yet do not expect them to be dining together in the moonlight. In fact, relations between them have turned downright hostile.
Hillary Clinton this week has made it all but final. She is a neoconservative, a genuine, 24-carat, neoconservative. She has all the credentials. Back in the 1970s, Irving Kristol, the official godfather of neoconservatism, defined a neoconservative as a liberal who has been mugged by reality. By that definition, a mere believer in muscular foreign policy pronouncements is no neoconservative. Perhaps he or she is a hawk, but not a neoconservative. To be a true neocon, one has to have once been a liberal — preferably a Trotskyite — and to have come to one’s conversion in fits and starts. Well, Mrs. Clinton certainly fills the bill, complete with fits and starts.
Anyone aware of her biography knows the route she has traveled. In college, she was a radical. Admittedly, she was what was called a coat-and-tie radical: Coat and tie when the campus was invaded by interviewers from the giant corporations or from graduate schools; radical, when it was time to write an honors paper, say, on Saul Alinsky or to deliver a student commencement tirade. Mrs. Clinton both wrote an honors paper on Alinsky and delivered a commencement tirade. She even worked for a Stalinist lawyer in California, and she worked for the Democrats on the impeachment of Richard Nixon. In that last job, she was so crooked that Jerome Zeifman, the Democratic counsel to the House Judiciary Committee impeachment inquiry, said in his 1974 personal evaluation of her that he “could not recommend her for any future position in public or private trust.”
Yet I digress. Eventually, she married Bill Clinton and went off to Arkansas, where she became a standard-issue left liberal. Then she came with him to the White House and was pretty much a liberal, a feminist liberal, but a liberal. Finally, when she ran for the Senate and served as Barack Obama’s secretary of state, she was just a liberal, though there were permutations. Working as a senator, she developed a hawkish bent. She supported the war in Iraq. Working as secretary of state, she renounced the war and pretty much adopted the Obama position on foreign policy. There was something about flying in airplanes some 956,733 miles, but we need not get into that now.
When terrorists attacked our installations at Benghazi, both she and the president were unavailable for the proverbial telephone call at 3 a.m. However, she objected to following Mr. Obama’s request that she take up the White House’s alibi that the attack was from a “spontaneous” mob and “triggered” by an amateurish video on the Internet insulting the Prophet Muhammad. She is quoted in Ed Klein’s “Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. The Obamas” as saying, “Mr. President, that story isn’t credible; among other things, it ignores the fact that the attack occurred on 9/11.” At any rate by 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 11, she had relented. She took up the White House’s bogus line on Benghazi.
Now just last weekend, she made the final leap. She is a neoconservative. She derided Mr. Obama’s — dare we call it — foreign-policy doctrine, “Don’t do stupid [stuff].” Said she, “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.” How very neocon. She sneered at Mr. Obama’s “failure” to supply the Syrian rebels. She spoke in tough terms toward Iran and took up the cause of the Israelis against Hamas. All Mr. Obama could do is play a couple of rounds of golf, hit the beach and head off for a fundraiser.
We have all heard that Mrs. Clinton is listening to more hawkish counselors, among them Robert Kagan. He certainly is a neocon, and who else? For now, Mrs. Clinton is a neoconservative. What will Bill Clinton become?
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is editor in chief of the American Spectator, a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the author of “The Death of Liberalism” (Thomas Nelson, 2012).