- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2000

Peggy Noonan does not dally in her demolition of the first lady. She labels "The Case Against Hillary Clinton" a polemic and bluntly dissects the woman who would be a U.S. senator and whose ambition may well extend to the Democratic nomination for president in 2004.

This rather thin volume might be described as an extended op-ed piece, a journalistic form at which Miss Noonan is very good. It is crafted with the colloquial style that characterizes the former speech writer for President Reagan (her account of which was her book, "What I Saw at the Revolution"), and of President Bush's acceptance speech when nominated (that included the memorable and then often parodied "a thousand points of light").

"Hillary" as the New York senatorial campaign now advertises her in the one-name apogee of celebrity may ascend to the U.S. Senate, but she should not, Miss Noonan, a New Yorker, passionately believes. She is indistinguishable from the president, from "Clintonism," in the author's perspective:

"[T]hey have made the American political landscape a lower and lesser thing. They have left our political process distorted and misshapen; they have stopped good things from happening, and allowed bad things to occur; when caught they have covered-up and dissembled, which in turn has added a new level of sourness, cynicism and confusion to our politics and our culture."

In handing down this searing indictment, Miss Noonan reprises in detail the litany of mendacity that has infused the Clinton administration from early Travelgate, the health care fiasco, the missing Rose law firm records, to the Monica Lewinsky episode and the stouter and thinner fibs and dissimulations.

None of this is new. But there is so much of it, and this smooth recapitulation will not only ensure Miss Noonan's permanent inclusion in the first lady's "vast right-wing conspiracy" but elevate her to its Hall of Fame.

While she generally avoids psychobabble, Miss Noonan does excavate a bit of the respective neo-cortices of the first couple. "Often when I watch the Clintons I think I perceive a profound joylessness, an almost glassy-eyed containment, or distance. It's as if they don't have a facade, they've become a facade. You sense a depression on his part and an anger on hers." This, she contends, "makes their private plight our public problem."

Left to himself, Bill Clinton is bored and anxious and needs adulation or he will float away while Hillary Clinton cannot live without power and admiration or would waft away "like an empty balloon."

What is fresh and imaginative in the book is, curiously, also somewhat annoying, at least to this reader. Miss Noonan declaims about what she calls a "culture of death" that has evolved in America, a time "unparalleled in history" (both assertions are Manhattan hyperbole, but never mind). After the horror of Columbine, Miss Noonan thought that Mrs. Clinton, with her constantly enunciated concern for children, might induce a new seriousness. Not so, writes Miss Noonan.

However, a few months later Hillary decided to meet with the heads of the big TV and movie studios and prominent other media poobahs. At her call, they assembled at the Hollywood home of Michael Eisner, the chief executive officer of Disney. David Geffen was there and Rupert Murdoch, Edgar Bronfman, Ted Turner, Gerry Levin of Time Warner a roster of the most puissant callers of the cultural cadence. Miss Noonan then reports that "miraculously" she was there, too, with a tape recorder, because Mr. Eisner's housekeeper is a cousin of her best friend. She went unnoticed as Hillary began to speak.

Without equivocation, Hillary lectured that the "great unspoken fact" of American culture now is that the powerful, "those who write and edit Time and Newsweek, who produce the movies and talk about them on TV," all of them support pushing the envelope of standards. "But they make sure their own kids don't get cut and bleed from it." The shows they produce, she relentlessly went on, "teach kids to be materialistic, they teach them that the spiritual life is utterly absent from American life … Really, these shows are about sex and haircuts."

Hillary Clinton asked them "to change to change utterly," and to do "the greatest patriotic act of our time" by cleaning up their acts. Astonishing speech, heartfelt and pungent. How in the world, one wonders (suspicion dawning), was it never at all reported in this Era of the Universal Leak? And with a high-octane journalist, Miss Noonan, present. Odd.

The answer is simple enough. It never happened. It never will, Peggy Noonan says of the "dream" from which she awoke. This is too cute.

The reservation aside, however, "The Case Against Hillary Clinton" is uncommonly powerful. "The Clintons have damaged our country. They have done it together, in unison, and with no apparent care or anxiety about what they have done. And for this reason, for all of these reasons, Clintonism should not be allowed to continue."

As the ultimate ironic thrust, Miss Noonan dedicates her book to Eleanor Roosevelt the genuine article.

Woody West is associate editor of The Washington Times.

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