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Why We Cannot Shake the Clintons
In Dissent, Number One Hundred and Fifteen
by Brian S. Wise
13 June 2003

"The Clintons are swingers," and other suggestions as to their behavior.

The New York Times has published a review of Hillary Clinton’s book that is, to put it mildly, not kind.  (Yes, that New York Times.)  Wrote Michiko Kakutani: “It is a book that purports to deal with the many controversies and scandals in Bill Clinton’s campaigns and presidency, presumably to get these issues behind her before she contemplates running for the White House herself.  Yet the book skates over the problems the Clinton administration faced in its rocky debut and in the impeachment crisis and skims over details of matters like Whitewater and ‘travelgate’ while expending a startling amount of space on her trips abroad and her personal appearance.”
Yet this is just one of many, many reviews to follow.  They will exist because a great number of people are interested in knowing more.  So much so, Living History set a record for first day nonfiction sales (200,000), prompting Simon and Schuster to print 300,000 more copies, bringing the total thus far to 1.3 million.  It will probably sell over one million copies.  Fine.  But if it sold 20 million copies, those sales get us no closer to discovering why people are interested.
Maybe because the Clintons have left so many very relevant questions unanswered, a thing that irritates those who care about or examine relevant presidencies.  Another reason is that people are looking for clues that explain how the Clintons got this way … they have at times seemed so odd it defied explanation.  This is why the Monica Lewinsky questions have begun again: Either you accept Hillary Clinton’s explanation as to the day she learned the truth of Lewinsky or you do not.  But hers is the definitive insider’s word, as Bill Clinton, in his book, surely dare not say: that 21-year-old flesh just feels better than 50-year-old flesh, even if the 21-year-old is a little overweight.
One appreciates Mrs. Clinton’s difficulties in discussing The Other Women; there are few married women in similar positions who savor the opportunity to talk about their husband’s infidelity.  It is still an intriguing story because we like to believe every house should be built with glass walls, and it fills a certain voyeuristic need to know her reaction to the DNA stained dress.  But there had been so many women before … even if she was aware of only a small percentage she was aware of a decent-sized number.  One wonders if the Lewinsky matter is covered in Living History because she, Lewinsky, was the most notable circumstance.  The consistent hope among too many people (not including yours truly) is that one day Hillary will slip and say whatever it is various people are hoping to hear.
The contention here has long been that Bill Clinton suffers from some low grade mental illness (it was most recently suggested in this space two weeks ago); a further contention now being that Hillary Clinton has not only known and understood the illness, but has catered to it, so long as things were kept quiet.  In other words, the Clinton marriage is an open one, in the masculine direction.  That is not the sort of thing widely appreciated in the States; large enough percentages of the populace are decadent enough to draw notice, but the country as a whole is by no means European enough in its mindset to except swinging as the wholesale reason for the Clinton sexual controversies.
But how best to explain the Right’s, well, low grade obsession with the Clintons?  It has never seemed to ebb, only flow, and it has lead to the most recent wave of accusations that the Right has nothing better to do than relive the entire Clinton administration.  There are a few correct answers.  One is that there are hardly any alternatives; it was not the Right that created the media furor over Living History, though it was happy to join the fray as an editing presence … the same freedom that allows the senator to say one thing allows the Right to question her recollection, or wonder whether hers was at all truthful.  If the Right believes Hillary Clinton is lying, they should be compelled to explain how.
For another, how many Leftists have completely been able to let go of the Reagan administration, the head of which has not made an overt political movement since the 1992 Republican convention?  I speak for the Right when I say: I would be more than happy to ignore the Clintons, if only they would go away.

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