THE UNHILLARY

A moment of silence, please, for the man who knew perfectly well what the correct interpretation of the role of First Lady was and executed it flawlessly – in pants. Denis Thatcher died yesterday. He became an iconic figure in Britain, had a brilliant parody of his letters published regularly in London’s “Private Eye,” and was known to be sometimes as colorful in his real life as in his satirists’ imagination:

During a visit to a village outside Delhi, the locals forced him to wear a vast pink turban. As he walked away, his headgear wobbling like a huge jelly, he was heard to mutter: “These blighters are trying to make me look like a bloody fool.” More humiliation came during a Commonwealth summit in Goa when the electricity failed as Sir Denis was shaving. Fellow heads of state staying in neighbouring chalets were suddenly confronted a man apparently frothing at the mouth and bellowing: “The buggeration factor is high and growing in this part of the world!” The letters were right about Sir Denis’s liking for a snort. Even at 80, he was imbibing gin “at an admirable rate”.

Here’s part of his friend Bill Deedes’ reminiscence:

[W]hen she was Secretary for Education, Margaret was seen one evening by the Permanent Secretary leaving the office early. She was going out, she explained, to buy bacon for Denis’s breakfast. There were, the Permanent Secretary assured her, plenty of people in the department who would be glad to do that for her. No, the bacon had to be just as he liked it, and only she knew what he liked.

I love that image of the Iron Lady shopping for bacon. Says a lot about her, I think. And about what marriage is really all about.

THE ARROGANCE OF SOME LIBERALS: Brad DeLong is sometimes a classic example of the arrogant liberal. He supports affirmative action and believes that individuals in 2003 bear a direct responsibility for those people who enacted slavery and made life a living hell for many black Americans in decades and centuries past. Fair enough. I think his point is strained and unconvincing but it’s a legitimate one. For my part, I don’t see why a young Korean immigrant should be denied a place in college to make way for an affluent, suburban black student who has lower scores. I simply don’t see how such a person can be held responsible for things done in the distant past by people in a distant country of which she had no knowledge. And I don’t see how subjecting a new citizen to racial discrimination makes past racial discrimination any better. But, look, people can disagree. But what DeLong says is that my more libertarian and individualistic viewpoint is simply a function of ignorance. He describes my indifference to a racially un-diverse university as follows: “I think that the politest possible response is that this demonstrates, more than anything else, that Andrew Sullivan is simply and totally clueless about what America is.” Am I being touchy here or is there a soupcon of nativist hostility in DeLong’s remark? Is DeLong aware of the millions of native-born Americans who agree with me – majorities in most polls? And then he concludes his self-righteous pirouette by accusing all those who disagree with him as somehow lacking in manhood! Here’s the beaut:

To accept one’s fair share of the collective responsibility for the evils of slavery and Jim Crow, and to do one’s part not to deny or to explain away to erase the marks it has left on our country’s African-American community, are burdens that every American who wants to be considered a man needs to stand up and bear.

Do we add a touch of homophobia to the nativism?

IN DEFENSE OF HILLARY

“Look, Bill Clinton is a liar. Hillary has also lied. So has George W. Bush — about America’s fiscal situation and possibly about the extent to which he was positive about Iraq’s WMD situation. Reagan lied numerous times, about his war record and the welfare queen. But let’s not allow America’s conservative maniacs to determine whether Hillary has the right to run for president. She is polarizing mainly because the American right spent millions of their own and taxpayers’ money to destroy the Clinton presidency. There was a vast right-wing operation to destroy the Clinton presidency. Yes, they were aided by the Clintons’ horrendous mendacity. But let’s not pretend they were the least bit honorable. And because you are, Andrew, please don’t join them in their inane Hillary bashing.” – more opinions on the Letters Page.

HILLARY SUCK-UP WATCH I

“Did you for a moment believe her?” – Barbara Walters, referring to Paula Jones.
“Hillary Clinton’s memoir ends with her last day in the White House. But I dare say as her journey continues, she’ll have plenty of material for a second autobiography. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that she would become not only the first First Lady to be elected Senator, but also the first First Lady to become President. And that raises an intriguing prospect: Bill Clinton as the first President to become a First Man or First Spouse or whatever. So much has happened to this couple that it seems anything could happen. Stay tuned.” – Barbara Walters, wrapping up the infomercial for ABC News.

HILLARY SUCK-UP WATCH II: “In the book you have a lot to say about forgiveness. Have you forgiven Ken Starr?”
“Would you call Bush a radical?”
“Is the ‘vast, right-wing conspiracy’ bigger than you thought when you brought that term into our vocabulary?” – Nancy Gibbs, Time.

HILLARY SUCK-UP WATCH III: “After your work in Washington was over, you moved to Arkansas, eventually got married to Bill Clinton. How hard was it for a Chicago raised, Wellesley, Yale Law educated, I am woman hear me roar person to go to Arkansas and, kind of, make your career secondary to his? Did you resent that at all?” – Katie Couric, the Today Show.

HILLARY SUCK-UP WATCH

“One aspect of the Clintons’ very public union is that during Bill Clinton’s presidency, they both seemed devoted to improving American life as much as they could. I think of them as busy, ambitious patriots united by common personal and political goals. It sure doesn’t sound like such a bad marriage to me.” – Stephanie Zacharek, Salon. Readers are hereby invited to send in the most egregiously obsequious reviews and fawning interview questions about HRC’s new book, “Living History.”

BERNARD HENRI-LEVY: One of France’s leading thinkers, Bernard Henri-Levy, has just written a book about the murder of danny Pearl. The invaluable blog, Cinderellabloggerfella, has a translation of an interview BHL gave to the Polish paper, Gazeta Wyborcza. Money quotes:

Q: Why does an intellectual leave his cosy appartment in the Parisian boulevard of Saint-Germain and spend months in obscure nooks and crannies at the end of the world?

BHL: First, to pay homage to Daniel Pearl – a brave journalist and a good man, who did not want to hate, only to understand his persecutors completely. Secondly, by following in his tracks, I understood that it was a matter of waking up the world. A little like those intellectuals who escaped from Germany in the 1930s and tried to warn people of the hell that was brewing for them there. I don’t want to err on the side of exaggeration but what I saw there was terrifying – the threat of the proliferation of nuclear weapons, knowledge how to make them and overwhelming fanaticism and hatred.

BHL gets it. Read the whole thing.

GET OVER IT: “What’s the point in painting Hillary with the same lurid colors that the rabid left applies to Bush? Despite the fixations of the DC-Manhattan media axis, the “blue-red” divide has faded since 9/11. Most people in this country have a mixed view of both W and Hillary: We know the former’s not too swift but trustworthy, if a bit too right-wing, and that the latter’s not too trustworthy but swift, if a bit too left-wing. Most of us would like to see more economic security in our lives (score one for H) but are unwilling to take any risks with our national security (score one for W). If he does nothing to increase employment, protect pensions and provide greater health coverage, Bush will be vulnerable in 2004 to a Truman-JFK Democrat, if such a thing still exists. Likewise, Hillary will be history if she doesn’t mend fences with the military and begin to accomodate the pro-military culture that’s no longer a mainly Southern matter and is now a national phenomenon.” – more defenses of Hillary on the Letters Page.

WATCHING HILLARY

Yes, I sat through it. I was glad to hear the Senator from New York sit down with Baba Wawa for an hour. What struck me most was her absolute belief the she and her husband did nothing – nothing – of any substance to deserve the kind of scrutiny they got in eight years in office. Their only fault was naivete. I guess I’m not surprised by therigidity of her denial and composure. But something in me hoped for a little more – maybe a real reflection on her choices, her decisions, her unelected power, her stonewalling of the press, her enabling of her husband’s adulterous relationship with the truth, and so on. But nope. And then there the sheer fakery of it all. I really wish the real Hillary would simply come out of her shell and be in public what everybody says she is in private: caustic, decisive, aggressive, witty, ambitious, smart. What we saw last night was some saccharine, perfectly-spun middle American home-maker turning literally every question into a perfectly formulated political bromide. Its phoniness made me gag. And at its center is an obvious, big, glaring fib: that she never had an inkling of her husband’s long pattern of sexual abuse and harrassment until the August morning he told her of his latest victim. This stretches credulity beyond even Clintonite limits. And what equally amazes is that her litany of “innocent victims” never seems to include the victims of her husband’s sexual abuse. Perhaps she cannot as a feminist believe what so many women have testified to about her husband, so she simply pretends they don’t exist. They are invisible to her because they have to be. Her husband’s perjury and sexual harrassment don’t appear to have concerned her on moral grounds; and they concern her still only as a function of the obstacles they place in the way of her own political ambitions. That was true then; and her fibs now are yet another arbitrary layer of deception to keep her upward path smooth. My broader take on her book and her role in American politics can be read here.

THE PROOF WILL COME: This Los Angeles Times story seems highly plausible to me. Its argument is that Iraq did indeed once have considerable WMDs, that the inspections regime in the mid 1990s helped minimize it, but that a skeletal operation was kept up so that as soon as sanctions were lifted, a new and lethal program – especially biological – could be quickly brought back online. What the story shows is what we always knew: the issue was always the regime, not the weapons. Without such a regime, such weapons are not a danger; with it, they could be lethal. So the regime had to be eliminated. Maintaining sanctions indefinitely was a cruel and brutal way to keep the country contained, and was always liable to break down. Lifting sanctions would have been tanatamount to giving Saddam a chance to become a nuclear and chemical and biological menace. We pursued the only credible policy with regards to national security after 9/11. The carpers and critics are just revealing their exasperation at being humiliated and defeated – morally, intellectually and politically. Bob Kagan is worth reading on this point as well.

AMERICA’S SWEETHEART, HILLARY ROSEN

The Onion captures the essence of the mega-bucks lobbyist for the recording industry.

EURO-ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: The wife of the European Central Bank president has started a group dedicated to ending the “occupation” of Palestine. She’s organizing a petition on those grounds. Michiel Visser has the details:

Mrs Duisenberg was asked in a radio program how many signatures she was hoping to collect for her petition. She said: “Oh, perhaps six million” and started laughing loudly, in an apparent reference to the six million Jews who perished in the War.

Ha ha ha. So sophisticated these Europeans, no?