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Resume Imitates Life

Hillary Clinton's "Living History" shows that, to the senator and former first lady, politics isn't everything--it's the only thing.

8:45 PM, Jun 12, 2003 • By MATT LABASH
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WITH THE RELEASE this week of "Living History," it is worth noting that this title is not Hillary Rodham Clinton's first foray into children's literature. In 1996, came her blockbuster smash, "It Takes A Village," in which she condescended to parents as if they were children , by preaching the healing power of making sock puppets with teeth-grinding chapters like "An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Intensive Care." I'd share more, but it would take a village to hold me down and make me read the rest of it.

Then in 1998--Impeachment Year--Hillary took a break from hiding her head in the sand on the Lewinsky affair, and fired a shot across her critics' bow with "Dear Socks, Dear Buddy--Kids' Letters to the First Pets." To the unsophisticated reader, it might have appeared like more avoidance therapy. In actuality, it was a clever long-term political strategy. Locate people who will be of voting age in 2008 and who think that Labrador retrievers can read their letters. They'll believe anything. It was some of Hillary's ghostwriters' best work: "Socks and Buddy follow in the paw prints of many distinguished pets at the White House." Doggone great read, Hill.

In keeping with the children's theme, "Living History"--or as the gals in my Hillary reading circle call it, "Living Herstory"--is Hillary's first scratch'n'sniff book. Let me explain. Take a claim in this book, almost any claim, scratch it hard enough and it smells like BS. There's Hillary the Faux Populist telling us how back in Arkansas, she loved going to "sale barns and barbecue joints" and Razorbacks football games where she would "call the hogs." Yeah, uh-huh. There's Hillary the Paranoid, who, after the furniture had been suspiciously moved around in the White House, worried about Rush Limbaugh, who had left a message in the Lincoln Bedroom right before the Clintons moved in, saying "I was here first, and I'll be back." (Security, it turns out, had swept the room for bugging devices.)

Then, of course, there's Hillary the Naïf. Right before Bill finally fessed up about Monica Lewinsky--seven months after the story broke--she claims to have told a friend, "My husband may have his faults, but he has never lied to me." Which would have made her the only person in America by that time who could say the same of her husband. And then there's the least attractive Hillary, Hillary the Martyr, who in her eagerness to reach for grandiosity after her life had been turned into a sex farce, draws strength from the examples set by Harriet Tubman, Nelson Mandela, and Elie Wiesel. Wiesel survived a Nazi death camp and Mandela survived 27 years of imprisonment for opposing an unjust, racist government. Hillary survived having her husband turned into a Jay Leno monologue because he received blowjobs from an intern and lied about it. It's all the same in Hillaryland--as her staffers called their workspace.

But a responsible reviewer wouldn't merely recount the fictionalized non-fiction, self-aggrandizement, and partisan myopia that plagues this book, though there's much to recount. He would tell the reader that the most important thing they need to know about "Living History" is not to buy it. The good parts have already been dribbled out all over the media, and in any case, they don't even come until page 440. Here, "good parts" is a relative term whenever Hillary's basement full of ghostwriters churns out campaign-brochure copy (one of her ghosts, interestingly enough, got a lot of practice being Hillary's brain when she co-wrote the appropriately named "Icebound").

To label "Living History" as being merely boring would be to owe a groveling apology to Bill Bradley. By the third time I read Hillary assert that she doesn't take herself too seriously, I knew that I was seriously in for it. By the tenth time I tripped over a paragraph that read like it had been wrenched from a bad alumni magazine ("What I valued most about Wellesley were the lifelong friends I made and the opportunity that a women's college offers us to stretch our wings and minds in the ongoing journey toward self-definition and identity"), I was praying to be struck with blindness. By the fiftieth description of a meaningless foreign trip that she took, such as the one to Dhaka, Bangladesh, a place she "long wanted to visit" because of attractions like the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research--I was begging for death. Just as you would be too, the seventieth time you read her introduce a person as if they were a State of the Union prop, a person like "Ryan Moore, a seven-year-old from South Sioux City, Nebraska, who had been born with a rare form of dwarfism," and whose story "kept our eyes on the prize throughout our struggle to bring health care coverage to all Americans."

Who talks like this, you ask? Hillary, that's who.