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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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Even when Hillary is going through her lowest moments, she manages to find a sanctimonious silver lining. Troopergate breaking? "It was too much," writes Hillary. "I wondered if what Bill was trying to do for the country was worth the pain and humiliation our families and friends were about to suffer." Remember the Rose law firm billing records that turned up in a White House closet months after they were subpoenaed by prosecutors? They got lost in the shuffle when "we found ourselves in the midst of a major renovation of the heating and air-conditioning systems to bring the White House up to environmental energy standards."

Even the failure to stop genocide can be turned to political advantage. The death of one million Rwandans which the administration did nothing to stop? "It would have been difficult for the United States to send troops so soon after the loss of American soldiers in Somalia and when the Administration was trying to end ethnic cleansing in Bosnia," she explains. "But Bill publicly expressed regret that our country and the international community had not done more to stop the horror." Public regret? How do you say "thanks for nothing" in Tutsi?

"Living History" isn't all such tough sledding. There are moments of (unintentional) hilarity, such as when Hillary recounts the first words she overheard Bill utter when encountering him at Yale Law School: ". . . and not only that, we grow the biggest watermelons in the world." A friend explained to her that melons were all Clinton "ever talks about." That obsession that would haunt him throughout his presidency.

Speaking of melons, there is precious little discussion of what Clinton aide Betsey Wright famously called "bimbo eruptions." Various news outlets have already raked Hillary for her timeline stating that she believed her husband's claim that he'd had no sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky up until August, months after it was already divulged that prosecutors had seized the Gap dress with the DNA stain. (In fairness to Hillary, Monica had allowed that the stain could also be "spinach dip," a claim which immediately undermined her credibility since it's hard to imagine Lewinsky eating spinach, even in dip form.)

But while her publisher paid Hillary $8 million to come clean on her husband's infidelities, she does precious little of it. Hillary lumps the Paula Jones incident in with "the other phony scandals," without ever disclosing whether, harassment charges aside, she disbelieved that her husband had any romantic designs on Jones. Her treatment of Gennifer Flowers is even more problematic. Barely bothering to dismiss, over the course of a few paragraphs, Flowers' allegations of conducting a 12-year affair with her husband, Hillary calls it a "whale of a tale" and claims Bill told her "it wasn't true."

This is problematic for Hillary, since when Lewinsky comes around, she expects us to believe that her husband had never lied to her before. And what she fails to mention is that when her husband was deposed in the Paula Jones lawsuit, he admitted an affair with Flowers. Meaning that either Bill lied to Hillary (in which case Hillary is lying about Bill never having lied to her), or he told the truth to Hillary, and Hillary is complicit in his lying to us about Flowers.

And the Flowers episode, of course, represents just a tiny fraction of Bill's reportedly consensual alleged affairs. Marginally non-consensual brushes, such as the one Clinton was alleged to have had with Kathleen Willey, are not even mentioned. And if you're looking forward to even a cursory discussion of Juanita Broaddrick's rape charges--charges, which were feebly denied by Bill's attorney, but which have been reported by numerous reputable news organizations (and the details of which have yet to be even partially discredited)--then you'll have to read another book.

Which brings us to Monica. While it's completely believable that Hillary was angry, distraught, depressed, etc, it's a little less so when, by her own account, she was able to stand her political ground so fiercely. She concedes that her husband was guilty of "misleading the American people" and that his behavior was "morally wrong"--a major concession in a book with almost none. But she heaps double scorn on prosecutors, claiming the release of the Starr report, a report nearly pornographic precisely because it detailed the extramarital behavior of her husband, was a "low moment in American history."

While psychoanalyzing Hillary should be left to God and Gail Sheehy, one can't help but wonder how somebody so supposedly wounded could convincingly fulfill her duties both as First Lady and party-shill during impeachment. For the sake of argument, let's pretend that a president shouldn't be impeached for perjury about an extramarital affair in a civil suit and that such private misbehavior shouldn't be thrown open to public scrutiny. Even still, what shouldn't matter to us about our president, should matter to his wife. Unless the Clinton's have the sort of cynical marital arrangement that some suspect. In which case, Hillary isn't being forthright about the nature of their union--which has yielded as many political benefits as it has public humiliations.

Indeed, the notion that the political trumps the personal in the Clinton marriage is hard to dispute. Hillary herself writes that at her lowest personal point, when she most wanted to throttle Bill, "I hadn't decided whether to fight for my husband and my marriage, but I was resolved to fight for my President." This, mind you, two weeks after she supposedly found out that not only had Clinton had this disastrous affair, but that he'd lied to her and made a liar of her by extension.

What keeps Hillary married to Bill is anyone's guess, even after 534 pages. At one point, she says he has nice hands--"expressive, attractive and resilient." Her explanation: "All I know is that no one understands me better and no one can make me laugh the way Bill does. Even after all these years, he is still the most interesting, energizing and fully alive person I have ever met. Bill Clinton and I started a conversation in the spring of 1971, and more than thirty years later we're still talking." It sounds convincing, less animatronic and more flesh-and-blood. Until you realize that most of their conversations today must take place over the phone, what with them living in different states.

She tells us that the real thaw in their post-Lewinsky relationship seemed to come while she was deciding to run for Senate: "One benefit of my decision-making process was that Bill and I were talking again about matters other than the future of our relationship. Over time, we both began to relax. He was anxious to be helpful, and I welcomed his expertise."

Imagine that--Bill and Hillary talking politics when all else fails.

Matt Labash is senior writer at The Weekly Standard.