The Magazine

Hillary's History

From the July 7 / July 14, 2003 issue: Senator Clinton's opus.

Jul 7, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 42 • By P.J. O'ROURKE
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Living History

by Hillary Clinton

Simon & Schuster, 562 pp., $28

IF YOU PLAN not to read this summer, "Living History" is just the book. Hillary Clinton's new memoir is more than 100,000 pages long. At least I think it is. There are only 562 page numbers, but you know how those Clintons lie. A mere ream of paper could not contain the padding that has gone into this tome. Hillary--with the help of at least six ghostwriters--nails the goose of a manuscript to the barn floor and force-feeds it with lint.

We are informed, for instance, that Jackie Onassis was once, herself, a first lady and later married a Greek shipping magnate. We learn how a chief executive walks to the podium to deliver a State of the Union speech: "The president greets members of both parties who, by tradition, sit on opposite sides of the aisle." Even Hillary's grief over the death of her dad is padded: "My father would not be at the table vying with Hugh and Tony for one of the drumsticks or asking for more cranberries and water-melon pickle, two of his favorites from childhood." And then there are the fulsome tales of official junkets--unimportant, uninteresting, uneventful, and unending. "I had given a lot of thought to how Chelsea and I should dress on the trip. We wanted to be comfortable, and, under the sun's heat, I was glad for the hats and cotton clothes I had packed." And I was glad for the scopolamine transdermal patch.

Nausea, however, is interesting compared with the actual symptoms of going-through-the-motions sickness induced by "Living History." The book does not contain even a dog-worthy return to the vomit of the Lewinsky scandal. And the stingy-mama-bird regurgitations of Whitewater excuses and evasions will leave the most adoring Hillary chick wanting more worm. Hillary has spent forty years with the pros on the fairways of prevarication, yet her gimmes lack audacity, her mulligans do not astonish, and her foot-played "improvements of lie" are no more subtle than "Whitewater never seemed real because it wasn't."

Vituperation is supposed to be another of Hillary's salient features. But she spritzes, rather than splashes, acid and then only on the dead, the powerless, and Ken Starr. Hillary calls Bill's mother "Virginia Cassidy Blythe Clinton Dwire Kelley" and eulogizes her as "an American original--bighearted, good humored, fun-loving"--by which she means a drunk. "I didn't use makeup," declares Hillary, "and wore jeans and work shirts most of the time. I was no Miss Arkansas," but "no matter what else was going on in her life, Virginia got up early, glued on her false eyelashes and put on bright red lipstick, and sashayed out the door."

Damning stuff. But the junior senator's insults are preferable to her compliments. Hillary's friend Jean Houston "wraps herself up in brightly colored capes and caftans and dominates the room with her larger-than-life presence and crackling wit, . . . reciting poems, passages from great works of literature, historical facts and scientific data all in the same breath."

Let's take a deep one. Boring others is a form of aggression, and Hillary attacks her public with the weapon of brutal dullness. Ms. Clinton has led a busy, meddlesome life from an early age. "I was elected co-captain of the safety patrol. . . . This was a big deal at our school." But until page 440 of her memoir, nothing happens. You know the nothing I mean. Any number of Clinton friends and supporters told us it was nothing. And, as a result of nothing happening, nothing--as you may remember--happened. So, starting on page 440, that nothing happens, and by page 472 (that is to say immediately, given the high-speed laser-printing prolixity of "Living History"), Hillary is announcing, "Life moved on, and I moved with it."

UNLIKE ORDINARY HUMANS, Hillary had a choice about that move. After all, life revolves around Hillary. "In my own life I have been a wife, mother, daughter, sister, in-law, student, lawyer, children's rights activist, law professor, Methodist, political advisor, citizen and so much else." So very much else. "I was raised to love my God and my country, to help others, to protect and defend the democratic ideals that have inspired and guided free people for more than 200 years," a slap in the face to those of us who were raised to say please and thank you and not track mud into the house. Little wonder that when Hillary meets Queen Elizabeth, "She reminded me of my own mother."