Friday Book: The cult leader of Capitol Hill

No One Left To Lie To: The Triangulations Of William Jefferson Clinton By Christopher Hitchens, Verso, pounds 12

WHEN HISTORY comes to deliver its verdict on Bill Clinton, it will surely reserve harsh words for all those people, especially on the left, who rushed so many times to his defence. Like infatuated teenagers, they have tried to explain away his mendacity, his abuse of women, his broken electoral promises, his willingness to do anything - including launching missile strikes - to save his own skin. Unlike teenagers, many of them have never quite fallen out of love with the big, good-looking Democrat who promised so much but made things worse for the poor who saw him as their champion.

One of Clinton's many pieces of luck, paradoxically, is the way in which his relations with women have obscured his shortcomings as a politician. He has even been presented as the victim of the women he abused, with Gennifer Flowers laughed off as a night-club singer with big hair, Paula Jones as trailer trash, and Monica Lewinsky - well, whoever had a good word for Lewinsky? She was "a little nutty, a little slutty", according to one Clinton apologist; a sexual predator who got the hapless President in her sights, according to others.

Charles Wheeler, the BBC's veteran correspondent, magisterially informed the Radio 4 audience that she was a "minx". The novelist Gabriel Garca Mrquez announced that "the President only wanted to do what the common man has done behind his wife's back since the world began". Even more gobsmacking were the contortions of "feminists for Clinton", that group of Sixties radicals that includes Gloria Steinem and Carly Simon. The President, according to an essay by the feminist writer Erica Jong, is the "alpha male" of the tribe and entitled to his pick of the most nubile females.

All the while, Clinton was signing into law cuts in welfare benefits to poor children and bombing a pharmaceuticals factory in faraway Khartoum, turning American foreign policy into an instrument of revenge for his wounded psyche. What is wrong with these people? What is it about Clinton that makes previous political positions fly out of the window?

To his credit, the Washington-based British journalist Christopher Hitchens has never fallen for any of the myths so assiduously peddled by the Clinton administration and its apologists. The welfare cuts, in his vivid formulation, have resulted in "the creation of a large helot underclass disciplined by fear and scarcity, subject to endless surveillance, and used as a weapon against any American worker lucky enough to hold a steady or unionised job".

Hitchens rightly rejects the "lesser of two evils" argument, which holds that the left has to support Clinton because his successor would almost certainly be worse. He argues cogently in this short book that Clinton is so desperate to retain office that he has been doing the Republicans' job for them during his two administrations.

The warning signs were there from the moment Governor Clinton decided, at the height of the Flowers allegations, not to reprieve a brain-damaged prisoner who was incapable of understanding that he was about to be executed by the State of Arkansas. This was, says Hitchens, "the first of many times Clinton would deliberately opt for death as a means of distraction from sex".

It is a searing indictment, not so much a book as a philippic. This is the speech, Ciceronian in its construction and its controlled passion, which the Senate should have been made to hear during the botched impeachment hearings.

It is constructed from a kind of rhetoric rarely heard these days, as enjoyable for its hauteur as the argument it lays out. "The draft-dodger has mutated into a pliant serf of the Pentagon," Hitchens observes, "the pot smoker into the chief inquisitor of the `war on drugs', and the womaniser into a boss who uses subordinates as masturbatory dolls." There is no attempt here at "balance", no pretence that "triangulation" - supposedly finding a position between the existing parties - is anything other than a fancy name for betrayal.

As a Washington insider, Hitchens also manages to shed some light on the conundrum of why Clinton has been forgiven so many times. "I have known a number of people who work for and with, or who worked for and with, this man," he writes. "They act like cult members while under the spell, and talk like ex-cult members as soon as they have broken away."

Clearly this personal magnetism exerts its effect far beyond the President's immediate circle, allowing a womanising, Bible-toting, good ol' Southern boy to pose as a radical. What Hitchens demonstrates comprehensively, however, is that William Jefferson Clinton is not one of us.

Joan Smith

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most