Early on in ‘Mitt’, the new documentary about Mitt Romney, one of his sons laments the daily lashing his old man is getting during his ultimately unsuccessful 2008 nomination bid - flip-flopper, automaton, dullard. “This is why you don’t get good people running for president,” he says. “What better guy is there than my dad? We’re in this and you just get beat up constantly. It’s awful.”
If there is any chance of Hillary Clinton not taking a fresh run at the presidency in 2016, this, aside from illness, would surely be why. It would be awful. To a degree it already is. We are probably 14 months or so away from her declaring, and already the cudgels are out. Andrew Sullivan, the columnist, contrived this week to liken her even to Claire Underwood in television’s House of Cards. (If you are not familiar, the scheming politician’s wife, played by Robin Wright, is ambition-wrapped-in-evil incarnate.)
There is some pretty tortured psychology involved here that hasn’t evolved much even since I first rode on a campaign bus with her and Bill through the Midwest back in 1992. Some will recall her noting she could “have stayed home and baked cookies”. She caught hell for it because she had found a sexism nerve and tweaked it. She proceeded to become the most influential first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt.
The root of Obsessive Anti-Hillary Syndrome, OAHS, is fear. In which case, she should be feeling flattered as well as battered right now, as we endure a resurgence of archaeology through the layers of scandals that marred her husband’s two terms, notably his impeachment and Monica Lewinsky.
Ancient history is one thing. Voters are entitled to everything in a presidential candidate’s story. Sordid history is another. Rand Paul, the libertarian senator who has his own Oval Office fantasies, has been the first to resurrect the episode, calling Bill a “sexual predator” and inferring that by association Hillary could ill take up the Democrat cause that Republicans are waging a war on women. Even Sullivan recognises that Paul’s graceless prattle risks boomeranging on him, yet the stained blue dress is now back out of the trunk.
“Hillary Clinton is the war on women, and that’s what needs to be exposed here,” Kathleen Willey, a former volunteer aide to Bill who accused him in the 1990s of inappropriate behaviour towards her, blurted in a radio interview this weekend. She can’t harm Bill much anymore, but Hillary perhaps she can.
Earlier this month, The Washington Free Beacon, a news site, dug up papers held by the University of Arkansas attributed to Diane Blair, one of Hillary’s closest friends until her death in 2000. The ‘Blair Papers’ include notes on conversations she had with Hillary over more than a decade that have become instant OAHS fodder, particularly the bits where she recalls Hillary dismissing the “whiney women” on her White House staff and her daring to give Bill the benefit of the doubt in the Monica maelstrom.
Blair cites Hillary branding the intern a “narcissistic loony toon” and elsewhere records: “HRC insists, no matter what people say, it was gross inappropriate behaviour but it was consensual (was not a power relationship) and was not sex within any real meaning… of the term”. Whether or not she actually said such a thing, they are trying to say it shows a woman allowing political calculation to cloud reason and decency.
Mitt donned a helmet for a second round and Hillary, you can bet, will too. If folks like Paul are afraid, they should be. If they can’t stomach the fact that she has a spine of titanium they should seek treatment.