The Chinese call it the death of a thousand cuts. They whip a convict hard enough to open little cuts all over his body, none of them individually severe or particularly bloody. Somehow the combination of the multiple points of trauma and tiny leakages of blood from every spot along the circulatory route proves fatal. This is seen as a particularly humiliating of execution, because there is no individual blow worthy of overcoming the life force of that person.
The political equivalent of this is playing out as we speak, in the curious tale of Hillary Rodham Clinton. The story of Hillary’s life — her many fawning biographers to the contrary — has been very fascinating in that a person of great promise went out into the world and horribly bungled every situation until she was in her fifties. By an odd irony, her seven years in the Senate represent her sum total of more-or-less effective years at any job.
When you look closely at her resume, all that experience she is fond of citing turns out to be a catalogue of failures. Forget about her flip-flops; you can score more points against her by flipping through her flops. Everyone talks about what a wonderful organizer she was in South Texas in 1972… for the McGovern for President campaign. Than which a greater botch in the electoral realm can hardly be found.
From there she proceeded onward and upward to working as an attorney for the Congressional committee preparing to impeach President Nixon. The committee’s achievements were rendered moot by the Prez’s preemptive surrender, but young Ms. Clinton managed in her brief tenure to leave a legacy of vicious absurdity. She wrote one legal brief arguing that an impeached President had no right to an attorney, and another maintaining that he enjoyed no presumption of innocence.
When her husband became Governor of Arkansas, she was not content to play the role of a ceremonial First Lady. Instead, various manipulations of state law and tradition secured for her the title of education czar. She put together one of her trademark blue-ribbon panels, enlisting a range of experts from the left, the far left, and the farther left. They produced a package of “progressive” education reforms, which her husband rammed and jammed through the legislature. After all that, Hillary had the pleasure of seeing her program enacted, and the keen frustration of seeing Arkansas fall further down the ladder in educational statistics.
In her work for the Children’s Family Fund, she accomplished no victories of note. One particularly egregious heritage from that period was a brief she wrote in which she argued that all children are inherently powerless and thus wards of the state, and the parents should not be entitled to a presumption of knowing what is best for their child.
When she became the First Lady of the United States, or FLOTUS in Secret Service parlance, she managed to almost sink us as a nation and an economy. Her latest blue-ribbon klatsch of political geniuses put together a health-care program for the nation that could not even make it to a vote in a Democrat-controlled Congress. Some of the more bizarre provisions included quotas on medical schools producing graduates in certain specialties and jail time for a citizen who paid a doctor directly for care to bypass the government’s system.
After that debacle, a decision was taken to keep her busy in areas with less real consequences for actual human beings. She got to attend conferences and deliver speeches. But when scandal gripped the White House, she asserted herself as the manager of the defense methods. This clever stewardship on her part led to her “client” being the first elected President ever impeached. When he was disbarred, too, that did not reflect very well upon his wife’s legal advice, either.
Then came her Senate victory and, finally, she has performed competently. It is not that terribly complex to manage a good office and set up good support staff back in the home state, but the fact is that many others have fared poorly in this regard. Hillary has been effective, by the usual measures of policy coherence, maintenance of collegiality and responsiveness to the needs of her constituents.
It would have been wise for her to be satisfied with having arrived at something which she could do fairly well. Instead, she had to overreach once again, and expose herself to a grueling process that is daily exposing her faults and slashing her to bits with a thousand cuts.