People are constantly asking me my opinion of some current event or other, in hopes of hearing some polished pearl of private prose. More often than not, they get my inarticulate grunt and a discreet escape into some social back alley. Yet now and then a perfect moment arrives when the questioner is sincere enough — and I feel clever enough — that just the right response leaps to my lips.
“How can Hillary Clinton become Secretary of State?” a friend asked the other day. “That is a position calling for diplomacy, and she has such a stern tone.”
“Have no fear,” I reassured. “When it comes to diplomatic solutions, she will leave no tone unsterned.”
Although I hit the right answer, my Democrat friend had asked the wrong question. Matters of style can be overcome in arenas where the accent is on substance. The problem with Hillary Clinton runs much deeper: she and her husband are world-famous liars and phonies. Democrats have never owned up to this, saying that only Republican hate-mongers hold such an opinion. They are wrong. Most of the world knows this very well.
The Clintons are popular in many international quarters, true, but they are not revered as international statesmen. Mostly, Bill is seen as an amusing troublemaker whose heart is in the right place, the type of genial rogue that rich people tolerate at the outer edge of their social circle. Her role is somewhat different, a scold with accomplishments, an Eleanor Roosevelt who actually won high office on her own. A lot of people in high places are “proud to call her their friend”, but none of them are itching to sit on a porch swing with her and watch the sunset.
The lying is treated as a quirk, forgivable in such political folk. Yes, Bill said he was part Indian and Hillary said her mother named her after Sir Edmund Hillary (even telling him so to his face) and Bill said he remembers black churches burning in Arkansas and Hillary said she lost her Rose Law Firm billing records, and on and on. All that is so passé and boring by now. Who hasn’t padded a resume — or an undergarment — a time or two?
The question becomes more serious when Hillary becomes America’s face to the world. The liars and cheats will be thrilled, because they love matching wits with kindred spirits. The late Ralph de Toledano wrote an amazing piece in the Conservative Chronicle during the Clinton administration, where he pointed out that Bill Clinton and Yassir Arafat always had very comfortable body language around each other. On the other hand, Clinton and Netanyahu always seemed tense together. His point was that Arafat recognized Clinton as a comrade, one who understands that the things you say and the promises you make are just means and not ends.
Bill Clinton executed a spectacular double-cross of Benjamin Netanyahu that rankles him to this day. Trying to gain leverage on Benjamin at the Wye Conference, Bill spontaneously offered a pardon to Jonathon Pollard as part of the deal. When Netanyahu said he would consider it, Clinton went out to the press conference and blasted Netanyahu for importing extraneous matters like the Pollard case. This put the Israeli Prime Minister on the defensive and he agreed to a worse deal than he would have liked. (Newt Gingrich was once victim of a similar tactic by Bill, who agreed to one thing in their meeting and announced the opposite in their joint press conference.)
If I were a negotiator for Israel, I would be nursing a very bad headache right around now. Trying to make real progress is dangerous when you are joined by players whose personal agenda is unpredictable at best.
For now, the only recourse is to laugh. What other career path in the world allows you to lie about your own name, your investments, your billing records, your instructions to hire Craig Livingstone, your instructions to fire the travel office, your instructions to loot your late colleague’s files before the police arrive, your facilitation of pardons for money, your cleaning out property from the White House and does not punish you? Then again, if Obama makes her talk to Ahmadinejad, maybe she is being punished after all.