A few days ago, I asked a senior Republican elected official what he thought about Donald Trump’s election. He became rather . . . formal, his face draining a bit and his voice going cold: “He was not the nominee I wanted, but —” and there I cut him off: “But how about watching Hillary lose?” At that point, there was a shift in mood worthy of Olivier himself.
“Oh, that. That was . . . oh . . . that was good. Very good.”
I have been writing about the Clinton political-criminal syndicate since I was a teenager; now I am closer to the age of Social Security eligibility than I am to the age I was when the luckiest man in modern American politics was keeping a strategically low profile in Arkansas while the more accomplished men of the Democratic party, facing the ghastly pangs of George H. W. Bush’s purportedly inevitable reelection, dropped down one by one like the Ancient Mariner’s shipmates. Mario Cuomo, doing his “Hamlet on the Hudson” bit, dropped out at the last possible moment. Bill Bradley and Jay Rockefeller decided that they weren’t quite ready, and Dick Gephardt had no stomach for the fight. Clinton was left to deal with the likes of Paul Tsongas and Jerry Brown (yeah, that Jerry Brown: Moonbeam Immortal) and Bob Kerrey, who gave him a pretty good run of it for a hot minute.
Lots of Confederate flags and Redemption talk.
In the general election, Clinton ran essentially a one-word campaign: “Change.” We’d had eight rather eventful years of Ronald Reagan and four more eventful years under George H. W. Bush; after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iraq War, Americans were demanding their peace dividend, and Bill Clinton promised to deliver it. A mild recession and a relatively minor financial crisis (a rash of savings-and-loan failures) were enough to do in Bush. Adding insult to injury, Bush was dismissed as a “wimp” compared with the crusading Ronald Reagan. The same George H. W. Bush had been derided as a possible war criminal some years before for his actions in World War II, where he’d flown 58 combat missions, finishing the last one while bleeding from a head wound in an airplane that was on fire. Bush, ever the patrician, thought his record would speak for itself.
Clinton went and played the saxophone on a late-night talk show and promised voters magical unicorns.
President Clinton (how pleasant not to be obliged to indicate which President Clinton) was treated as illegitimate by Republicans. His defenders said that this was mere prudery and snobbery, that Clinton’s hillwilliam background and public history of sexual shenanigans left stuffy Republican tight-asses assuming that the new young president would spend his time in the Oval Office smoking fine cigars and diddling the interns, which is, of course, exactly what Clinton did.
He put his wife, a controversial figure who had said many stupid and mean-spirited things during the campaign, in charge of reforming the nation’s health-care system. That project went down like a Soviet jetliner and, in 1994, President Clinton was effectively relieved of the burdens of government by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who had led Republicans to victory with a pledge to vote on a very specific set of policy reforms. Gingrich mostly delivered on his promise, horsewhipped Clinton into signing a landmark welfare-reform bill, and helped the federal government secure its first nominal budget surpluses in a very long time.
Clinton got himself impeached for treating the intern pool as a harem and more precisely for his perjury in the matter, which also resulted in the suspension of his law license and his effective disbarment by the Supreme Court. But he remained a hero to Democrats for the simple fact of his having twice won election in the post-Reagan era, when Democrats feared they were finished, and for brazening through his impeachment. In tribute, Democrats gave his wife a Senate seat from New York — where the Clintons did not reside — which was especially galling in that Mrs. Clinton, one of the most dishonest figures in modern American politics, replaced the last honest Democrat, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Then as now, the Democrats had no obvious champion for their presidential hopes, and so Mrs. Clinton fermented in the Senate until the first opportunity to run for president.
We conservatives did not much like Barack Obama back then, though we liked him a little better then than after we got to know him better. Still, there was some satisfaction in watching that nobody from nowhere swoop in and take the Democratic nomination from the Clintons, who regarded it as a personal fief. (It was less satisfying when he was elected president, and even less when he was reelected.) We sang a few premature choruses of “Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead.”We conservatives do not think very much of Donald Trump either, and many of us expect to think less of him the more we get to know him. His election may very well prove to be the equivalent of using a neutron bomb to clear out a cockroach infestation, or a ball-peen hammer to remove an achy tooth — but what a human toothache we had in Hillary Rodham Clinton.
I hope she has a long and happy life with wonderful grandchildren and at the end of it enters into the Bosom of Abraham after just a brief century or three’s purgation. If she makes another couple hundred million dollars between now and then, I won’t begrudge it.
And I hope that I am never obliged to write the name “Clinton” again until then.
Unless . . . no, no, that is really too much to bear.
— Kevin D. Williamson is National Review’s roving correspondent.