Politics & Policy

Politics of Meaning Memory Lane


Rep Delahunt (D-Mass), charged that the House rushed head-long into releasing evidence without the benefit of reviewing it first — a charge not entirely without merit. But Henry Hyde made a nice point in rebuttal. He said that all Republican members of the Judiciary Committee reviewed the released papers — and their accumulated time reviewing them was just under 120 hours. Of the Democrats on the Committee, six did not visit the evidence vault at all and the combined Democratic time spent reviewing the materials was slightly more than 20 hours. If one were going to argue about reflexive partisanship it would seem the Democrats don’t have the stats on their side.


Looking through my files I stumbled across Michael Kelly’s 1993 New York Times Magazine profile of Hillary Clinton and the politics of meaning — “Saint Hillary.” It makes for some eerie reading today. Back then Bill and Hillary thought blurring the lines between public and private was a good idea. These were the days before the health care debacle and the Administration was touting the election of the Clintons as “two for the price of one.” Indeed, the piece, brilliantly written as is usually the case with Kelly, reveals the extent to which the Clintons planned on digging deep, deep into the culture. Hillary believed that it was her place to take up the cause of “redefining who we are as human beings in this post-modern age.” And further, that we must be “willing to remold society by redefining what it means to be a human being in the 20th century, moving into a new millenium.” In fact she enthusiastically agreed that she was looking for a “unified field theory of life.”

Some interesting snippets:

Hillary on Defining Deviancy Down:

“Senator Moynihan argues very convincingly that what we have in effect done is get used to more and more deviant behavior around us, because we haven’t wanted to deal with it. But — by gosh! — it is deviant! It is deviant if you have any standards by which you expect to be judged.”

Hillary on how a civilized society must be willing to condemn those who act in way destructive of that society:

“We do this in our own lives. I mean we pass judgments all the time. I can remember sitting in a law school class years and years ago in which a hypothetical was being discussed about terrorists. . . . And I remember sitting there listening to the conversation as so many people tried to rationalize their behavior. And I remember saying, ‘You know, there is another alternative. And the other alternative is that they are evil.’ I mean you know? There are evil people in the world. And they may be able to come up with elaborate rationalizations to attempt to explain their evil, and they may even have some reasonable basis for saying their conduct needs to be understood in the light of pre-existing conditions, but their behavior is still evil.”

The point here isn’t so much to embarrass Mrs. Clinton. But it is important to recognize that the Clintons’ project was to re-deploy what Burke called the “little platoons” of society according their agenda. But even more than that they sought to redefine personal morality. People argue that the President’s personal life is his own and therefore this scandal is nobody’s business. Leaving aside the legal considerations, they might be right. After all, presidents have had affairs which nobody thought to impeach them over.

But the Clintons have made the issue of personal accountability and personal behavior an issue far, far more than any conservative President ever could, or for that matter has. The media was blind to it for years because the Clinton’s did not trumpet a rigid Right-Wing “anti-abortion and pro-bible” call-to-arms, but a much more fuzzy-wuzzy, touchy-feely agenda. But simply because it snuck up on us on Sesame Street paws, doesn’t mean it was any less arrogant, any less intrusive, or any more proper. The Clintons imposed feminist litmus tests throughout the government, the Clintons claimed they were creating a new paradigm, the Clintons invited the nation into their marriage. No marriage is perfect. But the fact that Bill Clinton knew there was so much hypocrisy riding on his behavior, one would think his recklessness alone would be a worthy issue for national discussion, and concern.


Bill Clinton in his testimony delivered a barrage of highly implausible “I don’t recalls.” But, in January 1994, Clinton biographer David Maraniss, of the Washington Post, wrote: “Clinton has a nearly photographic memory- he recently stunned a friend visiting the White House by saying, ‘Let’s call your parents!’ and then recited a number he hadn’t dialed in more than a decade.” According to Charles Allen and Jonathan Portis in The Comeback Kid, Clinton recited 100 lines from Macbeth to a high school class he was making a campaign stop at. “I hadn’t [recited] it in 20-something years,” Clinton said. “And I started reeling it off, and these kids, their eyes got as big as dollars. I recited the whole soliloquy.”


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