Sunday night, Barbara Walters lived up to her eternal caricature, the pampering puffball princess who asks tough questions like: “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” She should have tried that with Hillary Rodham Clinton, so the senator could tell us she would be a weeping willow.
Is there anyone besides Barbara Walters who’s buying this whole half-genius/half-idiot act, Hillary the trailblazing policy wonk who can testify on managed competition for hours without note cards, but who believes every lame-brained denial that her husband didn’t do it with Gennifer Flowers, didn’t do it with Monica Lewinsky, didn’t force himself on Paula Jones or Kathleen Willey?
Clearly, Walters won this interview by starting with this ground rule: I’ll shine your shoes, kiss your rings, and then end with a full head-to-foot body massage. (Exhibit A is Barbara begging Hillary to consider running for president in 2004…four minutes into the show.) She is not one of the best interviewers of our time. She is just the best at capturing the big “get,” with an overwhelming greed for the Ultimate Two-Shot, and will sacrifice anything vaguely resembling journalism if it will get her mug on the TV page. So last night’s interview was Blind Ambition meets Willingly Blind, Deaf, and Dumb Ambition.
In the days leading up to the interview, the leaked book excerpts were just ridiculous, Hillary as a sobbing Gail O’Grady character in a Lifetime cable movie, a loving wife who was completely stunned that her husband had been unfaithful to her. They could call it Gulping for Air: The Hillary Rodham Clinton Story. She’s a damsel in disgrace, a “besotted” schoolgirl who simply can’t see through her tears. Walters asked absolutely nothing that moved beyond this calculated, but preposterous storyline. Instead, Walters wallowed in it, tuning up her violin of sympathy for the woman “betrayed in front of the whole world.”
All this “private-life” propaganda is designed to steer Americans around the Real Hillary: the one who ceaselessly manipulated her way onto the world stage to be publicly betrayed, and then played to the gallery demanding to be loved for it. She has mercilessly milked the Wronged-Woman routine like a star attraction at the Wisconsin State Fair. But in fact, she’s always known her husband’s ways, and looked out for her own careerist designs by plotting to destroy any Other Woman who got in the way of her bumper-pool path to the White House.
See the George Stephanopoulos book All Too Human, page 54, for the Real Hillary: “We have to destroy her story,” she told Stephanopoulos in November 1991, when rock groupie Connie Hamzy began the bimbo eruptions by telling Penthouse that Gov. Clinton propositioned her in 1984 after she flashed him her breasts. Eleven pages later, we’re inside the room as Bill and Hillary plot how to manipulate the famous 1992 60 Minutes interview. “Both Clinton and Hillary were adamant about not using the A word, arguing it was too grating, too harsh, too in-your-face to the viewers at home.” Then George says he “synthesized the strategy in hand-lettered notes that I gave to Clinton when Hillary adjourned the meeting around one AM.” Hillary ran the meetings that figured out how to gauzily negotiate around the obvious facts of adultery, coordinated the strategy to obliterate the ugly truths and replace them with convenient lies, and creepily worked to crumble the women a feminist would have been championing, women who were involuntarily groped or even raped, with an army of hired private investigators and journalistic hit-men (see Blumenthal, Sidney).
But in our journey through Barbara Walters Fantasyland, Hillary is always the assailed, and never the assailant. Hillary said without a cluck or a chuckle from her latest TV enabler that everything that her opponents said about her and her husband was “without basis in fact.” When Walters asked in an incredibly vague fashion if there was anything the scheming Rose Law Firm partner would have done differently in her days as the financially finagling First Lady of Arkansas, she said there “wasn’t anything wrong,” and that she only could have done a better job explaining herself. Hillary even claimed without challenge that when the Paula Jones lawsuit was dismissed “that about summed it up” on the subject of the Clinton scandals. Walters had no follow-up to suggest, excuse me, dear, didn’t you end up paying $850,000 to settle that lawsuit, which rebuts your attempt to revise history and suggest Jones was lying? Truth is the first casualty in the Clinton wars…and the booking wars.
Thirteen years ago, another White House memoir came out, and one political reporter moaned: “To what extent do we prefer myth to reality, the comfort of strong convictions at the expense of facts? To what degree to we become complicit in believing black is white, if we are emotionally attached to a politician who tells us it is so? Do we crave a king who is beyond criticism and oblivious to it?”
That was then-”objective” Maureen Dowd reviewing Ronald Reagan’s memoir An American Life. But these words fit Queen Hillary’s Living History spiel. America’s royal family of revisionism is attempting to revive and recirculate every trash-for-cash talking point without so much as a raised eyebrow of scrutiny from Barbara Walters as black becomes white, and the ugly facts are turned upside down on their stubborn heads.
— Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center.