Magazine | July 6, 2015, Issue

She Said She Said

Hillary’s speeches are like Roman candles that blurp out wet clods of sawdust — a flash, perhaps, but no sparkle, no light. In her Roosevelt Island rebooted reset retooled relaunch, there were lines like this: Republicans “turn their backs on gay people who love each other.”

Well, if they happen to be doing so at the time, that’s only decent; give them some privacy. As for the rest of her campaign preview, it was pledge-o-rama. She pledged to fight for the working people, of course. She will work for the fighting people. She will work and fight against those evil men who pick their teeth with whittled-down finger bones of orphans after a meal of polar-bear steak. She pledged to float bonds for infrastructure, which never means “useful roads people want to take” but does mean trains that go from one liberal enclave to another at 87 m.p.h. and make everyone aboard feel all European ’n’ stuff. When you get to your destination, you take the light rail to the streetcar to the bike-rental place, then pedal to your meeting in bike lanes paid for with infrastructure bonds. To encourage this behavior, major roadways will be regularly strewn with nails.

She pledged to support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, because if there’s nothing that bespeaks an Olympian temperament far from the base clay of personal agendas, it’s rewriting the Constitution to overturn a case about a mean movie someone made about her.

She pledged to close the income gap. Her husband said he would stop taking money for speeches if she won, so that might help, but she probably has something more in mind. Given the rich diversity of ideas on the left, you’re hard pressed to figure what she might do, but you suspect it would involve taking money away from Group A and creating 39,945 programs designed to spend 47 percent of the money on administrative costs while figuring out whether the program should be called Action for Commu­ni­ties or Communities for Action.

As the New York Times put it: “Mrs. Clinton [said] her candidacy is for ‘factory workers and food servers who stand on their feet all day, for the nurses who work the night shift, for the truckers who drive for hours.’” Yes, nothing captures the Dickensian depredations of the modern economy like the thought of truckers driving for hours. And nothing would enliven their lonely hours like the thought of Hillary Clinton fighting for them, possibly by calling in the CEO of a satellite-radio company and punching him repeatedly in the jaw until he agrees to play more Willie Nelson.

But what of the interns? The Guardian reports that the Clinton campaign relies on unpaid interns to do the “grassroots” work. Lots of unpaid people. The income-inequality gap between them and the Clintons is equal to the space between the bottom of the Mariana Trench and the far side of Pluto, but perhaps Mrs. Clinton tells herself that there’s no income gap in this situation because the interns don’t have an income at all.

She pledged to fix the tax code to ensure that it fulfills its true purpose: reconfiguring economic activity so that it does not offend the moral sensibilities of college sophomores.

It’s odd: After six years of progressive government, things sound bad. Things even sound worse.

Well, nothing another eight years of twice as much government can’t fix. The failure of a trillion dollars to solve a problem is only proof you should have spent two.

You can’t just give people policy, though. You need to thread your remarks with pop-culture references so that people think you waste your time on anodyne twaddle like everyone else. Hillary’s speech contained this up-to-the-minute note:

There may be some new voices in the presidential Republican choir, but they’re all singing the same old song. A song called “Yesterday.” They believe in yesterday.

Well, some yesterdays. And for good reasons. Yesterday is full of useful lessons. The part about forgetting the past and being doomed to repeat it comes to mind when contemplating the reinstallation of a Clinton in the White House, for starters.

It depends which yesterday you’re talking about. The Bush economy after the tax cut? The Reagan boom that filled the nation’s coffers after the specter of Carter was extirpated? The productive and culturally cohesive Ike years? The years of patriotism and determination during that unpleasantness in the early ’40s? It’s one thing to say that America’s best days are ahead of us and a new century requires new perspectives. But if one wishes to portray the opposition as sad, frightened people clinging to the withered efflorescence of another era, maybe quoting Beatles lyrics isn’t the best way.

The Clintons used Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Thinkin’ about Tomorrow” in their 1992 convention finale, and they danced. In front of everyone. (Imagine JFK doing the Mashed Potato after making his acceptance speech.) That song told everyone that “yesterday’s gone,” a piece of piercing pop insight echoed by Mrs. Clinton in her Beatles reference this time around. It’s true. But yesterday left something behind: cities, symphonies, paintings, skyscrapers, highways, flags on the moon. Without the accomplishments of yesterday, there would be no today for the progressives to despise, no tomorrow for them to worship. It would seem wise to believe not just in yesterday, but in all those yesterdays, since they left such magnificent evidence of their existence. You may not believe in yesterday, but yesterday had the foresight to believe in you.

You’d think she knew this. The only reason she has for running is who she used to be.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

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