Monday, 26 November 2012
This is a pretty short but action packed phillipic against one William Jefferson Clinton by the Hitchens on the left, Christopher. The one who has nice things to say about Trotsky and Paul Wolfowitz, but not Mother Theresa or, indeed, Bill Clinton.
There's a couple of main thrusts in this hatchet job - if you can thrust with a hatchet. One is that Clinton's a hypocrite. He appeals to the downtrodden as a folksy man of the people, but always sides with the powerful and rich. This is the famous tactic of triangulation, or what Blair called the Third Way. Also known as fake left, go right.
I suppose this seems like a perennial complaint of the left against Democratic presidents - Obama certainly, unless you believe the bonkers idea that he's any kind of socialist. But for some time before Clinton, Democrats were genuinely different from Republicans. People like Jimmy Carter, or George McGovern. Actual liberals, and more arguably actual socialists than the current incumbent. Oh, and as well as being a secret right-winger, Hitchens also suspects Clinton of being racist when it suited him as governer of Arkansas. Obviously, this was before Toni Morrison bizarrely hailed him as "our first black president."
The second thrust is that Clinton used military action to distract people from more troublesome issues - which I'll get to next. It does seem like the bombing, without warning, of a medicine factory in Sudan was strangely timed around the Lewinsky revelations, and on the flimsiest of evidence which fell down in a matter of days. He also puts forward evidence that he only ever took action against Saddam Hussein when it helped him politically.
So, all these are questions of character in Hitchens' book, which brings us to the one thing Clinton will be remembered for - the women. Supporters of the Democrats urged us all to seperate a man's private indiscretions from his public duty. But is it really okay that the most powerful man in the world is seducing young interns in the Oval Office? Or that women's characters are then assassinated by "White House sources" when it looks like they might break cover? Where are this man's morals, asks Hitchens? And that's before you get into the real raw meat of this book - the chapter entitled "Is there a Rapist in the Oval Office?" which looks, not only at the Juanita Broddrick allegations, but also claims from other unnamed women who say they've been too afraid to come forward.
We'll never get to the bottom of all that, I'm sure, but I think it's fair to see Clinton has been less than a gentlemen where women are concerned. Should that matter? Well, Hitchens does link it directly to his kneejerk military action when confronted by these allegations. And he suggests that a man who has no sense of right and wrong in private matters also can't be trusted to do the right thing in matters of policy.
It has made me think about what Democratic presidents can get away with, and the current Obama administration: more extrajudicial killings, more drone strikes, Guantanamo still open despite promises to close it down, and the National Defence Authorisation Act which critics say give the US government the right to detain any citizen without charge for any length of time. Now that's triangulation! Clinton's lesson to Democrats has clearly been well learned. Just a pity we won't get the Christopher Hitchens hatchet job on Obama.