Monday, June 27, 2005

Something about Hillary

What is it about the new anti-Hillary book that conservatives don’t like? Its seaminess? Its preposterous claims? Its obvious bias? These things have never bothered the conservative punditocracy before in any of the dozens of books written attacking Bill and Hillary, at least not anywhere close to the degree of the current book.

It is possible that this kind of sensationalism has jumped the shark, that people of all political stripes are simply tired of it. That would be nice, but I doubt it. In any case, the book has to actually flop before we can pronounce the genre dead, and today it’s #7 on Amazon.

There is something about Hillary, though, that mysteriously deflects frontal attacks of this kind. She is many things to too many people, some good, some bad, and that makes sliming her harder than you’d think. It’s a positive feedback response: Hit her hard enough and the resulting earsplitting cultural noise will fry your brain. Remember that Rick Lazio tried various attacks in her 2000 Senate race and it helped her. David Brock was a conservative journalist/hit man until he tried to write an anti-Hillary book – then switched sides.

Bill drove conservatives nuts in part because of his protean ease as a politician. He could mold his persona at will, be anything to anybody. But Hillary has had to suffer and work to win support, and this struggle has played out in the public eye. She really was a victim of a bad marriage who has moved past it. She has worked for votes and won them. She is a good politician, but the mask doesn’t quite fit. This is not Bushian “authenticity” – that brush-clearin’, nucular-pronouncin’, thinkin’ ‘bout Iraq every day, every day kind of persona. But even more so than Bill Clinton, Bush glided his way to the top. In 2008, Hillary’s more workmanlike brand of authenticity could have more endurance than most people think.