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The Trouble With Hillary

I didn't watch last night's "YouTube debate" between the various hopefuls for the Democratic nomination for all the obvious reasons (I'm not American, I was in bed, and I find most of the candidates to be dull, loathsome, or both), but the consensus seems to be that it was a refreshing change from the usual bore-fests. I've watched a few Presidential debates in the past, and as someone with a background in debate myself, I am constantly astonished by how stale, scripted and… safe they are. If we've found a way to harness new technology to give this tired format a jolt of adrenalin, so much the better.

Wandering round the blogs, people are talking up Hillary's performance – how fresh and spontaneous she seemed (I bet that took days of work), how confident she was, ready to lead, blah blah blah. Now, I realise I'm in New York here – at least in virtual terms – so I'll be diplomatic, 'cause I know how much you guys love this simple, homespun daughter of Chappaqua, and- no, sorry, can't do it.

They say Hillary (never 'Clinton', if she can help it, you notice) is a love-her or loathe-her figure. Well, sign me up to the loathe-her camp. If Bill Clinton was one of the most morally dubious Presidents in history, demeaning his office both metaphorically and literally, his wife is scarcely better. This isn't the time or place for a shopping list of all the things about her that set my teeth on edge; I've only just stopped the vomiting induced by accidentally stumbling across media coverage of her breasts over the weekend. But what irritates me most, if I had to pick just one from her vast panoply of flaws, is the way that every single policy position, every carefully scripted word, every breath and nuance has, ever since she announced her first run for the Senate in 2000, been balanced, calibrated and focus-group-tested for the express purpose of maximising her numbers. The Daily Kos-sacks who loathe her because she was for the Iraq War just really don't get it, do they? She wasn't for the war, you daft fuckwits: she needed, like any Democrat, to establish credibility on national security if she was ever going to challenge for the big job. I doubt we'll ever know what she really thought of the invasion: you could hook her up to a lie detector test, I suppose, but the fucking thing would probably blow up.

Faced with someone so calculating and so utterly, utterly unscrupulous – a woman who would, if her PR guy advised her to, serve you a freshly-curled dog turd on a bun and coolly swear to your face that it was foie gras – one is tempted to ask, what the hell is the point? What does she want to do in office? Why does she want to be President? Is there some great, burning unfinished business from the Clinton Years that she's yet to share with us, or did she just leave a roll of twenties sown into the mattress in the Lincoln Bedroom?

They say that the Geena Davis character in Commander-in-Chief was specifically written to get America used to the idea of a female President, which is not perhaps the happiest omen for our Hil given the speed with which it got canned. Still, not to worry: the new season of "24" will have a female President, we're told (let's hope she gets kidnapped, tortured and beheaded by terrorists in the first 17 minutes) – to be played, incidentally, by Cherry Jones, who is, as Jason Zengerle noted at The Plank yesterday, also rather well known for being one of Broadway's best known lesbians. (I predict a rich vein of humour for Clinton-haters everywhere.) Let us hope for Hillary's sake that she fares better than her fictional counterparts. Personally, I hope that she gets royally and brutally reamed in a humiliation of Mondale-esque proportions (wouldn't that be a delicious irony) and gets off my goddamned TV screen for ever. Hey, a guy can dream.

As a small treat, I'll close with an appreciation of Hillary from one of her closest admirers, the great Christopher Hitchens, excerpted from his corruscating 2000 polemic "No One Left To Lie To" (not online):

Mrs Clinton has the most unappetizing combination of qualities to be met in many days' march: she is a tyrant and a bully when she can dare to be, and an ingratiating populist when that will serve. She will sometimes appear in the guise of a "strong woman" and sometimes in the softer garb of a winsome and vulnerable female. She is entirely un-self-critical and quite devoid of reflective capacity, and has never found that any of her numerous misfortunes or embarassments are her own fault, because the fault invariably lies with others. And, speaking of where things lie, she can in a close contest keep up with her husband for mendacity. Like him, she is not just a liar but a lie; a phoney construct of shreds and patches and hysterical, self-pitying, demagogic improvisations.

You can watch the debate here should you really want. I'm still not going to. A snowman whining about global warming? I'd rather stick needles in my eyes. Just as well for them the Republicans are even worse.

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