Jewish World ReviewSept. 13, 1999/ 3 Tishrei, 5759
It's only speculation that the president's offer of clemency to 16 Puerto Rican terrorists was a make-up gesture to the first lady, a down payment on what he owes her for the misery he caused her. He hasn't begun to feel her pain. But the clemency for the terrorists could give her an edge with some of the Puerto Rican voters in New York. (There are 1.3 million Puerto Ricans in New York City.)
Such interpretations reverberate with (and reek of) the audacity we've come to associate with the Clintons. Some wives think diamonds are a girl's best friend, but Hillary is no such wife. She seeks power. This particular gift, if that's what it was, backfired in a way that diamonds, which are forever, never do. First, Hillary accepts the gesture, saying clemency is a good idea. Then she sees that it fails as a political advantage, and she rejects it. No cash or due bills here.
The only thing as bad as the public exposure of a president's infidelity in the Oval Office is watching the president's public struggle to please his wife with an executive order of clemency. He who lives by the lie, dies by the accusation. Asi es la vida.
Hillary insists she knew nothing of the president's offer to the terrorists until it became public. But for a woman who claims she was party to most of her husband's major decisions, me thinks she doth protest too much.
The first gentleman is nevertheless standing by his woman, raising money and praising her candidacy. The house in Westchester is not a bad consolation prize, either. The $1.7 million loan guaranteed by Terry McAuliffe, a FOB, may remind New York voters how another FOB -- Friend of Bill -- once helped Hillary make a $100,000 killing in cattle commodities futures. New news revives old news.
This is sexual politics writ large. Sexual politics, as introduced by contemporary feminists, means the way men and women relate to each other.
"The relationship between the sexes is and always has been a political one -- a continuing power struggle in which women are sometimes idolized, other times patronized, always exploited," wrote Marilyn French 30 years ago in her book, "Sexual Politics." The patriarchy made it possible for men to dominate women both publicly and personally, in political institutions and personal relationships.
But recently sexual politics has reversed itself. A matriarchy now makes it possible for women to dominate men, publicly and personally. The first couple are the perfect metaphor.
In the waning days of Bill Clinton's presidency Hillary is in the ascendancy. She runs for the Senate and the public opinion polls demonstrating a sympathy vote for her resulting from her husband's adultery suggest that her time has come. Where Hillary failed as a health care policy-maker she succeeds as victim. Personal humiliation inspires political aspiration.
Sexual politics in this recent incarnation is about sex-in-politics. Gary Hart threw away his run for the presidency when he was exposed as a womanizer, caught in the act of monkey business aboard the Monkey Business. Mrs. Hart didn't ask for feminist sympathy -- she was a traditional wife and mother -- but it was the accelerating Puritan power of feminism that destroyed her husband's political career.
Flash forward. Bill Clinton surmounted similar obstacles only to be impeached, not for the monkey business in the Oval Office, but for lying about it under oath. Feminists may have given him a pass, but most women haven't. Hillary hasn't, either.
The road from Mr. Hart to Hillary is strewn with male victims, but the women in their lives win only Pyrrhic victories, if they win anything. Their man gets punished. So do they.
Whether Hillary wins a Senate seat or not, as long as she's out there on the hustings she'll be setting precedent as a political triumph. But because she's the first lady, she makes sexual politics not only fatiguing but frightening. The clemency gesture was dangerous because it could be deadly for someone.
things can happen when the political becomes too
08/30/99: M-M-M is for manhood