I return from 10 days away to find on the front page of every newspaper in America the official swearing-in of Hillary Clinton, Sen. Clinton, dressed in a pantsuit of robin’s-egg blue, her right hand raised, a radiant smile upon her face. Moments later, Strom Thurmond rose and asked if he could hug her, which made everyone in the chamber chuckle.
And so it begins. And appropriately enough with what appears to be another of Mrs. Clinton’s transformations. She appears to be in the middle of another metamorphosis. The last was of her outward appearance—there is almost no recognizing the Hillary of 1997 in the Hillary of the campaign trail three years later. But the latest transformation seems to be connected to personality, or even character—from full of presumption to lit by humility, from imperious to collegial, enraged to endearing. She no longer seems like the kind of person who, in Dick Morris’s words, sets off the alarms when she walks past a bank.
Since her victory in November, gone has been the Hillary of the Angry Visage. As she breezes into parties and past the press, as she greets her new colleagues and makes sure other, lesser known freshmen get in the picture, she seems not at all like the strange and cunning lady who railed bitterly at the White House staff, got Billy Dale canned, attacked conservatives, maneuvered and misled.
This is a sudden change, and there are probably two kinds of people who can change so suddenly. The first is a person with a lot inside, a person of true depth who is capable of true growth, and who might be transformed by desire and commitment, by a hunger to be a better human being, and who might get the strength for this mighty work from religious conversion, or a serious and successful therapy.
The second kind of person might appear to change, and easily and quickly, not because he is so full but because he is so empty. If your inner self is essentially absent, or is only a bundle of desires and habitual responses to them, it’s no great deal to change, or seem to. It’s like turning a ship with an empty hull: It takes less strength. A change of course can be made quickly, with little strain, and more changes can follow.
Mrs. Clinton, of course, has a great deal to be happy about—a new kind of political power, an independent base, a bright future in her party, new wealth. Good fortune makes most of us smile, and perhaps it’s only that.
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One of the things that is most amazing and impressive is how Mrs. Clinton continues to get politically like-minded individuals and groups to underwrite her career. The great institution of American publishing, for instance, which is, in general, politically and culturally liberal, is giving her $8 million for a book—which she reportedly demanded in a lump-sum advance. This shows that she truly is not a normal writer, and I say this meaning that she is different not only in that she cannot write.
The agreement looks for all the world as if she were being given money not as an advance, but to advance an agenda—her own. Or perhaps it is simply a shrewd investment. Mrs. Clinton will soon be in a position to smile or frown on the interests of the publisher’s parent company, Viacom, a communications empire with much, always, at stake in Congress and before numerous government agencies. With the $8 million, the publisher pays for her new Washington mansion, where the senator can function as a powerhouse fund-raiser for other candidates for national office, who will, when they win, pledge their loyalty to her, and to Clintonism. When Hollywood shows the home of a senator in a movie, it’s a McLean mansion, but most senators share apartments or have houses out of town. Mrs. Clinton’s living arrangements will be truly extraordinary.
But what is important to note is that this is the left underwriting the left, not with the usual fellowships and grants and MacArthur “genius” awards, but underwriting Mrs. Clinton’s daily concrete ability to proselytize for, and build, and institutionalize, her particular kind of leftism in America.
The publisher has suggested that the $8 million advance is in lieu of the stratospheric sales that will be spurred by Mrs. Clinton’s stunning revelations. This, they seem to be saying, will move millions of books. But they must know this is not true. Mrs. Clinton has been many things the past eight years, but forthcoming is surely not one of them; she has shown no tropism toward the truth, and in any case would be foolish to start telling it now. She is more like what was said of Nixon, that he doesn’t think honesty is the best policy but he does think it’s a policy. If she now tells the full truth about the scandals, from Travelgate to the Puerto Rican FALN terrorists, she will undermine her own past statements and insistences.
All she can do now is repeat with new words. Nor is she likely to tell the truth about her politics, which, again, she has not done in the past. She will continue to cloak, with words like “concern” and “compassion”—for those who bowl alone, for those who suffer from various diseases—her apparent desire for a maximum accrual of wealth and power to a government run by those whose higher understanding entitles them to run it. That would be her, and her friends.
In the broadest sense, Mrs. Clinton, like Tony Blair, like every sophisticate in Europe and bureaucrat in Brussels, seems to be in pursuit of one world—of the end of nations, and the beginning of a world federation. This would make a bleaker world—more regimented, more uniform, more controlled by the values and desires of an elite, less free, less spacious.
But I don’t imagine Mrs. Clinton will start talking about that, whatever the promptings of the person who ultimately writes the book, or those who publish it, whose motives are no doubt more immediate. Mrs. Clinton knows what the $8 million is about, and what it can be used for, and will no doubt use it well.