My query: When a member of the female species rises to political prominence and begins to seriously influence government policies and, soon thereafter, our lives, is the polite response:
(a) to examine the prospects for progressive change under the proposed reforms?
(b) to debate the merits, pro and con, of alternate options?
(c) to research the history of similar ideas and to chart, as the evidence will allow, how they measured up to their promises?
(d) to gush about the amazing prospect that a woman could offer up any detail-laden proposal to begin with?
A good thing this wasn't an SAT question, because using the trusted process-of-elimination multiple-guess method, I had actually discarded just one of the possible answers—(d)—only to find that according to all the people who count (at least enough to be on TV before anyone else is awake on Sunday morning) that it is absolutely the correct answer. In fact, none of the others is even theoretically feasible!
Hence, one tuned into the tough, hardhitting political dissection of Hillary's testimony on the health care plan before the relevant congressional committees—only to be greeted with Tim Russert of NBC's Meet the Press oozing: "Moms are smart, too!" Well this certainly implies that one had reason to suspect that mama wasn't quite bright enough to figure out all that complicated Big Issues stuff, and I am truly shocked and amazed at the premise. I long ago discovered what anyone paying the slightest attention had already: that women possess what, under the antitrust laws, would be considered a per se monopoly share of certain forms of the highest and most valued intelligence known (on rare occasions) to man. Hence, the widespread astonishment at the revelation that they can know and/or remember lots of little details about health care reform reveals a bizarre take on the human experience.
But there it was for all the world to gag on. The Democrats swelled with pride as their little lady spewed forth on the Health Care Plan. Republicans, not daring to be caught in the press's sexist-seeking crosshairs, competed to out-praise the "remarkably well-informed First Lady." The fawning over Mrs. Rodham-Clinton was the most undiluted form of chivalry witnessed since the Pleistocene epoch.
It all comes down to sexism—Bill and Hillary's. They are the ones who have, with great care, scripted the subtext: Any criticism of Clinton's health care proposal meets with the quick and certain, "You brute! Hillary stayed up 100 nights in a row, taking time away from her busy schedule as wife and mother…and you sneer at her work! You pig! Why, you're destroying the First Family!"
I waited for some tough health care questions, like, for instance, a description of what the administration's plan actually consisted of. Instead, its details were glossed with the broadest and most impenetrable generalizations by first the White House, then the press. I learned from the public presentations that all Americans would be covered, there would be no real compromises in quality or choice, and it would all save us lots of money. Wow! Moms really are smart!
It has been the cynical privilege of the Clinton presidential campaign, now somewhere in its third year, to play Hillary either as adoring wife or daring feminist crusader, as photo ops dictate. The many faces of Hillary (not to mention names) are but another aspect of the administration's efforts to raise our fashion-consciousness. Rather than battle for their programs on the basis of the ratio of their costs to their benefits, the Clintonites have mastered process-illusion.
Diversionary tactics are key: You saw the evil rich emerge grotesque and bloated from the '80s? Poof! Your middle-class wallet was gone. (And you don't even know it, you poor sap who thinks the person who is assessed the tax is the only one who pays the tax.)
Process-illusion is the trick of convincingly posing as Good Government while all about are screwing up. Image to the public: working so very hard and caring so very much. Substance of your regime: Taxes go up, 4 percent real growth collapses to 1 percent, and U.S. servicemen and women are humiliated in an idiotic food-delivery scheme half a planet away.
"I feel yo' pain" is the mantra of an administration that bounces from press conference to town hall to share the new plan for free health care while Somalis—the announced starvation victims targeted for U.S. humanitarian assistance—drag dead U.S. soldiers through the streets of Mogadishu. How about his pain, Mr. President?—or are you too busy feeling it to figure out that the Somalia policy is a spent operation and a worthless slaughter of American lives? Perhaps you remember the genre…or what were you doing over in the Olde Country during your college youth?
"Work effort" is the tag line which the Clinton regime believes it must use to defend its hapless results. And so, on a recent campaign stop in California, the president offered that he "had put in countless hours" working to help the Golden State's economy since the Inaugural Parade. The nation's largest state will withstand its 9.5 percent unemployment rate far better knowing the president sleeps hardly at all and that his White House is killing itself—literally and figuratively.
The president cares, the president works like a maniac, the president despises those who made it in the 1980s. And his wife…isn't she quite a woman? All those complex policy issues—and she bakes cookies, too.
Contributing Editor Thomas W. Hazlett teaches economics and public policy at the University of California, Davis.