Havel and Hillary, Sitting in a Tree?


I recently read Vaclav Havel's latest book To the Castle and Back (translated by my friend and former editor Paul Wilson), which was a decidedly mixed pleasure since on one hand he was filled with charming offhand confessions like this:

I wouldn't call myself an alcoholic, but the thought of not drinking beer or wine with a meal is hard to contemplate. In any case, drinking water with meals reminds me of my years in prison.

But on the other hand his long-running feud with Vaclav Klaus has, in my judgment, dulled some of what I admire most about Havel in the first place: His insight that insisting on calling things by their proper names is potentially revolutionary, and almost always more useful than lapsing into cheap hyperbole. In the book he lapses into the positively Klausian habit of comparing whatever he's irritated by to Communism, which is a sloppiness that would have been unimaginable not long ago.

Anyway, that's all preamble; the main event is the shocking (to me) news that Havel ? at least in May 2005, when he was living in Washington, D.C. ? is a huge fan of Hillary Clinton. From a diary entry he wrote back then:

Yesterday we went to dinner at Madeleine's with Hillary. Hillary made a marvelous impression on me. She looked good.

She listened carefully, which not all politicians do. Everything interested her. She spoke concisely and clearly and I understood her American English very well, which gave me the courage to talk on American subjects myself. I think that she would make a wonderful president. I put considerable pressure on her in that direction and she merely laughed. Next year, in the fall, she will run again for the Senate and according to our plans at the moment we will be there at the same time, and if it's possible, or appropriate, or useful, I will support her somehow.

In another entry, he writes:

I think that the Democratic Party has at its disposal a great fund of intellectual and political capital but that it's waiting for the right person to bring the two together and articulate a clear, comprehensible, yet modern hierarchy of values. Perhaps Hillary will be the one to do that, who knows?

Well, so much for that.